We took advantage of a public holiday and flew to Amsterdam
for 3 days. Amsterdam is a really attractive place and like Venice, is built on marshland, resulting in a collection of 160 canals, 90 islands, and 1280 bridges ( just a few statistics for you!). The canals are lined with narrow and tall houses, some of which are quite grand. It is a bustling, thriving place and is one of the must-visit places for anybody's 'European Adventure'. Not surprisingly, we were two of many tourists, and there were plenty of Australian accents amongst them. We were struck with how non-polluted Amsterdam appeared. After visiting other places in Europe where the sky appeared grey even on sunny days, we had brilliant crisp blue skies and no smog.
The reason for this is that although there are cars in the city, they are discouraged (perhaps by parking costs etc) and therefore they are not in great numbers. The public transport system was mainly trams, which were electric, so there were no belching fumes there either. however the main reason seems to be that just about everybody gets around by pedal power. Bicycles are everywhere, and between them and all the trams, you really need to watch where you are going. We stayed in one of the tall canal houses, which was run by a friendly Dutch grandmother. She had a extra couple of bedrooms on the top floor of her house, which she converted into movie star themed rooms. We were in Mae West. The hotel was in a great location, very central and within walking distance of all Amsterdam's main sights.
When we got there on Friday night, Cameron seemd to be taking along time opening the lock of our backpack. Because we were only going for a few days, we only took the one bag between us. The problem with the lock was that the key was back in Cambridge. So short of cutting the bag open which wasn't really an option, or lugging it around Amsterdam looking for some boltcutters (?Fun), all our stuff was in that bag and was going to stay there. Luckily I had put our cameras and guidebook in my hand luggage so at least we could take photos and find our way around. Anyway, it wasn't the end of the world, and after a trip to the shop to buy a few essential toiletries and some survival items of clothing, we were on our way to explore Amsterdam. We visited the VanGogh Museum, Riktmuseum, strolled with all the other tourists through the red light district and generally soaked up the laid back atmosphere that is Amsterdam.