Amsterdam is really one of those cities that people from ‘outside’ tend to have a strong image of. When I was living in The United States as an exchange student (2007-2008), all the highschoolers thought I was so cool because I smoked weed all day in Amsterdam, and all the prositutes would just come up to me to offer work, and especially don’t forget that I must be lesbian too and wear wooden shoes all day with a bouquet of tullips in one hand while holding a can of beer in the other.
I was shocked by the fact that this really was what the American high schoolers thought Amsterdam was all about! Well, … here’s the thing about Amsterdam.
As a Dutchie, I of course, have a different view on Amsterdam and a few days ago I went out on a short photo trip to my favourite Dutch city to capture what I thought was Amsterdam. To me it is not about all the weird and conflicting laws we have towards drinking, drugs and prostitution, no to me it was the history in architecture and the way people live here. Amsterdam is without a doubt one of the most relaxing yet busiest cities you can imagine. You gotta be aware of all the cyclers coming by, they won’t stop for nothing! but at the same time you can just simply sit on a bench and watch the boats come by in one of tthe many gorgeous canals.
The canals in Amsterdam date back to the Golden Ages in the 16th and 17th century when the Dutch ruled the world with their VOC-ships (East Indian Trading Company) and the captains felt like they ought to have big houses during these times. As the tax was decided upon the width of the houses, many of them found along the canals, are very narrow yet very high buildings. Each and every one of them has a different look and are richly decorated to show of whealth and style. When I took my camera out the other day, my attention was immediately drawn to the rich variety in buildings, trashed bikes and the Wester Toren (West Tower), which is the highest in the city.
As I was walking through the city, in no particular direction and with no particular destination, I noticed that despite the fact that I’d been to Amsterdam many times, I still managed to find new things to see, or streets I’d never walked through. For the first time ever, I walked along the Amstel river, the river the city was named after. I was so pleased to realize that this city has just so much more to offer than what people might think. Around lunchtime, when I started to get hungry, I walked into a random cafe near the Blauwbrug, simply called cafe Blauwbrug, and sat there wondering what was different this time. And there it was … I wasn’t headed for the tourism hotspots like the Museumplein, Vondelpark or the Kalverstraat, no I was actually escaping from crowded people flows around these places, and found myself in ‘local’ yet downtown Amsterdam. I ordered a cup of tea and some eggs & bacon for lunch, one of the simplest lunches you can imagine, but it suited my day. There was no need to go for an extraordinary sandwich. I felt right at ease amongst the Amsterdammers themselves and nobody looked at me as if it were weird that I was sitting there by myself, a look I’d been given before in the crowded tourism district.
The thing about Amsterdam is that, like most big cities, there is some sort of flow going around. People are just simply doing their thing without being noticed by others too much. Amsterdam is not as big as London or Rome, but has quite a bit of people living in a dense area and therefore can seem awfully crowded. Yet the trick is to find a place where you can still enjoy the thrill of walking though a big city and at the same time not having to worry about your handbag being snatched. Here’s a tip: head out west from ‘Rokin’ towards the ‘Doelen’ and the city hall and then make your way towards the Amstel River and the Hermitage. You’ll find the most beautiful canals, Golden Century houses, small independent cafes, truly interested tourists and a bunch of Amsterdam-loving locals. Try to do a bit of both the crowded areas like the Museumplein and the less crowded west part of Amsterdam. After all, there is a reason those other spots are crowded, it’s where you’ll find the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh museum.
For now, I’ll leave it up to you, enjoy your travels and when you head to Amsterdam, shoot me a message because I’d be intrested to know what you think of the city! Also, be sure to check out D.G. Travel Photography on Facebook, where more photos of my trip will be posted.
Happy Travels, xoxo