I (am)sterdam were the first words that greeted me when I arrived at the train station in Amsterdam. Eager, slightly puzzled at this foreign-yet-English-speaking place, and excited to see John, I couldn’t help but be a little bedazzled by this Dutch version of Grand Central Station on the water (ok, not that’s an exaggeration, but you get the point). It seemed like a much friendlier and slightly less historic version of Venice; the canals were there, but there were more cars than gondolas and while the buildings were less impressive, the atmosphere was more welcoming. The weather, on the other hand, was not as lovely as the people. Out of the four and a half days I was in Amsterdam, it rained for at least part of every day – storms that suddenly took over clear skies and poured on unsuspecting victims like John and I. That being said, it’s fascinating to see all of these Dutch folk who are constantly riding their bikes around the city, unperturbed even by the rain.
But what shocked me perhaps most about Amsterdam were two findings: first, how diverse the culture was, and second, how family friendly some of the more “scandalous” aspects of Amsterdam’s culture are. In terms of the first, the easiest way to explain it is that for my first meal in Amsterdam, we had Ethiopian food (which was, by the way, extraordinary). The next day, I was told that the Amsterdam version of Chipotle (aka quick and easy) was a wok place, and then I was told that by way of the old Dutch colonies, the Netherlands has some delicious South Asian food, particularly Thai and sushi. Things I definitely didn’t originally realize… Then there’s the infamous parts of Amsterdam, like the Red Light District. Perhaps my naiveté is truly going to show, but I didn’t realize that the Red Light District was so named because it literally has red lights above certain shops, marking what kind of exchange is going on. Even then, most of the Red Light District was pretty tame and even the shops with prostitutes in the windows were sometimes interspersed with standard stores and restaurants. I for one was really taken aback. Can you imagine if any city in the US tried to implement such a policy? There would be riots. Instead, it’s a very acceptable practice here and because of that it seems almost neatly confined.
Finally, since everyone knows how much I enjoy the gastronomic elements of visiting a new country, I will say a few words on food. First of all, there is so much mint. Mint tea, mint in pea soup, mint on your burger, it’s great. Second, apple pie and stroopwafel. Tour guides aren’t kidding when they say that Winkel 43 is the best apple pie (at least that I’ve tried). It’s warm, crunchy on the top, and with a not-too-sweet and wholesome apple interior. And stroopwafel: a beautiful cookie wafer that’s basically two diet-sized wafels (let’s say crunchy) with caramel in the middle. Yum. Amsterdam, you have the Rosa seal of approval.
**more pictures to be added tomorrow since WordPress is not cooperating tonight