Amsterdam is the city capital of the Netherlands. I would shortly say it is about beautiful people, happiness, sport, fast living, multi culturality, Anne Franck, open minds, sexxines and tasty food. Did I say bicycles? How did I forget about that?
the 1.000.000 Bicycles of Amsterdam
Amsterdam has about 1.000.000 bicycles and 842.000 inhabitants. That makes the city very green and I like that.
I have almost got run over about 10 times by dutch people cycling. They really look brain washed when they ride and that could be scary in the first days. But with time, you start to find it funny. In Amsterdam I have learnt that before I want to cross the street, I have to rely first on my eyesight, not on my hearing, alone. You do not hear a bicycle coming, but you definitely will feel it. A cyclist almost crushed into me on purpose, just to show me how annoyed he was by the tourists not paying attention to cyclist. Actually, the cyclists here have precedence over pedestrians in any situation. Yes, you read right: any. And this is kind of opposite to what you are used to anywhere in Europe and not only.
cycling and multitasking
Oh, the dutch have shown the world how versatile cycling is. Everything can be done when cycling…almost: Writing text messages, kissing, answering emails, carrying your family, groceries, TV or furniture. Who rides in Amsterdam? Everyone. And they do it fast. I have never seen a heavily pregnant woman cycling, before I arrived in Amsterdam.
Picture a young woman, carrying her three children, the groceries and a dog all at once, on a single bike and do that with style without, for a second, looking overcrowded or out of her game.
Of course accidents happen: I saw many abandoned broken bikes, then a biker with a bloody forehead and bleeding knee.
Every year 10.000 bicycles are fished from the Dam river. They fall, are thrown over or too broken to carry home. These bikes are then taken, serviced and put up for sale on the local markets. This means it is not uncommon to see someone riding a very rusty bike through the streets. Anyways, the cheapest bicycle I have seen in a second-hand shop was 150 euros, which is not cheap for a piece of rusty metal, as that one was. But there is a high request, I guess.
love in Amsterdam happens while cycling
Cycling and kissing in the same time, you never thought would be possible? Well, I will have to admit. Neither did I.
But, bikers kissing while waiting for the green light or while pedaling…is so common. The locals are so used to be multitasking while cycling that almost any activity is to be done on the move.
This one guy was writing on two smart phones in parallel while pedaling, without looking where he was going. I think he just felt it.
sex in Amsterdam
As my guide said: Amsterdam is not only about sex, drugs, windmills, tulips and cheese. But we cannot ignore the sexual aspect of the metropolis. Because it sells sex. I used the word sex 4 times in one paragraph and I haven’t yet began to talk about it.
So, like any curious girl traveler I visited the Red Light District. A couple of times actually.
What is the Red Light District
It is network of alleys with 300 room cabins rented by women who offer their sexual services from behind a window. The rooms are illuminated with red lights.
Here I saw the women staying in the vitrine …nothing spectacular so far. But what I wanted to know is how the selling routine goes. So I found a comfortable spot with a wide view, and I started observing how this service is being offered and enjoyed.
I specially looked at a vitrine closer to my sight, where at the ground floor of the house, an attractive blonde women in her 30’s was smiling at trespassers, women and men just the same. She was doing some kind of discrete dance to turn the eyes on her and I liked that. It was neither vulgar, nor opulent. Every men passing by would stare at her, some longer if they were alone or with their male companions, some shorter if the girlfriend was near. In half an hour about 5 men wanted to know more about her services and one also benefited from them. She seemed to have rejected the other 4 as the conversations were brief and she was the one ending them.
I asked my guide about the prices of the services and he said its like going to eat a pizza. If you just want a Margherita, you pay 50 euros. For anything you want to add to make it better, you pay extra. I found the explanation pretty jolly and fun.
Prostitution is legal in the Netherlands, with the exception of street prostitution. From January 2013 the legal working age of a prostitute in the Netherlands was raised from 18 to 21.
They are full of life. In the afternoons and weekends you will find them in parks, drinking beers, smoking a joint with friends or laughing with their loved ones. In Amsterdam happiness is a job. The city seems to tell you, find your way to be good, no matter what makes you happy. Make love, ride, smoke, drink, sail, swim, dance, walk on the Amstel, hire someone to love you or go to the countryside if that’s your thing.
there are endless places you could drink delicious coffees and enjoy dutch dishes. One that I can recommend without a doubt is Coffee & coconuts.
