Amsterdam: a dichotomy of beauty and edginess. A city filled with the beauty of the picturesque canals and buildings, contrasted with the edgy drug and sex scene so enshrined in its culture. Oh, how I loved it. I loved how different streets and areas in Amsterdam were representative of Amsterdam’s many dimensions: Haarlemmerstraat, with its ‘soul food’ cafes and “coffee shops”; Brouwersgracht, with the most beautiful and fancy of canal houses; Prisengracht, with its gorgeous canal, bikes lining the street and cute canal-side cafes; Rembrandtplein, with its bright lights and buzzing night scene; the Negen Straatjes, with its quaint streets filled with buzzing vintage, quirky and specialty stores; Vondelpark, with its serenity unique to the buzz of Amsterdam and De Wallen, a stunning canal lit by red lights and foot traffic.
There are so many icons typical of Amsterdam: the cheese.. the red lights.. the clogs.. the poffertjes.. the tulips.. the croquettes.. the windmills.. the stroopwafels….. and we made sure we experienced them all (in some form or another).
We stayed in an Airbnb apartment on Prinsengracht which typically summed up our Dutch experience – cute, quirky and steep-as-hell stairs leading up to it (honestly, this was just about as steep as the stairs to get into the Anne Frank secret Annexe.. we actually contemplated leaving our suitcases in the apartment lobby downstairs).
Our days were spent wandering the canals, admiring the architecture, chilling out in Vondelpark, shopping, eating lots of food and visiting the many tourist sites (think the Anne Frank house, the windmills, Bloemenmarkt, the clog factory, the wonkiest café, the cheese factory, the sex museum and the range of quirky novelty stores, such as the condomerie and the doorknob store).
Our nights were spent wandering the red light district (for me, this mostly involved admiring the high heels worn in the windows) and chilling out at Amsterdam’s many bars scattered across Dam Square and Rembrandtplein.
The unique culture in Amsterdam meant that we ended up going on two walking tours. I love going on free walking tours in most cities, as they give an excellent overview of a place with a person who loves their city, learning fun facts and history not otherwise learnt. We first went on the free walking tour, which covered things like the 3 rules of Christian tolerance for all things typically Amsterdam (1. it must be good for business 2. it must not cause harm and 3. it must be subtle), the architecture in Amsterdam (including the reason for the wonky buildings), bike crimes of Amsterdam, cheese in Amsterdam and a visit to the narrowest house in Amsterdam.
We loved the tour (and the guide) so much that we signed up to go on the paid walking tour of the Red Light District that evening. This was a really interesting tour and explained things like: how a typical transaction in the Red Light District works, the typical price, how safety of workers is maintained, where the workers tend to come from and how they get there, whether men are permitted to work, Amsterdam’s laws surrounding prostitution and more. We were also taken to an (optional) ‘peep show’, which was pretty funny given we were on a tour with a group of 15 strangers!
The food in Amsterdam wasn’t a particular highlight, though I did have a few interesting experiences. There were the delicious poffertjes, the cheese incident and the windmills… but you’ll have to wait to hear more about that!
Until next time…
An Allergian Abroad