0452 The Real Amsterdam (Netherlands 001—revisit)

Amsterdam Travel Blog

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Next day I wake up in Amsterdam.  I’m part Dutch and for quite some time I’ve been itching to get back to really explore my Motherland.  In fact, one of my ideas had been to buy a used bicycle and spend my whole trip riding around with my guitar all over this beautiful country. 

 

I still might might do that once my 30 day bus pass expires… so now’s my chance to get a feel for the country.

 

I visited Amsterdam back in 2005 during my 6 country Western Europe tour, spending just a half a day exploring the city with no guitar and no camera… Now I’m back to give it a proper visit.

 

I head out of the bus station to the train station to see if they have luggage lockers.

  The first thing that strikes me here are the bicycles, not just the fact that everybody rides a bicycle here, but that they look like 19th century models!  Most of them don’t even have gears!  I can’t help but smile when I see Dutch schoolkids heading off to High School riding a bicycle that an American kid wouldn’t be caught dead riding…

 

But these aren’t antique relics… I check out a bike shop in the train station basement and find see some of these “19th century bikes” fresh off the assembly line and selling for hundreds of Euros!

 

I notice that the clothes people wear is equally simple and practical, and to my eyes, old fashioned…

 

I immediately feel a connection with my long lost Motherland, where people don’t seem to feel the need to waste a lot of money trying to impress or look better than their neighbors… where people are sophisticated and prosperous, and yet still go by the motto “the simpler the better”…

 

I head on north towards the heart of town, past the houseboats lined along the main canal, each with, of course, a bicycle parked outside…

 

It starts drizzling a bit, but nobody seems to be bothered.

  I wander up and down the canals looking for the perfect clip.  I take a couple of pictures, but they don’t really quite do the view justice--  except for one looking down a boat lined canal with the steeple of a church at the other end… Amsterdam has to be experienced--  you can’t really appreciate it from a photo.  Then buildings all nestled tightly together… the quaint little drawbridges… the quiet simplicity… After exploring so many grand and royal cities over the last two weeks, Amsterdam just feels like home. 

 

But I don’t really feeling like walking around soggy all day, so I head into the main train station to escape the rain.  Then I figure, why not just go check out a nearby town--  you’ve got to get out of the capital if you want to really discover a country… Maybe when I come back the rain will have stopped…

 

So I hop on a train to Haarlem…

 

Later that day…

 

When I returned from Haarlem it wasn’t raining, so I was able to wander around the city freely.

 

 

Yes, I did take a stroll through the famous--  or infamous Old Amsterdam… which I’d have to say has got to be the most family-friendly Red Light District in the world… You see families with kids… couples young and old walking up and down the dimly lit alleys--  some so narrow only one person can squeeze through at a time.  Tourists from all over Europe and the world seem mildly amused by the sights.  And then there are the police--  not there to drag off the working girls to jail, but rather to make sure no one be so rude as to take their picture without permission…

 

And of course there are the marijuana café’s, with young first timers going gaga over the sight of legal pot…

 

But once outside that district, everything quickly turns back to normal… Despite the fact that drugs and prostitution are legal here… you don’t see a hooker on every corner and you don’t see guys sprawled out on the street stoned out of their minds with needles dangling out of their arms.

  As a matter of fact, I think pretty much the only folk I saw doing drugs were all foreigners! 

 

Instead, as you walk down the quiet streets of “normal” Amsterdam, you can look right in through the windows and see normal, hard working, responsible men having dinner with their families…

 

Unbelievable as this may sound, but I think I’ve seen fewer drug addicts lying in the street in Amsterdam than in any other major city in the world!

 

It makes you really want to rethink that whole “War on Drugs” that has done little to stop the flow of illegal drugs to other Western countries … It seems pretty obvious that by making drugs illegal, you just make people want to abuse them even more.

  By making them legal, well, maybe most kids sample a bit… soon get bored and move on to doing more interesting things with their lives…


I don’t know that this model would work anywhere in the world though… maybe people in other countries and cultures have more of a weakness for destructive addictions then the Dutch do.   But it seems that this model works pretty well here, and I’ll have to say that I’m pretty impressed by how “civilized” this city really is… despite its punch line status…

 

I take one last big loop around the city, where I discover a whole nuther “city center” to the south--  this area is just about bustling open air restaurants and live music in the plaza… A nice finish to a great day in Amsterdam…

 

And finally, I head down the quiet main canal towards the bus station, pondering on all that I’ve experienced in this very busy day here in my Motherland…

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Amsterdam
photo by: pearcetoyou