Amsterdam, the beautiful green city characterized by the horseshoe-shaped canals, smell of weed, and where bikes are the most common vehicle. I already love it.
We arrived at Amsterdam Central station on Saturday, and took the public ferry up to the north side of Amsterdam where we booked our stay. We were quite tired after all the travelling, and we had these crazy 40 km/h winds, so we only took a short walk outside before heading back to rest.
While on the train to Amsterdam, I realized that there is a label above your seat that states where that passenger is headed. Some journeys don’t require seat reservations, but when it’s needed, I suppose that’s what its for.
By the way, the train from Frankfurt to Utrecht took almost 6 hours – that’s the slowest train we’ve had so far! It travelled at around 100 km/h, around the speed of a car. The intercity journey from Utrecht to Amsterdam went at 140 km/h – much faster than the long distance journey! Just so you know, I use the Snapchat filter to measure speed… it just takes the distance between two GPS readings, and divides it by the time.
(Frankfurt to Utretch)
On this northern side of Amsterdam, there are a lot of buildings that are just literally just the containers you find at shipyard. When I was in elementary school, I remember our ‘portable’ classrooms were also these containers, as well as in Gammon when I worked there last year. But here, you see a lot more of them. In fact, there is an entire student housing area composed of stacks of these containers!
And here, a bike parking area also made of containers:
Amsterdam is a very green city. Aside from the bikes, I’ve also seen a bunch of electric cars! I approve. 🙂
Again, alcohol is quite cheap in Amsterdam. Actually I would say everything is relatively inexpensive, as is with Frankfurt. Paris was the most expensive – maybe because of the huge influx of tourists? – but I’m definitely finding these cities a lot more affordable. Belgium was kind of in between: not as expensive as Paris, but not as affordable as Amsterdam and Frankfurt.
We kept exploring today, and went to see the IJ-Hallen flea market. This is a huge market, and it’s held in an old shipyard in Amsterdam-Noord. Naturally, that explains all the shipyard containers around this area! It costs 5e per head to get in, but once you’re in, you’re faced with this huge area of people putting out their old things for sale. Clothes were by far the most common, but there were also lots of toys and antiques. Unlike the night market we have every year in Richmond, these things are actually old and used, and not important imported from China. There are also not a lot of food stalls, although there definitely are at least a few. Most of the things are quite nicely priced – you can easily find a things for 1e, and most of the time no more than 5e. The only thing is that for us, we don’t want to carry so much around with so many more stops still yet to come! So we didn’t end up buying anything.
At the market, we were able to find a stall selling this traditional Dutch treat called poffertjes. Poffertjes are kind of a like a mini-pancake, served with icing sugar and butter. Amsterdam is apparently a very multi-cultural area, and so there aren’t many foods that could be considered as “local cuisine”. This is one of the rare few!
I was quite amused by this one fast food store that we passed by in Amsterdam Centraal Station. It’s like… extreme fast food. You insert exact change into the coin slot, and the boxes unlock. Once you pick up your food, its almost immediately replaced by a fresh serving. Skip the lines, just serve yourself, and save money on labour. Pretty smart.
We finally took our first walk through the actual city of Amsterdam today. Two first impressions: one, it’s huge; and two, it’s gorgeous. It seemed to take us forever to just get to the Rijksmuseum (and the I Amsterdam sign) from the station. But we also had great weather today, and so we enjoyed the walk under the sun. The canals, boathouses, flowers, buildings… everything put together makes this city so beautiful.
Of course, we made many stops along our way. One of the places we walked by was the Pancake Bakery, which had a sign saying it had the “best pancakes in town”. While we were looking at the menu and still deciding whether we actually wanted to go inside for a test, a guy next to us said “it’s good”. And so we walked in.
Pancakes are once again what we know as crepes. They have both sweet and savoury crepes, but I think the sweet ones are more appealing. We tried both. (And yes, they are pretty good!)
We kept walking, past the Tulip Museum and Anne Frank House. Too many people were lining up, so we didn’t end up going inside the Anne Frank House, although I’d imagine it to be quite interesting. After a few more twists and turns, we found ourselves along Leidsestraat, which seems to be another one of those streets with all your main stream brands. That’s where all the shopping tourists are, and where you would find your Abercrombie & Fitch, Brandy Melville, etc.
Continue along and head a bit south, and you’ll finally find yourself at the famous I Amsterdam sign! As an avid tourist/blogger, I spent a lot of time trying to get a good picture (which is hard when there are a bunch of other avid tourists around). I did climb up on one of the letters, and let me tell you, climbing up definitely is not the hard part…
In the end, I still think a picture from farther away looks better:
From there, we headed back to Amsterdam Centraal Station, this time along Kalverstraat. This seems to be another shopping district, but in the more central area of Amsterdam (while Leidsestraat is a bit to the south).
When we walked by, it was already around 7:30, so pretty much everything was closed. The open hours in Amsterdam seem to be more like what I’m used to from Canada – closing at 7 on weekdays, 9 on Saturdays, and 6 on Sundays. Nothing like the “everything is closed at 6” in Belgium!
One long day of walking down… one more to go.