Amsterdam: We liked it, we loved it, we want more of it!
It’s no secret that I love Amsterdam. Every time I utter “Well, in Amsterdam...” Chris gives a loving chuckle. After our past six days in the amazing city I know that he now understands. As he put it “I loved it because it felt warm and accepting, small and accessible.” This sentiment seeps into each corner of historical preservation, between each stroopwaffle, and into the folds of each unique Tulip.
Acceptance isn’t a shocking word to hear when it comes to Amsterdam. With its open (but regulated) cultural practices toward Prostitution and Marijuana one can expect such legislation and societal practices to infiltrate the attitudes of locals. This is not to say that Amsterdam is without its faults or hardship, but the Dutch pragmatic nature (a term that we have come to think very much defines and explains cultural behavior) allows for a reality that leaves little space for things that don’t make logical sense.
This pragmatism at its highest level is in their government rulings and school system, but also in the bike culture, and even right down to their fashion choices. This kind of thinking is refreshing and seems honest. We noticed this honesty particularly come through with service. Whether it be the clear and blunt restaurant service without expectations or strings attached, or the hesitation to offer recommendations on the thought that “what I like may not be what you like…”, we can see that honesty and individuality is paramount. Throughout Dutch history (check-out Chris’ post on the history of Amsterdam), individuality and acceptance of differing opinion has been recognized and stressed.
But let’s talk about those bikes! It would be inexcusable to talk about Amsterdam and not talk about bikes. With three bikes to every one person- bikes are kind of a big deal. The city has a wonderful infrastructure for bike lanes and lights to line and weave throughout the city, allowing commuters and tourists alike a safe, cost effective, and eco- friendly way to get around. This is not only again pragmatic but it humanizes the motion of getting from point “A” to point “B”- on the bike you can’t hide from exchanged gestures and non verbal communication that connects you to those around you in a way that is just not available in a car and not necessary when walking. Not to mention if you are visiting Amsterdam you are doing yourself a great disservice if you do not bike, because one, everyone bikes, so “when in Rome!”, two, you can get more places much faster and three, the city is beautiful from the vantage point of the bike as you roll through and past the canals.
As you peddle your bike all over town, you are bound to get hungry (and likely cold too). Again, because of history (the colonization of Indonesia), Amsterdam has great Indonesian food, delicious and fun to eat, it is a must. If you are looking for a recommendation- we loved Blauw. Cozy cafes are in abundance to stop for a bite or just an excuse to get out of the cold and into a warm beverage or pastry, or maybe an end of the day glass of wine. The Nine Streets, home to some of the best boutiques and local Dutch designer shops in the city, these streets also house these perfect respites. During this visit we particularly loved our time at Ree7 and its sister location Pluk, along with Pompadour – wonderful for a sweet confection. Among my personal favorites are De Bakkerswinkel, my favorite breakfast, lunch or high tea location in the city, and with multiple locations you are bound to find one that is convenient. Wynand Fockink, the oldest Jenever distillery in Amsterdam with its intimate and authentic tasting room is visited by locals and well-informed tourists. You will be greeted by a multi lingual and very knowledgeable bartender who has worked there for years (or at least since I studied in Amsterdam six years ago). Puccini is just the place to settle any sweet tooth cravings. There are so many more places and spaces I could go on about, but I will leave you with three completely affordable but absolutely delicious dinner options: 1.) Bazar 2.) Foodware and 3.)Rainarai.
When it comes to seeing the sites Amsterdam has no shortage of ways to learn more and pay homage. First, grab a museumcart which is 60 euros but absolutely worth it if you add up all the museum fees otherwise paid. You can grab this card at almost any museum, we grabbed ours on day one at the Our Lord in the Attic Museum. Right next door be sure to stop by the Oude Kerk (Old Church) – as its name suggests, it is the oldest church in Amsterdam. My three favorite art museums in Amsterdam: The Rijksmuseum, The Van Gogh Museum, and The Hermitage. Each of these strong collections drawing upon the strength of all there is to learn from Dutch history and artistic expression. The Anne Frank House undoubtedly moves me and conjures new awareness on every visit. You will be hard pressed to find an equally emotionally jarring and also personal museum experience.
Amsterdam is a magical place filled with treasures at every turn. The energy is palpable and leaves most everyone smiling. We leave with hesitation, but filled with historical knowledge, social awareness, and full bellies and hearts. Now- “on to Berlin!”