After just one day home from our week-long Live Blogging trip to Amsterdam, the difference in Northern Irish and Dutch culture is extremely evident.
From the moment we stepped off our train in Amsterdam, the number of bicycles was overwhelming. In fact, as the week continued, you almost felt like the odd one out without a bicycle. These bicycles were not brand new sports or mountain bikes, but were, in fact, mostly old Dutch bicycles that had been constantly repaired and repainted. This simply added to the atmosphere of Amsterdam. We wished we had rented a bicycle out for at least one of the days, but we simply didn’t have time during this trip. But this is something we highly recommend doing and something which we most certainly will during our next visit.
The way of life in Amsterdam is so relaxed and less of a rat race compared to Belfast. The comparison between this trip and our one to London last year was even greater. The multicultural society which makes up the community in Amsterdam is evident from arriving in Schiphol airport. The people of many nationalities all conform to the same view on life: nothing needs to be done in a hurry, always smile and always be polite. Somehow, regardless of these traits that we noticed, the public transport was always perfectly on time. It sounds like the Dutch have got the perfect balance for life!
As you wander the maze of streets of Amsterdam, which I find to resemble a giant spider’s web, it does get easier to navigate when you recognise key buildings. Still, my biggest tip for any trip to Amsterdam is never leave the hotel without a map. It was not uncommon for us to get lost for a few hours most days. However, we never gave in once to asking someone for directions. With no time constraints to be in a certain place by a certain time, the feeling of being lost in a beautiful city was somewhat a relief.
As you continue further through the spider’s web of streets away from the city centre, the canals become less busy, the buildings more traditional and the setting even more tranquil. We walked along canals and sat by the waters edge for many hours during our visit. There is nothing better for coming up with fresh ideas and clearing your mind. In fact, I wrote some of this article while sitting at the waters edge by the bridge in the photo below.
You can almost smell the history in Amsterdam. Some photographs of houses and canal boats are timeless. Notably moving is Anne Frank’s House and the Homomonument designed by Karin Daan, which commemorates all gay men and lesbians who have been subjected to persecution because of their homosexuality. The monument is designed in the image of the pink triangle which gay men and lesbians were forced to wear under Nazi occupation. One corner of the monument forms a separate triangle which leads down steps to the level of the water. We noticed a new bunch of flowers laid on this memorial each day which was especially touching.
Now for the reason we went to Amsterdam. The many skilled bakers and artisans ensure there is a constantly supply of freshly baked treats. We noticed that the shops which had the most people in them were all bakeries, perhaps lured there by the tempting smell. The range of food in Amsterdam is overwhelming. From Thai food to traditional Dutch, it can all be found within Central Amsterdam.
One place which we least expected to find amazing food was within the shopping centre called de Bijenkorf, which was located on Dam Square. They have dedicated their entire top floor to a huge cafe/restaurant. This is different, however, to any other restaurant you will have visited. It consists of many separate stands with many varieties of food. From freshly made sandwiches, pastries, soups and pizzas, these can all be found in de Bijenkorf.
The whole weeks Live Blogging content can be found here. We are continuing to add content and photos to, so please check back for any new additions. All photos from the trip can be found in our Facebook Album.