Amsterdam Hotels Articles

August 27, 2010

Trekking Through Amsterdam 1

Where in the world can an opera house have the bronze sculpture of a violinist sinking into the floor? Not a clue? Well, a clog is a hint. I mean the wooden clogs people wear; not that they do anymore. The answer is of course Amsterdam.

Yet, water makes this city. Amsterdam consists of 90 islands connected by more than a 1000 bridges. Alongside with water come the greenery and a myriad of flowers. Don’t think tulips only but all the flowers, due to the rather mild climate though somewhat unpredictable.

Buildings, hundreds of years old, have been beautifully restored and preserved in Amsterdam. Their lean and narrow structures lean at odd angles against each other, making their view even more picturesque. Inside, they have low ceilings and steep winding staircases.

Our trip to Amsterdam was simple. We got on the plane in Kennedy and got off in Schiphol airport, Amsterdam. As a city, however, Amsterdam is everything but simple. Having two cousins living there also helped us greatly.

With Amsterdam, we broke with our routine of staying away from museums to visit several of them. I loved the Van Gogh Museum, maybe because I have a special bias toward crazy painters. Having opened to public view during the seventies, the museum is rather new. It has hundreds of Van Goghs, several Lautrecs, a few Gauguins, Monets, and also Van Gogh’s collection of Japanese prints. Exquisite is the word here for those prints.

The reason Rijksmuseum—its Gothic façade, two towers, and those entrance doors—seems familiar to a New Yorker is because it resembles the Grand Central Station. The reason is both places were designed by the same architect, Cuypers, during the nineteenth century. Maybe because of that, most of the exhibits in the museum are from the nineteenth century, although every age from medieval to modern times is represented to some extent.

After the dollhouses, the scales of model ships enchanted us. They dated from the seventeenth century when Netherlands was a naval force in the world, and this collection made the grown man walking around with me turn into a little boy.

Rain always caught us somewhere in Amsterdam and it came down abruptly, but rain was not the only wet stuff that took us by surprise. My first shock came when I saw the public urinals in the streets where men used them in open view. Can you believe it!

The bathrooms in some of the houses are poles apart from what we call a bathroom. The toilet is separate from the bath and in a very small room with very poor ventilation. They also have a strange toilet design with a platform to hold the waste to be clearly seen and examined before flushing it away. All of these things make the WCs stink, I’m sorry to say.

Two other museums in Amsterdam felt odd to me. One is the Museum of Cannabis and Hemp; the other, the Sex Museum. We entered neither, but according to my cousin they house some historical details of thousands of years about their individual subjects.

What I also came to learn in time was that the green triangle sign in front of the coffee shops means that they serve both weed and liquor inside.

Is Amsterdam a safe city? There are two opposing sides of thought to this issue. To us, it wasn’t unsafe because we had its residents taking us to where we needed to go and alerted us to possible dangers, but I can see how it can be a dangerous place for other tourists who go there expecting the best. Even with the tolerant attitude to drugs and sex, there are still pushers of both things on the streets. Amsterdam residents claim that most of the crime comes from outside. They may be right, but surely Amsterdam provides fertile ground for such behavior to take root.

Some of the goods and luggage are stolen at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport or on the train and in subway stations. My husband never put his wallet, money, or credit cards in his back pockets; I wore a light safari jacket with four front zippered pockets just for the sake of being safe and carried my purse next to my body to the front of me with one hand placed on it. There are many people on bikes and sometimes a speeding bike can serve as a pick-and-go vehicle, depriving an unsuspecting victim of his bag or other belongings. Most of the time, thieves work in groups of three or four and create a commotion; then they make use of the distraction to run away with whatever they can.

Being on guard all the time is the best advice to keep in mind when visiting Amsterdam. They say straying out of the center of the city (centruum) and going out alone after dark or too early in the morning to iffy places may invite thieves, muggings and such. Though the Amsterdam police are very strict in keeping the public harmony by not tolerating vandalism, noise, or any other visible public nuisance, it is said that they are slow looking after individual complaints. Yet, the law-abiding residents of Amsterdam are wonderful people, and if approached with politeness, they are truly good Samaritans.

Joy Cagil is an author on a site for Writing.Com (http://www.Writing.Com/)
Her education is in foreign languages and linguistics. She has also trained in psychology, humanities, mental health, women’s issues, and visual arts. Her portfolio can be found at http://www.Writing.Com/authors/joycag.

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