Amsterdam: The City of Freedom

Amsterdam is a city where you are likely to see and experience things you’ve never imagined.

 

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Our waitress at the popular Grasshopper Restaurant (no longer Coffee Shop) describes it as The City of Freedom.  Freedom to come and go, do and be as you please, with no oppression.  I asked her how she came to live there from her home country (she was actually from Brazil), and she said that she’d followed her heart.  First with a man, then because she fell in love with the city.  I can’t say that I was totally in my comfort zone or feeling totally free on my visit; however, others younger or less inhibited than me might feel right at home. Although, I can say, it was an experience I will never forget, and parts of it were fun and entertaining.

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Besides the popular Red Light District that you hear about so much, with open and legal access to prostitution and drugs, were lovely historic homes and architecture, beautiful canals, numerous houseboats, and cyclists galore.

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Bikes in Amsterdam

My first impression of walking down the street in Amsterdam was that my immediate safety may be in peril from all of the bicycles and motorcycles along the way from the Central Train Station to our lodging just across the street.   In fact, 40% of all vehicle traffic in Amsterdam is bike traffic.  Just after we arrived we stopped at a convenience store to buy drinking water, and while paying the shop owner we heard the shriek of tires on pavement just outside the front of the shop.  On further investigation we saw that a biker had ran a red light and been hit by a car.  The shop owner told us this happens about once or twice a day at that corner; so safety tip, watch out for bikes.

Amsterdam is where I first experienced a number of new favorites:

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Bitterballen, now my favorite Dutch Appetizer. Here is a link to find some of the best places to eat it in Amsterdam.

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Cheese shops are numerous in the city of Amsterdam.  Here is a link to some of the finest shops in Amsterdam.

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Canal Cruises and houseboats wherever you look.  Here are some great locations to book houseboat rental or cruise.

Our first full day in Amsterdam was devoted to a cruise on the canals.  Instead of going with one of the larger commercial cruise lines we decided to go small with Boat Amsterdam, a one hour cruise including all you can drink and a personal guide to the city for 15€.  It is an open air vessel so blankets were provided for warmth against the chill Autumn air.  Our tour guide was a young lady from Seattle Washington, go figure.  She transferred her citizenship to Amsterdam over a series of visits throughout her young life and finally decided it is where she needs to live and work.  She seemed very well adjusted to life in The Netherlands, and was fairly knowledgeable about the city and historic sights.

 

On this cruise we saw the home of Anne Frank next door to Westerkirk, the church whose bells she describes hearing from her hiding place in the book “Anne Frank’s Diary”.

We also saw the home of the mayor of the city, many beautiful buildings, and were told the history of our own hotel.

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The Victoria Hotel built in the 1970’s surrounds a smaller house whose owner refused to sell out.  The family is still in residence to this day.

We only spent a night and a day in Amsterdam before moving on to another leg of our journey, but it was eye opening and entertaining.  There is much more to see and do there than time permitted, and I hope to go back again for a longer stay.

To create your own itinerary for a day or longer in Amsterdam you can visit the following website http://www.visitacity.com/en/amsterdam/itineraries/amsterdam-in-one-day–easy-going-day-1 .  Happy travels!

Bitterballen: A Dutch Masterpiece

Okay, okay! Food doesn’t necessarily conform to the genre of a Dutch Master, but this tasty treat is definitely a work of art all on its own. Bitterballen is a type of meatball or kroket with a piping hot gooey center, and one of the best appetizers to be found in The Netherlands. Here is a link including a short history lesson of this well-known Dutch treat along with the recipe to try it out and form your own opinion. Bitterballen is served on canal cruises, in restaurants and bars throughout The Netherlands along with these other 10 Dutch Foods You Should Try Once. I can’t vouch for them all, but they are pretty popular. Gouda Cheese is especially prevalent in The Netherlands, there you will find many shops which offer cheese tasting opportunities to find what suits you best before you buy. All in all, Bitterballen was the winner for me. I hope you enjoy it too!