For those of you who have visited The Netherland’s pretty capital, you might have been struck by the bicycles which roam the town, as I was. Here in Scotland, the last time I got on my bike was over a decade ago, there’s too many god damn hills and it is common knowledge that drivers will sigh and swear until the cyclist is completely out of view- (“selfish” is a frequent adjective, as is “bastard”, but I digress.)Yet upon my arrival in Amsterdam, I was overwhelmed by the hoards and hoards of elegant Dutch pedalling away and paying no mind to cars or pedestrians. Adjacent to Amsterdam Central Station was a bike park which stored literally thousands of bikes for those using the train. It was fascinating to see the scale to which the Dutch wholly embrace the humble bicycle and in doing so, are some of the best looking (physically fit) human beings I have ever seen. Kudos to you, Amsterdam.
We stayed in the International Budget Hostel which, as you may tell from the name, was a rather no-frills establishment, but the building was one of those quintessentially Amsterdam-ish(?!) building which line the canals- it was packed full of character and we had to duck ot avoid beams in our top-floor room. It was lovely, the staff were friendly, and the common room was like someone’s rather bohemian living room. There was a resident cat and you could smoke out the common room window. Score. I say this because the 5 flights of stairs which we had to climb in order to get to our room were literally vertical. You really don’t want to fall down those. Terrifying. So it was a relief to avoid scaling those to the street just for a cigarette. (Or you preferred choice of cigarette in The Netherlands, when in Rome and all that.)
As a British traveller, I was and am forever grateful for the perfect English which the majorty of Dutch speak. It so embarassing to be unable to reciprocate their linguistic capabilities- of course I tried to learn basic please and thankyous which are pretty straight forward. I also know a few naughty but useless phrases which only come in handy when drunk and trying to make a Dutch laugh. “Neuken in de keuken” counts ofr nothing when you need to work out serious things like train times etc.
As for our activites, we visited the Van Gogh museum (well worth a visit) Vondel Park (which is beautiful and so peaceful) and Anne Frank’s house, which was obviously one of the must humbling experiences I have ever had. Do not let the lengthy queue deter you from visiting, because I now hold an appreciation for living in times of relative peace in Europe which previously went over my head.
Of all the cities we visited, Amsterdam is definitely one which I felt I could potentially move to. It was friendly, clean and smaller than many of the other cities that we visited, which made it feel extremely welcoming. I know that Amsterdam is very different from the rest of The Netherlands, and from what I saw from the train window, it’s truly a beautiful country. I’ll be back.