The fresh, cool sea breezes on our faces . . . the tinkling bell sounds warning pedestrians of oncoming bicycles . . . the buttery smell of waffles baking in the open-air markets. Welcome to Amsterdam – Venice to the North, one of the most diverse cities in the world.
Amsterdam was our final destination after taking one of the most amazing cruises of our lives – the Rhine River cruise. We started out in Basel, Switzerland, cruised the rivers and canals of France and Germany, and ended our trip in the Netherlands. Amsterdam was where we would spend four days before flying back to our home in the United States. Although it had been on our bucket list for years, this was the first opportunity to see the city – and it was even better than we had imagined. The clean air invigorated us, and the landmarks, architecture, history, and cuisine were magical.
Amsterdam, the capital city of the Netherlands, has a unique way of mixing ultra-modern buildings with historic architecture. Red brick provides contrast with climbing ivy and colorful flowers, and rows of narrow residence perch precariously along water canals, most are equipped with heavy pulley systems to hoist furniture in and out. Parking is limited so cars are small. Bicycles are one of the main ways of transportation for this city.
It is culturally diverse, yet fiercely unique. The Dutch are known for being environmentally aware and for their progressive work ethic, yet traditionalism is obvious in clothing styles, transportation, and cuisine. Even during the harsh winter seasons when brisk ocean breezes from the North Sea lower the temperature, residents don’t seem to mind. They just adapt to whatever the season and enjoy the beautiful picture-perfect settings.
The daily routine of Amsterdam is evidenced as residents and travelers take to the streets on bicycles, mopeds, or on foot. Is it just a convenient way to get around, or is it the preferred mode of transportation because of the progressive nature of the Dutch to be environmentally aware? Amsterdam holds the title of being one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the world.
After eating tasty Dutch cuisine for several days, we set out to try something new. One of our finds was a culinary delight called the Aneka Rasa Restaurant. It is a small eatery tucked away in a cozy narrow building not far from Central Station. It offers authentic Indonesian fare that is delicious as it is affordable. Meals are served family style, so you’ll want to try a little of everything.
One of the best ways to see the sights from a different perspective is by taking a canal cruise. Nicknamed “Venice to the North” this city’s canals are home to colorfully painted houseboats, each with their own style of decking and flower pot gardens. The low-arching bridges are dimly lit in the evenings, giving the appearance of tiny fireflies dancing on the water.
Not far out of Amsterdam is a wonderful place to take a bicycle tour of a windmill region. The windmills at Kinderdijk are a famous UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Netherlands. Although thousands visit the area every year, it is relatively unknown that each windmill is a private residence where the family works to maintain the water table for the entire farming region. This country has much to be proud of for so many reasons. I can see us going back there sometime very soon.
Have you ever been to Amsterdam? I’d love to hear your comments.