17 interesting facts about Amsterdam
1. The Church in the Red Light District
The Red Light District has an intriguing history. The Oldest Church in Amsterdam is in the heart of the district. How did that happen?
It started with the sailors who were seeking prostitutes while on land and then going to the church to ask for forgiveness. The Church realized it cannot stop the prostitution, so rented the district houses which she owned and came also with a pre-paid absolution plan. Sailors and anyone interested could buy their forgiveness for 10 fornication in advance. I don’t know if this story is true, but this is what the guide told us.
2. The Tulips
Tulips were the symbol of wealth in the Golden Age. “Tulipomania” was a period in the Dutch Golden Age during which contract prices for bulbs reached extraordinarily high levels. At the peak of tulip mania, in March 1637, some single tulip bulbs were sold for more than 10 times the annual income of a skilled craftsman.
2. skinny, crooked houses with hooks
Houses are narrow and tall because the wider the house facing the Dam river was, the higher the taxes. So, they decided to build on the vertical to avoid high taxes. Tall and skinny house come with tight and narrow staircases – which makes nearly impossible moving furniture and other large items. So they initially built the houses with a forward lean and a hook. Items could be tied to this hook and pulled up to the desired floor. This is why some houses are so crooked. But later, they came with a better idea. They made the hooks on the top longer and have built the walls straight.
3. Floating homes
Holland counts many houseboats, but Amsterdam holds the record with approximately 2500 houseboats. Living in a houseboat on a channel became a phenomenon in the 70’s.
But, although houseboats in Amsterdam are better to live in, they usually aren’t much cheaper than equivalent apartments.
The first thing that comes into ones mind when you see a floating house on the river is that its inhabitants were seeking some peace and quiet, away from the crowded urban areas.
Well, most of them have got that. Especially if they have chosen a spot away from the old town center channel ring. Having a floating home close to the old town is like living between two highways. Small or bigger boats are riding the Amstel channels until late at night. And it is noteworthy to say that they host parties, with happy, loud people. This is why houseboat sale agent advise buyers
to choose the neighbourhood with care as You can repair or even change the vessel, but not your spot.
The city of Amsterdam does not give new permits for mooring on the channels anymore. If you have one already, it will be annually renewed.
5. sinking city
Amsterdam like most of the country was built by draining wetlands.
In dutch history there is a feared legendary figure, which is the waterwolf. It represents the water force, flooding and eating the lands. If you had a romantic view of the 10.000 Windmills from the Netherlands, you should know that half of these mighty machines were constantly pumping out water.
Amtserdam is constantly sinking into the North Sea. Holland has been sinking since the Middle Ages, and it never stopped doing so. The sinking is caused by the old peat and clay beneath Diemen slowly compressing the under layers. The limit to which an area can be allowed to sink by is 20 cm: after that point, the pavement cracks. The rate at which neighbourhoods are sinking can vary: some areas need work every five years, others only once every 50.
On the other hand, if the water level rises too high, the city’s cellars fill up like bathtubs.
The raising of the city is accomplished by, lifting up the sinking area, adding another layer of sand and soil, and then laying the pavements, tarmac, playgrounds, et al. back down again.
Organisations taking care of the complicate water defence and regulation system were founded some 700 years ago. And they still do the job today.
6. City built on poles
The city of Amsterdam lay’s upon around 11 million support poles. The Royal Palace in Dam Square has more than 13.500 poles under its structures.
Since early times, the houses in Amsterdam have been built on wooden piles, laid deep into the clay, peat, and water until they reach the first layer of solid sand. Even some of the trees in Vondelpark have a wooden piles support to keep them from sinking into the marshy ground.
7. roots of tolerance and multi – culturality
Amsterdam is home to the highest number of nationalities compared to any other city in the world. Also, in 2001 the Netherlands, became the first nation that granted legal recognition to same-sex marriage.
It is common that dutch people speak a second and third foreign language.
8. It is in top 25 of the safest cities in the world
I bet that comes as a surprise, regarding the consume of marijuana and prostitution in the city. But the secret is that they are under legal control.
9. the narrowest house in Europe
The bigger the house facade, the higher the tax you need to pay? Of course you build on the vertical.
The narrowest house in Amsterdam is registered as a national heritage site. It is 2.02 m wide and whole 9²m surface and is located at Oude Hoogstraat 22 in the old city center of Amsterdam. The house’s quirky size can be explained by a building tax which correlated with the width of the house’s facade. The smart owner circumvented these taxes by building an entire house across several floors, yet with a tiny facade and narrow width.
