We have been in Amsterdam for a few days at the beginning of three weeks in Europe that will take us to Bulgaria for about 10 days, and then a week in London.
Over the years, we have found that flying to Europe from
Seattle — an overnight flight to a new time zone —extracts quite a toll in how we feel for a few days. So it’s nice to be able to get somewhere directly, stay put for a few days, and get over the jet lag. Amsterdam is a great choice not only because there is efficient service from Seattle, but also because of the destination, itself.
This is our first time here, but we are finding it to be a fascinating city and one that is easy to get around.
We are staying near the old city center, or Dam Square, on the edge of the Jordaan neighborhood. We are in a wealthy area of canal houses but within a quick walk of the more middle-class Jordaan (or once middle-class) and its many bars and
We are staying in a 16th Century canal house that has been redone into modern apartments. We are in the back, so there’s no view of the canal outside, but we have a very nice garden to sit in, so it is a decent trade-off. Finding a place to sit and have a beer or a cup of coffee next to the canal has not been difficult. We manage that a couple of times a day.
Another good thing: everyone speaks English. On the down side – and while we have found plenty to eat – the Dutch cuisine is nothing to write home about (although that’s kind of what this is, isn’t it?) They do seem to have a lot in my favorite food group – fried. And hamburgers are a big thing. We have avoided the “California burrito” place down the street. There are hot dog stands near the Westerkirk nearby, but I have avoided those as well.
Amsterdam requires a lot of walking, and that is a real pleasure. You do have to watch out for all the bikers, but it is a fascinating place to walk around. Pat has found that the uneven brick streets are giving her bad knee fits, but she’s still managing to get the required 10,000 steps on her Fitbit.
The natives all appear to commute on bikes. There are bikes parked everywhere, and I don’t know how people find their own bike again at the end of the day. They are not fancy – mostly big workman-like bikes that would be too ugly to steal. Many have wheelbarrow-like bins on the front to haul stuff, even children. I have only seen one bike helmet so far but no indication of a national epidemic of brain trauma, so it seems to be working OK.
We did buy a pass to take the trams that run through the city but only have used them once. I think we would use the trams a lot once we figured out where we are going. The center of town is contained within a group of concentric canals – the Dutch built additional canals when they needed to be able to expand the city – so everything is pretty compact.
One interesting thing about these canal houses; They are all quite narrow but go back a long distance from the street. So one might own a quite large house that is only two or three window bays wide on the street side. As a result, all the houses need to have a hook at the top, which can be used with a rope and pulley to deliver things like furniture and appliances. We watched, as the photo here shows, a couple of guys hoist a desk up to the second floor. The houses are pitched outward a little at the top so that when you are hauling your desk or washing machine up by pulley, you don’t smack it into the front of your house.
Tomorrow we are off to Bulgaria. We’ll try to post a couple of blogs from there as well.