Words and Photos by Justina Daraciute
Amsterdam… The New City of Love?
If Gus and Hazel from ‘Fault in our stars’ were real people, they would highly recommend visiting Amsterdam. Before this movie had been released earlier this year, the capital of the Netherlands has been famous mainly for bikes, red lights district and coffee shops, but today thousands of girls sobbing for undying Gus’ love for Hazel will probably agree that this city is in serious competition with Paris for ‘City of love’ title.
What makes Amsterdam interesting and definitely worth visiting besides the fact that (surprise, surprise!) marihuana and prostitution is legal, well, first of all, the city is bea-uti-ful. Bridges, canals and millions of fashionable ‘Oma-fiets’ type of bikes defines Amsterdam in every step you take. It may seem like bridges are all the same and who doesn’t ride a bike these days, but when you take a closer look and spend a day wondering around lively streets of this Dutch city, every bridge starts looking like a different painting. Everyone rides a bike in Amsterdam and that includes: businessmen, grannies, toddlers. There isn’t a skirt, height of heels or any piece of clothes that would stop a classic Dutch woman from riding a bike. Equally, men in suits look as good on a bike as wearing trainers. Seems like in Amsterdam children learn to ride a bike soon after they start to walk. I joke you not, the possibility to be hit by a bike in Amsterdam is bigger than being mugged in Boscombe, so that says something.
The best way to explore the city more and give your feet a rest is to use one of the many canal cruises that are being advertised almost on every corner. The most expensive ticket that is valid for 24 hours covers three main routes and works as an on-off tourist bus and costs 24 euros. It may look a bit pricy but considering the fact that you will not need to use any other transport in Amsterdam as everything is in the walking distance, it is really worth trying. Alternatively, a single ticket price varies from 13 to 17 euros and cruise takes 1-1.5 hours which is enough to have a glance how Amsterdam looks like from the water.
Food in this is city is heaven for snobs who cannot resist trying different cuisines during holidays. Restaurants are quite expensive but prices don’t shock too much. As almost every bigger city Amsterdam has a street where everyone would find something that would make them happy. From small, cozy Chinese all you can eat cuisines to big Mexican or Indonesian restaurants. Travelers, who would not betray their eternal love for a pint of beer on any circumstances, are most likely to find a dream pub in Amsterdam and extend holidays for few more days due to friendliness of Dutch. After a late night out, Dutch national herring covered in pickles and onions is something that might bring you back to life. A massive waffle with chocolate spread and other additional sweet extras of your choice is a treat that is going to make your day.
Culture and history lovers will be interested in visiting Anne’s Frank house but if you are not a ‘I-book-everything-three-months-ahead’ type of traveler but would really like to visit this iconic place, would highly recommend to a book a ticket online beforehand. Otherwise you might end up waiting in a queue for at least 3 hours.
Now the ‘what happens in Amsterdam stays in Amsterdam’ part. Nightlife in this city is something that everyone should experience while visiting. Only in Amsterdam and few other cities in Europe, a tourist is free to walk around red lights district and not feel guilty or ashamed. Sometimes it takes a while to undergo a tiny cultural or maybe I should say ethical shock to realise that you see what you see. For the majority of people who wonder around red light streets in Amsterdam seeing a prostitute is not their first time. The question is, how many of them believe that paying for sex is supposed to be more or less acceptable thing? Here, in one of the most European and cultural city, among half naked women in windows advertising themselves, everyone is left with deep thoughts. A rare tourist would admit thinking more deeply rather than just laughing it off but it sinks in for a little while.
Coffee-shops, coffee-shops, coffee-shops… The smell of marihuana is inviting everyone to try something that’s forbidden everywhere else and makes it even more desirable. You still have a choice because after all, drugs are drugs and even after legalization they still same unhealthy crap, but if you do decide to go for it, make sure you ask and listen to advice of people who know weed-safe and location-safe places. Example of these kinds of people would be a member of staff at the hotel or hostel you’re staying in. Remember, the fact that marihuana is legalised in Netherlands means that you can talk about it loudly and demand as much information as needed. Also, take a note, that the excitement about getting high and touristic attitude is a double trouble when it comes to a mugger. Make sure you’re surrounded by people if you travel alone or make friends wherever you go!
Overall, a city like Amsterdam is a place to fall in love with on every season. Autumn makes it beautiful and so photogenic; I can only guess how magical it looks in winter or summer. Not only a city, but also people make it so unforgettable. Dutch people are open minded and sociable people, and cheeky little secret for all the single ladies out there: once you see a gorgeous looking Dutch man you will know what you were looking for all your life. Tall, gentlemen-looking eye candies are everywhere and they are waiting for you to smile back. By waiting I mean they stare at you while passing by until you almost get to that point when you’re daring to ask: why are you looking at me like that? If only, like Augustus Waters, they would answer: because you’re beautiful.
Then Amsterdam would definitely become a city to die for…