Saturday, December 7, 2013

Amazing Amsterdam

Amsterdam is known for things - a beautiful canal city (for the travelers), the city of Ajax Amsterdam (for the football lovers) and the place where hash and prostitution are legal (for most others).

So, when I was going to Amsterdam, I did not know which Amsterdam to expect. 

I was taking the train from Zurich after a full week of work and as with many of my travels, I had only one day to spend in the city. 

The train journey was interesting in itself with an African american singer and his friend for company in my cabin  and an great chatting session I had with 6-7 people from different nationalities sitting on the floor of the cycle compartment in the train.

I got down at the railway station and went to the tourist counter and asked what could be done for a day. He started by saying - "Go out, take a left, there the red light district". Looking at the reluctance on my face he suggested other places like Dam square, the Tussad's museum and because of my admission as a football fan, a tour to the Ajax stadium. 

I decided to go to the Dam square and take it from there. I took a public transport 24 hour pass, that gave me access to all buses and trams and that is the thing I like about European cities, the ease of use of public transport.
The Dam square - the tourist hotspot

I took a tram to the Dam square (I later realised it was less than a km and I could walk upto there). It was a huge city centre with people sitting, chilling out and clicking photos. 

That was also the place where there were the supposed hot spots - the Tussads, the Heineken tour, the Medieval torture museum and the Ajax museum. Somehow, I did not want to get into an organised tour and decided to explore the city on my own.

The medieval torture museum

After sitting at the Dam square for some time, I decided to "take that left" and go to the red light district. It was different to my initial expectation. I expected filthy, shady alleys with glaring red lights - some weird picture I had in my mind. 

But it was a perfectly normal space, besides the beautiful canals, full of tourists, just visiting something that was unique to Amsterdam. If one wanted, one could go to sex shows or buy some souvenirs there. 

I got back to the area near the Dam square and had some lunch. All this while, I was spending time just walking in the streets of Amsterdam, quiet streets, beautiful canals and people performing on the streets.

The beautiful canals

... and the quiet streets
Then I remembered the huge "I amsterdam" sign, where a lot of my friends had their photos clicked when they had visited Amsterdam. 

I inquired about it and took a tram to that place. It was almost evening and the sign is situated in front of a huge park and besides some museums. It was getting cold. The temperature was close to 5-10 degree celcius in mid-May - something I was not prepared for.So, decided to have a hot chocolate at one of the cafes in the park. 

I had to take this photo 

Clicked some photos there and realised I had nothing else to do, considering I had shunned all the organised tours (mentioned above) and it was almost 5 pm and now did not have the option of taking those tours. 

So, decided to go to a pub, have a beer and dinner, watch some football with some fans and return to my hostel (I had to leave at 6am to catch my flight). Watched some football matches and chatted with a number of people.

It was almost 7 pm and I was already tired of walking for the entire day and hence decided to call it a day and took at tram towards my hostel. 

The crowd of people at the Dam square

On the way, my tram was passing through the Dam square and I saw huge number of people gathered there and some music blaring out of speakers. I did not want to miss the "festival" so got down and decided to check it out.

To my surprise, I found the place filled with Turkish people with flags of Galatasaray (for non-football fans, it is the biggest football club in Turkey). The club supposedly had secured the Turkish league title that day and all the Turkish people decided to celebrate. 

The place had huge speakers, fireworks and walls made up of beer crates. After some chanting with fireworks, the DJ got into his rhythm and started playing songs. 

The Turkish people were so happy that they pulled tourists like us to dance with them and the city center became a huge disc - people from all nationalities dancing, some very drunk and some like me not so much. It was so much fun and just transformed my day. I may have danced for more than a couple of hours - with people I did not know at all. 

It was then time to retire back to my hostel and on my way I just thought to myself how a slow and lethargic day had become one of the best parties I had in my life. 

Thank you Amsterdam - You Rock!!!!

Will visit again.

Useful tips
1. Try and walk through the city - most attractions are close to each other
2. Do go to the cafes and try the hash browns, if interested
3. Take a boat ride through the numerous canals of the city

Must visit places
1. The Dam square - just for the hustle and bustle of the city
2. The Anne Frank museum
3. The red light district
4. Other tours such as Ajax museum/ Tussads/ Heinekan according to your interest - each one is good

Photo Gallery

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