I arrived in Amsterdam by bus on the 9th August and stayed for 6 days. I really enjoyed Amsterdam during my first visit 5 years ago which is why I decided to return this time.
Amsterdam is a beautiful city with its canals, alleyways and gothic architecture – some of the buildings date as far back as 1306. But for me, it’s the people and culture that really define Amsterdam. I love how tolerant and open-minded Dutch people are, one can get away with anything in the Netherlands (within reason).
Not a lot a has changed in the 5 years since I last visited – except for the volume of tourists, that seems to have increased significantly. The simple pleasure of walking around the city was ruined by having to navigate around the masses of people, especially going around those dreaded incredibly slow walkers and hand holders. The tourists Amsterdam attracts are far more oriented to drinking and partying with a skew towards tourists from England – I guess the proximity and relative cost makes it an obvious destination for our English friends. You could almost compare the English in Amsterdam to the Australians in Bali. My advice to anyone visiting Amsterdam in the future would be to find accommodation outside Central/Red Light and look at Jordaan if you want to avoid the chaos.
I had a really interesting hostel experience whilst visiting Amsterdam, staying at a place called Shelter City. This was a Christian hostel with daily bible readings and discussion (not compulsory) and zero no alcohol/drug policy. The staff there were mostly volunteers from abroad and were SUPER friendly and helpful. It was one of the most pleasant hostels I have stayed in to date simply because of the positive vibe the staff propelled through the place.
One of the first things I did when arriving was getting myself a bicycle. Anyone that has visited before would know that it is pretty much the main form of transport around the city. It was a great way to get in some much-needed exercise and get out to the surrounding suburbs for a much more authentic Dutch experience. Cars were almost none existent in Amsterdam, and those I did spot were having an awful time trying to squeeze into tiny car parks at hugely inflated prices.
Some of my Amsterdam highlights were the following:
Osseworst – this traditional Dutch sausage was a great discovery and went so well with the local beers I was drinking. It reminded me a lot of some Lebanese sausages I grew up with. Even though the meat is raw, it doesn’t really taste as such with the smoking process and spices used.
Komijnekaas – A local I met told me about a butcher near my hostel which doubled as a sandwich shop. For 3 euro I was eating some incredible sandwiches, with my favourite being a simple super crusty roll with the local Dutch cheese Komijnekaas. The cumin pleasantly comes through but it doesn’t dominate at all – and I was eating a mature variety which tends to be stronger in flavour.
The Dutch make some incredible beer, and have some awesome breweries within easy reach of Amsterdam by foot or bike. One of my favourites was Brouwerij ‘t IJ Amsterdam located below the windmills. My pick was the Zatte (8%): yellow/gold tripel – a strong pale ale with a sweet finish.
I did also manage to sneak in a visit to the Allard Pierson Museum with a friend I made – his name was Khalid and he worked at a coffee shop very close to my hostel. Museums take on a whole new dimension when you visit a coffee shop before hand 😉
Apart from Khalid and the staff at my hostel, my social interaction was limited in Amsterdam. I was talking to a close friend yesterday and he summed it up nicely “certain cities just seem to work with you and your personality” – Pete Bewsher 2013
After experiencing a social high in Paris, Amsterdam was somewhat a ‘come down’. I guess after 80 days of straight partying on this trip, I needed to slow down and that didn’t exactly match the chaos of central Amsterdam and red light district.
So now I’m in Warsaw, Poland and I’ll post another update soon. I have thought a lot about the rest of my world tour and what I want to achieve. I potentially may have some exciting news which I’ll announce in due course.
Signing out for now.