What I love about Amsterdam
Posted by Mary-Frances Walsh
Posted in: Tauck’s Travelogue
Tags: Amsterdam, River Cruise
The fortune of a six-year “stay” in Amsterdam afforded me the luxury of waking, walking, biking, and living in one of the world’s most cosmopolitan cities – set within a still vibrantly used trust of architectural history. As you experience Amsterdam, here are some of the touchstones that I found hardest to leave behind. Keep an eye out for them in your free time and you’ll get a sense of what makes Amsterdam a special place and why so many Tauck travelers choose to take part in a Rhine River cruise.
The web-like core of Amsterdam is a 16th- to 18th-century treasure trove of tree-lined canals, gabled buildings, curved bridges and flat, cobblestoned or paver-lined streets equipped on every corner to accommodate the passage of strollers, bicycles and self-propelled wheelchairs. You’ll find corner flower stalls brimming with gorgeous bouquets at remarkably low prices (for Americans), neighborhood bakeries bursting with the fresh, hearty breads that Amsterdammers prefer to buy daily, and quirky boutiques where the Dutch sense of humor is perhaps not-so-subtly on display.
Take a peek inside the curtain-less windows of local residences; this common practice actually encourages passers-by to look in upon tidy living rooms, where space is a luxury and the evening light is made cozy by scads of lit candles – the more the better. No Amsterdam experience is complete without beholding the bicycles, both those constantly passing you by but also the amazing variety parked just outside or locked to a nearby light post. The favorites are often banged up, beaten up jalopies (the better to deter theft), but there are also pink, purple, chartreuse, polka-dotted and flower-besotted versions (the better to call your own) and bicycles for mothers – who transport two, three and sometimes four little ones at a time, using a box in front and a baby seat (or two) behind.
On the northern border of Amsterdam’s city-center canal rings, you’ll find the Brouwersgracht (the brewer’s canal), which takes its name from the breweries that lined its banks in the 17th and 18th centuries. To complete your experience in Amsterdam, consider a stroll along the canal, where you’ll find a variety of gabled houses, plaques that describe the resident’s occupation (before house numbers were in use), hoisting beams – still used to move people in and out, and a statue of Peter Stuyvesant, the one-legged governor of Nieuw Amsterdam, later renamed New York City!