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Experiencing Amsterdam

Submitted by Jakob on 31 May, 2006 - 23:25.My Blog | Travel

I've been in the Netherlands since Saturday and it has been a blast. I'm here to visit our fellow cog sci student friends from our friend-program in Nijmegen. Yesterday and today were spent in Amsterdam, a beautiful though somewhat strangely bizarre city which I couldn't help falling in love with.

We left Sweden early on Saturday morning, it was a rather chilly day despite the occasional glimpse of the sun. After having arrived at the airport we had to wait for a while to board our flight to Germany from where we continued by chartered shuttle. We arrived at the central station in Nijmegen some time late in the afternoon. The first two days were spent exploring the city of Nijmegen, which has an interesting and long history, and seeing the local campus. On Tuesday morning we left for Amsterdam by train.

Amsterdam is famous for its canals, its architecture and being a focal point for people with alternative lifestyles and views. It's a melting pot of culture and all its expressions. It is however above all extremely lovely, especially in spring. Its defining character isn't the fact that it is a metropolitan city but a city with human dimensions, a capital with a town feel. The central parts of the city are still characterized by the narrow streets, lanes and alleys and the architecture which is so clearly Dutch. The small streets are shadowed by houses, usually no more than five stories high, but seldom more than 5 or 6 meters wide leaning out over the sidewalk. The street level stories are occupided by lots of small shops and cafes selling anything you could think of. From the infamous "coffeeshops" that legally sell cannabis and more, to stores specialized in such things as toothbrushes!

The central parts of the city are defined by a grid of canals running from the north to the south. A few streets are wide enough to allow traffic so there aren't many cars after all even though people tend to drive aggressively, even cyclists do not seem very tolerant if the pedestrians aren't quick to jump. Despite that, Amsterdam is a lovely city to walk in. The relatively small houses and the cozy atmosphere, combined with a the small stores and boutiques with shop owners that all seem to have come to Amsterdam for its magical attraction, makes it unique. An American shop owner told me jokingly when I asked him why he preferred Amsterdam to the US, 'I only came here for one reason'. Legal prostitution and cannabis, both extreme examples of Dutch liberalism, cannot however explain why this city is what it is.

Some of you might wonder if Amsterdam isn't just as commercial as most other tourist infested cities. And yes, parts of it are. Perhaps the fact that I didn't visit at peak season and that the places I visited and walked aren't among the most exploited, contributes to explain as to why it didn't seem so commercial to me. Some streets are indeed, especially the one running south from the square faced by the cathedral, but there are also less popular ones where you can visit a caf� and have a latte and a pastry for no more than 4, prices that are acceptable even for students like us.

Amsterdam is above all a lovely place to visit, see and experience and something you shouldn't miss. It will remind you that a city is defined by its people, and not by cars and concrete which tends to be the case in so many other cities and capitals.

I plan on writing some more about Amsterdam later and include some directions to locations we found and post some pictures.

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Submitted by Jasvecht (not verified) on 1 June, 2006 - 14:59.

im dutch and come there a lot :\ but i dont see more then a bunch of pitchens and MacDonals :p

Submitted by Jakob on 3 June, 2006 - 11:56.

Me either and it's rare in a Western capital. I loved the atmosphere and the small scale of everything which is unlike most other car-infested noisy capitals.

Submitted by DoubleJ on 11 July, 2006 - 01:45.

I'm never to keen on the big city. I prefer the north of The Netherlands(where I live).
Lots of nice lakes to sail on here in Frisia.

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