Monday, June 8, 2009

I amsterdam

And now... for the rest of the Dutch story.

When we weren't in route to Beerta, we were experiencing the Netherlands main show: Amsterdam. While some of your minds are already assuming images of marijuana and prostitution, let me distract your attention for a bit because there really is a whole lot more to this crazy city then the aforementioned examples.

First of all, it and all of it's historic canals are gorgeous and unmatched anywhere else we went. There is literally a canal between every street. It's not so much trying to find a destination by it's street address but more by finding which canal to follow to get there. We ventured out one afternoon by ourselves and did quite well, only asking for directions once. Well, actually, the kind stranger saw us looking at a map and offered up some help. That's another GREAT thing about Amsterdam, English is spoken very accurately and very often.
As unique as the canals were the rows and rows of houses. Almost all houses are connected to one another and most are very narrow, but very tall. Quite a few have slanted roofs, windows and doors thanks to the homes leaning on their neighbors, but they're still standing. No space goes unnoticed and no alley goes unused. The same day we ventured out on our own, we made a stop at arguably, the skinniest house in all of Europe. It was no wider than Shawn when he reached out his arms. Talk about narrow-minded!
We also visited some wonderful museums including the Van Gogh Museum and the Anne Frank House, as well as some beautiful attractions like VondelPark and the Keukenhof (tulip) gardens. You cannot visit Amsterdam without visiting the tulip gardens. The tulip is my favorite flower so to visit this attraction was like following my flora mother ship home. It's like Disneyland for tulips. A tulip garden on steroids. Fields of tulips, sculptures of tulips, greenhouses of tulips, tulips grown in the shape of tulips. Tulipmania. It was ridonkulously amazing and I now have lots of beautiful photos to display and admire should I never receive another tulip again (although I hope that's not the case!).
The greatest thing I found to do in Amsterdam was people-watch! If I could, I would sit at a cafe all day and just watch all the people, rolling by on their way about their day. The main mode of transportation in Amsterdam is the bike. No, not a Harley. A real, two-wheeled, peddled bike. Everyone rides a bike. Men in suites and women in skirts on their way to work, mothers with children in wooden boxes on the front of their bikes, kids riding two to a bike, people out running errands; you name it, they got there on a bike. It was fascinating and we were very envious of everyone's physique. Needless to say, they're a fit bunch.
One remaining fun area was one we walked by nearly every day, Dam Square. There happened to be a carnival occupying the space at the time with some of the scariest rides I've ever seen. Note: I do not enjoy scary carnival rides. It was funny to peruse this area because everything was labeled by the area we were in. So you would see signs to restaurants that read: "Dam BBQ" or "Dam Pub". We got a giggle out of it.

Yes, yes, okay, okay, we did stroll through the infamous red light district and meandered by some coffee shops but were not amused by either. We saw them just to see them and be able to say we saw them when we were asked if we saw them so yes, we did see them. Should you ever visit, I'd highly... er, greatly recommend opening your mind and experiencing the rest of this diverse and very colorful city!

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