10. The secret church
Our Lord in the Attic is a secret church. Why was a secret church needed? Because in 1578 the Catholic city authority was dismissed by the Alteration. If you did not want to give up your catholic religion you were not permitted to hold or attend public religious services. Therefore, this church was built in the attic by a German merchant who was a Catholic. 400 catholics were secretly attending the sermons each Sunday.
Imagine 400 people disappearing on this small alley, every Sunday morning. I admit I watched it for minutes, going back 300 years ago and seeing all those crowds sinking into that alley and then into house. Impressive.
It’s also incredible to think that in a city pioneering tolerance, people had to hide to practice the Catholic faith.
11. amsterdam mass resistance against nazi regime
Although The Netherlands had proclaimed neutrality when World War II broke out in September 1939, just as it had in World War I, Adolf Hitler ordered it to be invaded anyway. The city of
Amsterdam organized the only mass resistance against the Nazi regime and against the prosecution of their Jewish fellow citizens, ever in all of the Nazi occupied areas. Individual stories of efforts to hide Dutch Jews have been documented and celebrated.
Due to the well-organized population registers which documented religion, social status, ethnicity of the dutch citizens, it was very easy for the Nazis to find the jews citizens. That is also why the Netherlands has the lowest rate jews returning from working camps compared to other european countries.
As a reminder of the jews who perished, stand the Stolperstein. I have found them walking on the banks of the river Amstel. They are name plates on one side of the river pointing in the direction where the homes of the deported citizens were.
12. Electric cars get free electricity
How cool is that? 557 electric charging stations invite you to charge your car for free. They are wind or solar chargers, which adds to the city’s eco friendliness.
13. The garbage underworld
There are small, discrete trash bins on the streets. Underneath them, there is a channel of garbage collection network. So, if you throw a big sack in and wonder where it all goes, the secret is out.
14. Amsterdam’s Canal Ring – UNESCO heritage
Amsterdam’s Canal Ring is unique in the world for its urban development and architectural artwork. It is also the physical expression of the major economic, political and cultural growth of the city during the Golden Age.
In 2010 UNESCO enlisted the Canal Ring of Amsterdam in its heritage, raising the total number of listed sites in the Netherlands to nine.
15. The Hangover centers
As many of the city’s visitors come for very clear reasons, one of the top 5 being drinking, these hangover centers just do their headaches justice. You do no longer have to call a good friend to tell you what to do or look for a pharmacy. These hangover centers are in the heart of the old town. The wonder cures come in small bottles.
16. the coffee shops which don’t sell coffee
In 1976, the government of the Netherlands began to take steps to decriminalize the use and possession of cannabis. Now a days you can buy drugs at the stores which have the Coffee Shop sign outside. If you are just looking for a coffee, look for shops that do not have this sign.
17. The windows without curtains
In this city, curtain retailers do not make a long-lasting business. The windows in this city are see-trough, without curtains. But the locals do not stare inside somebody’s home, like I did. They are shy about that. I was not. So when I was walking in the evenings on the Dam channels, I could see families and friends dinning together, singles reading a book next to a glass of wine, or watching TV. Actually the TV watching was extremely rare. I think the Amsterdamese just prefer to be out and socialize.
When I first arrived into the flat I stayed for 10 days with my friends, I needed some time to get used to the fact that everyone across the street could see inside. At some point you don’t care anymore because nobody bothers to check what you are doing and you enjoy the abundant light that comes in.
One of the things that made me adore Amsterdam
was its architecture and that feeling of intimacy you experienced, when walking on its old town streets late at night.
It is a haven for interior design as there is at least one boutique for anything you could imagine from latex swans to hand stitched socks.
Amsterdam is very crowded and on weekend days especially, the old city is over flooded with not-sober, dizzy people. It is not the right time to enjoy the city, unless you want to see also how this touristic vibe feels like.
Also the old city smells, especially in summer. Sometimes it is the water from the river, or the usual metropolis smell of open air toilette.
It is also not cheap. I stayed with friends and needn’t care about accommodation, but if you do need to book, get a flat in the outskirts and take public transportation. Tickets comes much cheaper if you buy a 5 euro public transport card because you pay by distance. If you do not have it, you pay a standard one hour ticket of 2,80 euro, no matter if you travel 5 minutes.
would i return to Amsterdam?