Amsterdam, The Netherlands

June 22-23:

Amsterdam (and most of the cities in The Netherlands) is very much a bike-centric city. Bikes, in fact, have the right of way on streets and often pull out in front of cars without even looking – the car has to stop! It’s incredible seeing just how many folks ride bikes here. There are dedicated 2-way bike streets on the side of every normal street, and the bikes even have their own traffic light system at the major intersections.

These little cars are everywhere!

Dam Square

We walked from the train station to one of the main squares called Dam Square. Here, there were monuments, shops, and the hustle and bustle of normal Amsterdam workday life.

Dam Square – one of the main hubs in Amsterdam

When we walked into the square, we saw a man with a large bag of white rice throwing it out for the pigeons. He wasn’t charging at all, you could tell that he was delighted at the fun everybody was having with his little bag of rice. Birds came flocking from all around and stood on his arms and head waiting to get some of the rice. Little children came running to see the birds. He gave the children some rice to feed the birds too. You could tell some children were going to be forever scared by birds after this encounter. Birds were sitting on their heads and arms while the children squealed and cried. One brave little girl did not cry, but instead walked over and picked up one pigeon by one of its wings. It was truly a sight to see!

The man gave us some rice to feed the birds as well. They immediately flew to our arms and heads for the rice. It was so much fun! The feeling was very strange. We couldn’t help but laugh the whole time. We surprisingly did not have any bird poop on us. (We immediately checked!) Definitely a highlight of the day!

Feeding the pigeons in Dam Square
Contracting 84 strains of bird flu

Strolling the City

As we waited for check in to open at our AirBnB, we decided to stroll through the streets of Amsterdam.

Amsterdam is a canal city, similar to the likes of Venice, Italy. There are beautiful bridges crossing each canal as tour boats and delivery barges pass beneath.

Crossing a canal in Amsterdam
City streets
City streets
City streets
City streets
City streets…plus rubber duckies!?

Anne Frank House

One of the more popular tourist destinations here is the Anne Frank House. If you haven’t already, we would highly recommend picking up a copy of her diary. She was a young Jewish girl who hid in a house in Amsterdam during the Nazi occupation of The Netherlands during WW2. Her family was eventually discovered and sent to a concentration camp nearby where she eventually perished. Her story is unique in that she was a wonderful writer at such a young age, but I believe it’s important that we look at her as a symbol of her generation. Although her story was unique, her experience was not. Millions of Jews in this area were sentenced to the same fate, and we use Anne’s story as a way to honor and remember the millions of others.

Our AirBnb was right across the canal from the Anne Frank house, so we hopped in for a tour of the space where Anne and her family hid for 2 years. It was such a powerful experience!

Anne Frank

Amsterdam Food

The food scene in Amsterdam is delicious! The city is known for its French fries which come with a variety of different sauces. Some of the most popular flavors are a variation of Mayonnaise (that to us, tasted like a delicious mix between mayo and ranch), and a peanut satay sauce. A Kroket is also a well-known snack food, almost like an egg roll but deep fried with more gravy inside. Yum.

Fries with peanut satay sauce, and a Kroket (often enjoyed with mustard)

Indonesia was once occupied by the Dutch empire as well, and as such, there is a huge amount of Indonesian influence here. We heard some of the best Indonesian food was just around the corner from our AirBnB and had to give it a try!

Indonesian food
Indonesian food
Some tasty candy recommended by our friend! It’s like a whole package of pink Starbursts.
There was a famous Apple pie place close to our AirBnB. It was incredible!
A Bacon sandwich house… what more can you ask for?
Burgers are also extremely popular in Holland. This was one of the best burgers we’ve ever had

Flowers everywhere!

Holland is globally known for their beautiful flowers. In fact, the world’s largest flower auction market sits just south of Amsterdam. You have to look into the Aalsmeer Flower Auction. They have an auction floor that looks something like a stock floor with international auctioneers purchasing flowers as they roll through the room on autonomous carts – flowers from this market get exported all over the world. It’s big business!

The people of Holland take their flowers very seriously as well! Everywhere you look in Amsterdam and beyond, there are beautiful flower markets, flower gardens, and people carrying bouquets of flowers as they ride their bikes.

Flowers in front of Amsterdam homes
Floating flower market (in an Amsterdam canal!)
Floating flower market (in an Amsterdam canal!)

Final Thoughts

Amsterdam has a reputation of being a pretty wild city. From the Red Light Districts to the marijuana legally sold in just about every coffee shop. Despite this (perhaps narrow on my part) perception, the city is a wonderful place to visit. The people are so kind, everybody speaks Dutch as a first language, but English almost flawlessly as a second (or third) language. The canal systems are so impressive, second only to Venice perhaps in their quantity throughout the city. Transportation is a breeze – no need to own a car. We would absolutely return to Amsterdam if given the opportunity, and can’t wait to do so.

A beautiful canal right next to Amsterdam Centraal – the train station we left from.

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