After our visit to Nice and Monaco we got up bright and early to catch a flight to Amsterdam, the capital city of the Netherlands. We only had about ten hours to spend in Amsterdam before we were set to catch a train to Cologne, Germany, but since my fiance has a relative in Amsterdam we were able to make the most of the layover.
Immediately after deplaning, I felt like I was in a different world. It may be cliche' but all of the other cities we visited before reminded me of other places that I'd visited, so other than hearing people speak different languages and knowing that I was in Europe, I didn't feel as though I was experiencing something completely new. But Amsterdam was distinct. People carried fresh, bright flowers in canvas shopping bags while wearing Moncler jackets and clogs (yes I always notice how people are dressed). The airport had a sleek, modern design, with more glass than walls and the food either looked really fresh or I was really hungry. Third, the people were big. Tall, well-built and many with bright blonde hair. The juxtaposition of bubble jackets and fresh flowers had me confused about what the weather would be like, but one thing was for certain, I wouldn't be starting any bar fights in Amsterdam ;)
We met with my fiance's cousin Jasper almost immediately after retrieving our luggage from baggage claim and I was happy that we had him as our guide. Navigating a city with the company of a person who is local (and speaks the language) is much more efficient than exploring on your own, and with only a few hours to spend, I was grateful or his guidance.
I can't describe Amsterdam in one word, but I think a fitting phrase might be "old world hipster." Preserving the historic while incorporating the new is something that the Europeans do quite well, which is amazing to me because its a task that Americans can't seem to manage (think New York Penn Station which has been renovated versus Grand Central which was largely preserved). Maintenance of the old architecture in Amsterdam gave the city a historic look, while the aerodynamic tram moving swiftly through the street was a reminder that the city is very much modernized.
Our first stop was to grab lunch, and Jasper saved lives again by steering us away from the mixed meats and advising us to just go for the food that looked familiar, lol. We ate at a small steakhouse on the main street that was playing R&B classics on the muzak and I felt right at home when the waitress overheard my mention of it and told me that it was her favorite station too! She was from Bulgaria. Who would think that people know what old school R&B is in Bulgaria?
When bae tries to catch you slipping but you catch him first :)
After lunch we ventured deeper into the old city to see more of what the Dutch are famous for. Apparently beer, flowers and cheese are high points, so we started with a tour of the Dutch flower market which is renowned for its tulip selection. I don't know how true this is today, but at one point the canals through the city were used for transportation of goods. Below, you'll see that the back of the flower market opens up to a canal, which makes it possible for a shipment of flowers to be delivered to the back of the shop stall.
Amsterdam had a familiar charm that may be related to the way that bicycles, wandering streams and the Esprit logo drum up childhood memories. On a related note, I took a picture of this ad with the hashtag #I'mperfect impressed over images of people from a spectrum of ethnicities, from a ginger-haired black man to an Asian woman. For me, the ad is symbolic of the city's ability to offer a bit of comfort to everyone. I felt a little bit of home once I was able to bond with a stranger to the melody of R&B songs playing over the muzak, perhaps another person would find comfort in the amazing flower arrays, the assortment of beer, or the hipster youth adorned in leather and skinny jeans. Whatever your flavor, Amsterdam has a little something for everyone.
So on the topic of...ahem...flavor, we couldn't leave the city without exploring the red light district which is an area of town where sex is celebrated and sold. Prostitution is legal in Amsterdam, although I believe there is a system of registration that one must undergo. There are women; young, old and in between who display themselves in windows to potential customers. Oddly though, they didn't want me taking pictures because they would hide behind the curtains when I took out my phone. There are also sex museums, sex shops and sex variety shows...
The hours passed like minutes and soon it was time to say our goodbyes. Jasper dropped us off at the train station and we boarded for our next adventure in Cologne, Germany.
Thanks for visiting.