There is something disconcerting as well as liberating about the smell of weed drifting thru the outdoor café while you enjoy your morning coffee. Welcome to Amsterdam.
We were passing thru Amsterdam in the Spring and decided to stay a few days and take in the Keukenhof. We stayed at the Hotel Arena and picked up the public transport chip card (OV-chipkaart) for a couple of days right away. It’s good for travel on trams, buses and metros with the most convenient option for visitors being the day card that’s valid for one to seven days starting from €7.50. While the city is a great place for walking it is helpful to be able to grab a tram or bus to get you to a point of interest.
Our plan was mostly to grab a tram in the morning to get across town and later stroll back towards the hotel. We used this thinking to start our day in the neighborhood of the Anne Frank House and also the Van Gogh Museum. It was also helpful when we needed a break from walking.
Amsterdam is a beautiful city with friendly people and great public transportation. The primary way to get around for locals is the bicycle. They are usually nothing fancy and come in configurations that include wheelbarrows in front and multiple kid seats in back. They are parked in some areas like near the train station by the thousands (we have no idea how the locate their bikes in these masses of bikes.
One strong word of caution about walking this city; pay attention to the bikes! Most streets have lanes for cars and others for bicycles and than sidewalks for walking. DO NOT step toward the street without looking both ways for bicycles. Often they are traveling fast and silent and are between you and the crosswalk.
While there we visited the Keukenhof tulip festival gardens, and went to a cheese shop tasting and brought back several Gouda cheeses. We strolled the flower markets and looked into buying some tulip bulbs.
Fortunately we discovered that U.S. Customs only allows you to “import” U.S. certified bulbs and when you start looking for those you discover that the choices a very limited. After we got home we found that most of those are readily available in the U.S. often at better prices.
There are a number of great museums and famous neighborhoods that you should make an effort to visit including:
The narrow canals and streets of the Jordaan lined with boutiques, pubs and fancy eateries. Stalls at the Noordermarkt square feature jewelry, clothes and antiques.
Leidseplein is an exciting nightlife hub centered on Leidseplein Square, where people are entertained by street performers and the surrounding bars and restaurants are always busy.
Museum Willet-Holthuysen Iconic windmill with octagonal body. The tallest wooden windmill in the country is octagonal in shape & was once used as a flour mill.
Westerkerk with its spire standing above this Renaissance-era Protestant church where Rembrandt is buried. It stands only a half block from the Anne Frank House
For the more mature and adventurist tourist there is Amsterdam’s red light district. It consists of a network of alleys containing hundreds of red one-room cabins rented by prostitutes who offer their sexual services from a window, typically illuminated with red lights. Window prostitution is the most visible and typical kind of red light experience in Amsterdam and is a large tourist attraction.
One afternoon while walking along a residential canal with a couple of bars at the end of the block there was a sign in several languages put up by neighbors asking patrons to kindly confine the marijuana smoking away from in front of the residences as there are open windows and children inside and to try and keep the noise down after nine at night.
In closing we came to the opinion that this is a very easy city to like and their tolerance for the unconventional lifestyles of other people seems to work really well for them. Maybe we in America should consider the Dutch experience and ask why criminalize lifestyle choices.