Shopping in Amsterdam has to be a favorite pastime because in most places we found street vendors and traffic free squares where temporary businesses open shop under tents. Cuypmarkt a place like a white elephant sale and Waterlooplein flea market are popular with the residents. In the prices of anything, cafes, restaurants, beauty shops, and even taxies, (BTW) taxes and a standard 15% service charge are included. Still the waiters expected tips, even a small one, when they waited on us. I don’t blame them at all, since Amsterdam is not a cheap city to live in, especially if you keep losing your goods to pickpockets.
A favorite fast food for the Dutch are the croquettes, deep fried mashed potatoes and gravy, tasty enough but I wouldn’t go for it again.
Beer is the usual Dutch drink since Heineken and Amstel are situated here. It is usually served with a huge frothy head in small iced or wet glasses with handles. Most of the Dutch dishes “Neerlands Dis” are made with meat, cheese and vegetables. Sausages, ham pea soup, bisque soups, herring are some favorite Dutch tastes.
The best place we ate was the Cafe Van Gogh with excellent sandwiches and goat cheese salads. For me, Amsterdam was not the best place for eating, although they had quite a variety of fish prepared in different ways that I enjoyed. In general even their light snacks are not light for they usually are tostjes–grilled cheese and ham sandwiches–or doughnuts and pancakes.
Amsterdam houses are different in the way that they have been preserved for at least two to five centuries. Some have paintings on them, some have coat of arms that can be of wood. The houses are usually built from dark red bricks and their large windows are white and the doors are different colors. Most doorways are detailed and old warehouses have wooden hatches. The façades of the houses are pretty narrow. They were built like that on purpose because in the olden times the owners had to pay taxes according to their houses’ widths facing the street. Courtyards called hofjes hide between the houses and are usually filled with flowers to the brim.
One place I didn’t (couldn’t) enter was the Anne Frank House in the middle of Amsterdam. First there were too long lines in front of it, second I was afraid I’d cry and make everyone miserable. The house is a regular (I think) four story house with three windows at each floor after the first floor, an attic room window, and a red-tiled roof, one could pass on the street and not even take notice. Close to the house, a statue of Anne Frank stands. We heard later that the museum was renovated again a few years after we were there.
Afterwards we went to the Dam Square to feed the pigeons and disperse some of the sadness we felt. Dam square is a cobbled square with pigeons and out of work people selling pigeon feed.
There are many immigrants from other third world countries in Amsterdam. Some of them, like most of the pizza store owners, work very hard; others are here because of the so-called freedom and the lax laws this country offers.
One thing positive about Amsterdam is its public transportation. A person living in this city might never need to own a car. They have a circle tram line that connects to all of the touristic sights and if a five day ticket is bought, the sightseeing tour becomes very cheap. Also the trams are a sight to watch with their unusual shapes and colors. My favorite way of transportation was the “Museum Boat,” a shuttle service that went to all the museums and other attractions. Also the canal cruises provide wonderful experiences for people who like to be on water and watch the antique buildings on the sides of the canals.
Canals have houseboats on them where some people live and work. Some of those houseboats serve as tourist inns and hostels. They told us that sometimes in winter the canals freeze and the people cross them on ice skates.
The city’s largest park is Vondelpark and it used to be where the hippies of the seventies hung out. Still it has its share of bohemian free spirits frequenting it. Also, it is very close to the museum of modern art, but we didn’t go to that museum. Those who went said they didn’t like it as much as the Van Gogh Museum. We went to the Rembrandt House and the Historical Museum just before leaving Amsterdam.
I was surprised to see a Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum in this city. It seems, wherever we go there is a Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum. In Amsterdam it occupied a major corner of the most famous Dam square to where important streets and avenues open.
Next to the palace is the gothic Nieuwe Kierk (New Church), except it is not so new, since it is from the fourteenth century and it has a tower that people never got around to completing. It made me feel good that there were more efficient procrastinators in the world than those I have come to know. I don’t know what is with these churches. In several different cities of different countries and continents, we came across a few incomplete antique churches.
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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