|On both my trips to Amsterdam I began by exploring the city’s Museum Park seen above. The I am Amsterdam sign is a famous icon of the city on the left and it sits in front of the Rijksmuseum museum. The Rijksmuseum on the left houses national arts and crafts as well as Dutch history. On the right you can see the symphony hall known as Concertgebouw, but translated not so beautifully to “Concert Building” in English. The first time I visited Amsterdam I didn’t visit the museum, but as promised on my return I spent nearly a full day in Museum Park. As a matter of fact, there are so many museums to see in Amsterdam that I dedicated its own page. Click here to see Amsterdam Museums!
|Amsterdam is famous for its network of man made canals that go through the city similar to Venice. Unlike Venice though, cars are of course allowed in the city. Still, cars are not what locals use to travel throughout the city. Most people ride bikes or walk, and several even use boats! You’ll find several tours of Amsterdam as well as cruises that take advantage of the canals. Some people even live in house boats! The canals are not just in the downtown areas but spread for a few miles south. The two photos below are about a 45 minute walk from downtown but you can see there are still plenty of canals and nice houses. The two photos above were from summer and the two below are from winter.
|When I visited the Netherlands in the summer, gas prices were more than double the price as in the US! The country is extremely biker friendly which is why most citizens are able to get where they want to go without a car. There are sixteen million citizens in the country with twenty million bikes for them. With so many extra bikes you’d think there would be no shortage but a local told me there is a bike theft every 3 minutes in the capital.
|I wandered downtown Amsterdam in the night and its truly one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever been to. Parts immediately outside the downtown aren’t very crowded and almost empty, but once you get close to the palace you’ll find it packed with people. The two shots below were also from the downtown areas. were from the downtown areas. The lower left is the luxury hotel Port Van Cleve which is right outside the Dam. The Dam is the city square for Amsterdam and is where you can find the Royal Palace seen on the lower right. They had just finished decorating it the Christmas Tree when I entered the square.
|The streets leaving the Dam are by far the most interesting in Amsterdam. There’s a number of souvenir shops, restaurants, food shops, games and activities and other events that take place here. Above you can see some of the packed streets outside the Dam. The tourists on the right are getting their photo taken inside a giant snow globe. Two more photos below show a food stand on the left and a giant table of every flavor of fudge you can possible imagine!
|Something else Amsterdam will always be known for is their early legalization of marijuana. Marijuana is legal throughout the country and is especially popular in the city’s “Coffee Shops”. It’s rare for me to do a lot of walking in the Netherlands and not smell someone smoking it at least once a day, even in other cities. In addition to the marijuana, Netherlands are also known for their legalization of prostitution in the red light district. I did pass through the red light district but didn’t take a photo of the women nearly naked sitting in front of the windows. I’ve heard plenty of stories of people being chased down or even assaulted after taking lots of photos in the red light district. Above are some photos of cafes advertising the Dutch beer Amstel and Heineken. Below is a store claiming to have world class marijuana seeds and a ghetto cafe. I took the photo on the lower right early in the morning, around 9:30am, and people were already out smoking.
Some more things the country is famous for is beer, cheese, and how the locals sometimes wear wooden shoes. These two photos on the left and above show how different types of cheeses are made and aged anywhere from 1 month to up to 2 years. In the mixing process on the left, different ingredients can be added here to make unique flavors such as smoked cheese, spicy cheese etc.
|I had heard about Dutch wearing wooden shoes a very long time ago but completely forgot about until I came to Amsterdam. I figured they were worn for some reason in the past that they only use them today for tradition. It turns out that its a little bit of both, the wooden shoes were and still are worn today by farmers. The shoes keep their feet dry in the wet lands and more importantly provide them protection from being stepped on by cows or other big live stalk. The cultural part says that in the past before a wedding, the groom would hand carve a wooden shoe for the wedding and afterwards they would hang it up for decoration. On the right shows how the shoes are made bye modern machines. Below are some finished and highly decorated wooden shoes for sale.
Beer, marijuana, cheese, wooden shoes… and of course windmills! The windmills seen in the Netherlands today are persevered or restored ones. Few of them are actually used around the city. At one point in time several hundred years ago, the Netherlands had over 10,000 working windmills, with only hundreds remaining today. The one on the left is pushing 400 years and was used to draw water up to a higher elevation for farmlands like the large pond seen above. The windmill is surprisingly efficient, and can bring thousands of gallons in only a minute! The windmill was essential to farming in the Netherlands hundreds of years ago. While farming was essential to food and survival of course, the Netherlands seemed to have a strange fascination with tulips hundreds of years ago. As a matter of fact, the first known economic bubble occurred in the Netherlands in the 1600s, when they become extremely pricey and people paid weeks of pay for just a few bulbs. This market of course crashed, but tulips and flowers are still common popular today. I didn’t visit the flower market in central Amsterdam yet, but it’s high on my list for when I return! The two photos below are from random shops in Zuid.