Travel and Culture

A Day in Amsterdam

My European river cruise started in Budapest in Hungry and finished in Amsterdam in The Netherlands.

Amsterdam is a popular tourist spot and a gateway to Europe from England. It is the capital of The Netherlands but interestingly not the seat of Government. That is in The Hague.   Amsterdam was built on marshland and has over 100 kilometres of canals. Amazing! Its name comes from the word ‘Amstelredamme’ as it originated as a fishing village built around a dam in the river Amstel.

So, what to do in a day in Amsterdam?

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My travelling companion and I went on a canal cruise and this was a great way to get an overview of the city. I highly recommend this. We passed the home where Anne Frank and her family hid for two years during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands in World War II and where she wrote ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’. There were long queues of people waiting in the street to visit this house and it must have taken them ages to be admitted. I felt an immense sadness as I contemplated the awfulness of what had happened to Anne and her family inside that house and that feeling lingered for some time. We saw interesting historic architecture and old, tall, narrow Dutch residences. People were walking along the banks and cars being driven on the narrow roads. It was very busy.

After the canal cruise we went on a two-hour meander of the streets and alleys of Amsterdam. We visited coffee shops where one could buy and smoke cannabis. I somehow had thought the coffee shops would be rather classy places, but I felt a sense of despondency as I looked inside at the glazed eye faces and slumped bodies of people who had indulged. We found a red-light area where prostitutes could stand in the window advertising their ‘wares’. When they were busy, curtains were pulled across the window.  Interestingly, this venue was situated approximately 5 meters from a large church. I guess in Amsterdam there is a place for everyone.

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Watch out for cyclists in Amsterdam. They’re everywhere and ride very quickly, and it’s obviously a great way to get around. Lots of people walk as well, and we asked directions to a good café from a lovely, friendly local woman who chatted to us easily. We gave her a little gold colour kiwi pendant in appreciation, and she was chuffed. A good chat and warm smiles are universal in connecting strangers from different countries.

When we found our café, we bought cups of tea and a plate of hot chips to share and sat at one of the tables outside to watch busy people coming and going. I think doing this always gives one a good feel for a place.

We flew out of Amsterdam in the late afternoon. As the plane flew over Amsterdam and headed for London, I thought of what an interesting place it was. Many people love Amsterdam. I was very happy to visit it and to say that it is a city where I have been – even for a brief time.

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