Oh Amsterdam!

Where shall I begin.  Not only is Amsterdam one of the most liberal cities in Europe with regards to almost anything, but it’s also filled with so much history, people and amazing architecture.  Let’s rewind back a bit.  Boarding my flight on Egypt Air, I was pleasantly surprised by the spacious seating and that was it.  The air stewards were not the friendliest people and nor are their english skills up to hostess/steward standard in my opinion, I enjoyed my flight which was important.  (Oh, and remember, they don’t serve any alcohol on their planes).  Being my first trip to The Netherlands, I waited in anticipation for the plane to touch down so I can put my two feet on foreign soil and just drink everything in that was happening around me.  Yep, I’m that type of romanticist.

I quickly find my way through immigration, collected my monster of a suitcase and braved the metro.  Everything works well here.  Busses and trains arrive to the second and the people are friendly.  The Dutch language on the other hand can sometimes be tricky, even to me as a native Afrikaans speaker, I have to concentrate and listen very well not to miss anything.  Day 1 saw me being the victim of a pick pocket and so I lost my OVkaart (metro card) with E30,00 on it and had to get another one.  Visiting a new city I’m usually inclined to pack away my smartphone and try to steer clear from using  maps.  I started my walk and followed all the signs that indicated Amsterdam Centraal.  Walking along there were a few things that any visitor in Amsterdam should take note of:  1.  Stay out of the bicycle lanes and 2, watch out for the trams.  My head almost felt like it was spinning as I looked left, right, up, down, left again and then only crossing any street or lane.

The Netherlands is famous for their cheeses and naturally I visited a cheese shop to taste and see what they had on offer.  Wonderful experience and note that the more central you go, the more expensive the cheeses are (in my opinion).  As we all know, The Netherlands are very liberal and using cannabis (smoking weed) in the city is quite a common thing.  Don’t be fooled by going into a coffee shop and think you are going to get just coffee, you will be getting cannabis experience with it.  Coffee shops in Amsterdam are known for being spots where you can  comfortably light up and enjoy your joint.  Heading deeper into the city I found myself in the famous red light district and man, was this an interesting experience.  Girls prancing around in the windows, scantily dressed and trying to make eye contact with their next potential customer.  Moving on swiftly!

Canal cruises are very popular in Amsterdam and is one of those “to do’s” that you just have to tick off your list.  My suggestion to you, walk a bit to the outer canals and take your canal cruises there as they are less crowded and off course less expensive.  I went to the Bootvaart kiosk on the Amstel river and paid E11 for an hour long canal cruise, totally worth it since you get to see a lot in that hour.

Food in Amsterdam can be very expensive or it can be cheap and it totally depends on what you prefer.  I enjoyed a lovely glass of Merlot (red wine) and a pizza at Casa de Leo for E14,00 which is not bad at all.  A croissant will typically cost you around E3,00 and a take away Americano about E2,00.  The wonderful thing about Amsterdam is that you can find almost anything here, from fast food, Indonesian cuisine, Italian, Tapas, Burgers and the options are endless.

So, when visiting Amsterdam what are the things one should keep in mind:

  1. Get an OVkaarten.

This will help you to use the tram, train, bus and is reloadable via their yellow machines at most stops and stations.

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2.     Drink enough water.

Water in Amsterdam are filtered by the dunes, due to the fact that they are lower than sea level and tap water is pleasant to drink.  Stay hydrated.

3.     Watch out for pick pockets.

Make sure you keep an eye on your phone, wallet and bag.  Don’t get caught by a nasty surprise.

4.     Download the 9292 (especially developed for travel in The Netherlands) app for your smartphone.

This app will help you tremendously to navigate yourself through transport in Amsterdam.

5.  Museum visits:

Get your tickets online to skip the queue.  Really, queues can get ridiculously long. 

6.  Albert Heijn Supermarket:

Pop in to any Albert Heine to buy yourself something to eat should you get hungry.  A lot cheaper than any restaurant and a good spot to shop when you need something.

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7.  Take an umbrella:

Thankfully I packed mine and man was I glad I did.  Since it’s October here in Europe, the weather is unpredictable and my umbrella was my saving grace.  This brings me to point 8….

8.   Download the Buienradar app. 

This is so precise and shows you exactly when it will rain and when it will stop.  This is super cool!

9.   Rent a bicycle.

If walking is a bit of an issue to you, why not rent a bicycle and explore the city this way.  Can cost you between E9,00 to E13,00 depending on where you rent it from.

10.  Stroopwaffels.

This is a Dutch classic and these small sweet treats are amazing.  I bought 3 packs for E7,00 to take back home at a food market and I can’t wait to indulge.

So there we have it my dear friends.  Amsterdam is a very enligtning city and offers you experiences galore.  Don’t be afraid to take a walk, taste something new, braving the queue or spending a bit extra and your experience in the city will be one that will be rewarded with great experiences, sights, sounds and tastes.  Dank je wel! (Thank you in Dutch).

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