Walkable, Bikeable, Likeable Amsterdam

Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands, is a great city for tourists.  The official language is, of course, Dutch, but English is widely spoken.  On our recent visit, we ambled along the quaint canals…

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Passing apartment buildings and mansions…

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We also walked through the red light district one evening, where the world’s oldest profession is practiced openly and with government oversight.  Sorry, no pictures of that!

One way to see the city, if you are not of the active sort, is to take a canal boat tour.  The main dock is near the central train station, convenient for day visitors.

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But if you have the spirit of adventure, rent a bike and join the throngs who commute on two wheels daily.  The bike lanes in the city are crowded and the people ride in a spirited fashion (read: FAST!).  Spend a few minutes learning the local customs and rights-of-way before venturing out.  Hint: bikes do not yield to pedestrians, a fact that walkers find out about quickly; if your are cycling, don’t slow down or stop for a pedestrian, otherwise you could cause a near-wreck because the other cyclists are not anticipating this.  The last, and perhaps most important tip is this: when it is time to park your bike, pay careful attention to where you left it so you can find it in the bike parking lot!

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We were feeling energetic and cycled out of the city and into the countryside, to the outdoor museum at Zaanse Schans.  These restored historic windmills were still in operation.

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Several days of rain did not slow us down.  There is plenty to do indoors in this city.  Visit the Anne Frank House, or perhaps something a little more lighthearted such as the Heineken Experience.  We spent most of one day in the Rijksmuseum, viewing masterpieces from the Dutch golden age of the mid 17th century.  From wall-sized pieces such as Rembrandt’s Night Watch…

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(And take extra time here to read more if you are an art person…)

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To smaller pieces such as Johannes Vermeer’s The Milkmaid, which could fit in a large suitcase, we were not bored.

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Of note, the museum makes available several excellent recorded tours that can be downloaded to your smartphone – – bring headphones as a courtesy to others.

The other must-see museum in town is dedicated to this famous artist.  Do you recognize him from this self-portrait?  (Answer at the end of this post)

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We rented an apartment rather than stay at a hotel, which is a favorite plan of ours as it allows mingling with the real inhabitants of the city rather than being bunched together with all of the other tourists.  This was the view out the window on a rainy evening.  Quite different than the view out of our window at home!

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Art, history, lively cafes, friendly people, and bustling streets.  Not to mention a modern and well-connected airport.  Amsterdam makes a great stop on any European vacation.

And the answer to the quiz question:  Vincent van Gogh, of course.  The museum houses the largest collection of his works anywhere in the world.  Go see it!


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