I took a train ride from Paris to Amsterdam. The direct train service takes 3 hours and 17 minutes to travel and cost only Euro 35 from Parid Nord to Amsterdam Central.
Amsterdam Central is site right in the middle of everything. It is situated at the real heart of the city. I walked out from the train and followed the crowd towards the exit. It is a very busy station. Right outside the central station, there are buses, city trams, ferries, canals with the gabled houses and churches standing behind as the background. I felt the excitement, moving from a hustle and bustle Paris to a much relax Amsterdam.
As the time spent in Amsterdam is rather short, only 3 days, and therefore I have narrowed down to the very few places that I am interested in.
I asked my Dutch colleagues prior to my trip, about the weather in June. And he answered, “Wet, always. And again, it is unpredictable”. I asked about the Netherlands Dutch Flowers Garden where I can see the tulips. He answered, “Keukenhof, you are too late, it is open only in April and May”. awwww…
When I stepped out the Central station, I had to admit that my sense of direction was rather poor, I was not sure which way to go. People who were passing by were in a fast paced walking rhythm, they are local most likely or otherwise one who has resided here long enough, they know their way and where they are heading to. I saw bunch of bicycles parked nearby, and decided to approach someone at the bicycle stand. A friendly lady who is with lots of grocery in the front basket of her bicycle sense that I was lost and lend me a hand. She pointed the direction where my lodging place is.
I lodged at the St Christopher’s Inn which is a block away from the Red Light District, and not far from the Central station. Along the way , I was overwhelmed by the stunning canals, beautiful old houses and churches. Suddenly I hear bell ringing and I saw a cyclist is cycling towards me, and I quickly move to a side as I have mistakenly walk on the cycle lane.
The dutch here were crazy with cycling. You can see bicycles everywhere. They cycle to work, they cycle the kids to school, they cycle to supermarket for grocery or out for dinner, … etc. Amsterdam is a cycling city. Everywhere even in the town, there are bicycle paths. There are also bicycle for rent at major rental hubs.
Houses in Amsterdam
After checked in at the Christopher Inn, the staff guided me to my room. When they opened the door of the building next to the entrance hall, I was stunned with a narrow, steep, long stairs to the second floor.
Most of the houses in Amsterdam are with the narrow, steep, and long stairs. During the Medieval times owner has to pay for the meter facing the canals. To avoid paying the high taxes, houses were designed narrow but tall.
Due to the reason they have narrow front and has difficulty in moving big items through the narrow stairs, therefore the houses are designed with big window to transport the big items as well as to allow more sun light to reach deep into the house.
Many Amsterdam houses are crooked, slanted and skewed. Mostly lean forward towards the canal. For centuries, it was the custom to build the houses leaning forward. During the medieval times, the roofs and walls were not as waterproof as today, and building it leaning forward will certainly help during the rain, snow or wind.
Rijksmuseum versus Van Gogh Museum
Due to the time constraint, I have to make a pick in between these two. Rijksmuseum is a Dutch national museum dedicated to art and history of Amsterdam and houses over a million of artwork. I decided to give it a skip to the next trip when I have more time to slowly appreciate the art.
Van Gogh Museum is a Dutch art museum dedicated to the work of the Vincent Van Gogh and house the largest artwork of him and his letters. Virtual tour is available online, however, personally I still prefer to visit the museum in person. There is a cafe in the museum near the exit, I would recommend to have a cup of tea sitting in and enjoy the scenery around.
Zaanse Schans Windmill
About one third of the Netherlands is below the sea level. There are over 1000 windmills in Netherlands and many are still being use for drainage in the Dutch villages.
I went to Zaanse Schans to meet my Dutch colleague who will show me around and the local hospitality. Zaanse Schans can be reached from Amsterdam Central by train or bus. Since I stayed walking distance from the station, bus is the easiest way to get there by taking the Connexxion Bus ( Line 39) with the Zaanse Schans the final stop. It is free with the Amsterdam Pass.
My colleague waited for me at the bus stop, and from the bus stop it took around 15 minutes walk to reach the village.
It is a breath taking view from a distance. And the windmill is still in use and few has converted into a museum, restaurants or shops.
There are many markets around the Amsterdam and Albert Cuypstraat is the most popular choice where you can find lots of bargain from the local resident, home cook and shops. It is entertaining even bystrolling through the stalls. They sell almost anything from shoes, souvenirs, food, fresh vegetables, cured meat and fish. A Dutch must eat is the pickled herring. It has an acquired taste, a little resemblance of the sashimi but in the Dutch way which I like. Lots of food samples to taste and variety of choices for street food such as pofferjes (mini pancake), grilled cheese, stroopwafels, Oorlog fries (war fries with peanut sauce), kibbling (mini fried fish), drop ( Dutch licorice) and more.
Red Light District
The red light district of Amsterdam also called as Rosse Burt is infamous for its window prostitute but you can also find brothels, sex shops and museum around the area. Photo taking is not allowed. It is quiet in the morning but towards the evening, it will get crowded with people and tourists.
There are live sex shows around and to name a few theatre the Casa Rosso and the Moulin Rouge to visit.
There are also coffee shops or what I called it the “weed shop”. In South East Asia, coffee shop is where we get coffee and simple meal be it for breakfast or lunch. But in the Netherlands, coffee shop is licensed to sell cannabis products such as tea, space cakes and hash brownies. No hard liquor is allowed.