Thursday, January 14, 2016

Exploring Amsterdam on Foot #TravelDiaries #blogchatter


Putting our best foot forward in 2016, we landed in Amsterdam on a wet windy Saturday morning. It was a breezy commute from the airport to the Amsterdam Central station but who knew the 10 minutes walk from there to our houseboat would have us soaking wet! We reached Hotelboot Angeline in that haggard state, might we add hungry too, and were immediately put at ease as Daniel, our host, welcomed us in warmly to the cozy houseboat.

Staying in a houseboat in Amsterdam is an experience in itself. You can get an insight into the Dutch way of living and soak in the charming atmosphere around. Some may question this choice of accommodation, especially in winters, but let me tell you, I had the best sleep in ages on this houseboat's comfortable and snugly beds. And 24*7 hot water and heating, free Wi-Fi and a scrumptious spread of breakfast enough to keep us fuelled till late noon, made this a perfect choice for our stay. 

Originally, houseboats in Amsterdam came into existence to deal with the city's housing shortage after the second world war. Most of these houseboats were traditionally transport vessels; low ceilings, moist air, small living space and no electricity didn't make them exactly a comfortable living experience, but during that time a roof on your head was all that mattered. And look today, these are one of the landmarks of the city, with over 2400 boats in Amsterdam - the city's very own castles on water. 

Oosterdok
Any new city is best explored on foot, strolling hand in hand with no specific destination and letting the city surprise you with each bend in the corner. Although we had planned to hire bicycles, the weather was against us and we decided on walking. What surprised us most as we started unraveling the city, was the traffic - cars and people and bikes, everywhere. Maneuvering slowly through these, our first find was the Waterlooplein Market. I had to mooch around, for my love for quirky and vintage things that one accidentally finds at such flea markets. 

Waterlooplein Market
And though my purse strings remained tied, we did, as we usually do, indulge in food. Starting off with a pack of the famous Vlaamse frites, topped generously with mayonnaise. Munching on the crisp yet light fries, we walked ahead, to the Rembrandtplein square. The Christmas market was still on and people were merrily enjoying a warm mug of mulled wine under the grey sky, relishing the last few days of the holidays.

We sampled the local kibbeling fish from one of the stands here. Bite sized mouthful of deliciousness. These are battered fried white fish from the North Sea, hot and fresh, it got a thumbs up from the hubby too who he is not that fond of fish.

Rembrandtplein square - named after the famous painter Rembrandt van Rijn.
The Night Watch (statues) - bronze cast representation of Rembrandt's most famous painting. 

Kibbeling with garlic sauce
Walking in this city, I lost all sense of direction. Canals everywhere and I couldn't differentiate one from the other, but all so beautiful, so picturesque.


We turned around a corner from one of the main streets, an entered a little stretch of artist's delight. The Nieuwe Spiegelstraat, the street leading to the famous Van Gogh museum, is filled with art galleries and vintage shops, that one can't get enough of. I must have stopped at every store and admired the arts and artifacts.





The three 'must sees' on any tourist's list in Amsterdam, are the Rijksmuseum , the Van Gogh Museum and the Anne Frank House, but we decided to skip all three. Instead we wandered around the streets and sought art and inspiration there.






As the evening approached, we walked our way back to the Bloemenmarkt, which is famous for being the only floating flower market in the world. It doesn't actually float but the stalls are on houseboats which are perched on stilts. It's worth a visit if one is planning to buy bulbs, seeds or just admire the beautiful flowers. I can only imagine the sights and smells here during the full bloom season of tulips. Sigh!


Just opposite these stalls, we found the perfect place to try the good old dutch pancakes. It was the first time we tried the savoury kind, and while nothing can beat the nutella-strawberry-cream combo, this surprised our taste buds in a good way.


As the evening approached, we got caught in the maze of canals yet again. But we didn't mind getting lost under the twinkling lights and the energy of the city.




The next day, we strolled to the Dam square and as our eyes gauged the massiveness of the Royal Palace and the imposing National Memorial statue, we spotted a huge crowd assembled near the center. A girl with a red umbrella approached us and introduced us to the SANDEMANs New Amsterdam free walking tour. The next group was to take off in 10 minutes and we decided to join them. Our guide, Michael, was fun and witty, and took us through the history of the city along with a midway stop for cheese tasting. How we wished we could have taken this tour on our first day here, nevertheless we were glad to have run into them and get this chance to explore the city through a different and learned lens.

Royal Palace, Amsterdam
National Memorial, WWII Memorial
We spoke about how trade changed the landscape of this city, of the history of prostitution, decriminalization of drugs, Nazi occupation and effects of WWII, outlaw of Catholicism and emergence of hidden churches throughout the city, of slating houses and so much more. Michael, if you are reading this, thank you for a rich insight into many of the city's wonders and also for the food recommendations.


Dutch East India Company
        Dutch writer,Multatuli, famous for his novel, Max Havelaar which highlighted
         the atrocities of colonialism in Indonesia.
Can you spot the smallest house in Amsterdam?
The city flag, The triple X symbol on the flag has quite few theories including that it has something to do with the city's sex tourism. Not true. Another theory is that the X's stand for the three chief perils that the city of Amsterdam once faced: floods, fire, and the Black Death.
Squatting - (another example of how shortage of houses after WWII shaped the Dutch culture) Squatting, staying in abandoned buildings (if they have been empty for at least an year) was legalized by the Dutch government from 1994-2010. Most of these are now used as cultural spaces for music and film stagings, artists workshop etc.

After the walking tour, Michael pointed us to 
Cafe Sonneveld to try authentic Dutch food. We ordered a plate of traditional Dutch dish Stampot, which is meatballs served on a bed of mashed potatoes and vegetables and a side of bitterballen - crunchy breadcrumb coating, filled with a melt-in-mouth mixture of chopped beef, beef broth, flour, butter, herbs and spices. 
With Michael


Our last day in Amsterdam was spent strolling leisurely through the Albert Cuyp Market and Vondelpark, before catching the flight back home. We went Dutch and tried the local favourites off the street stalls - the red herring - soused raw fish served with onions and pickle, and poffertjes - miniature version of pancakes.


Vondelpark was the perfect place to say goodbye to Amsterdam. Serene and pretty, we sat down with a beer at a cafe inside, and spend our last few hours people watching before whispering our final adieus to this eclectic city.


#HappyDays are here to stay. 2016 will see a lot more travels, and hopefully me blogging through them all and taking you on a virtual tour. Ciao!


P.S. Also linking to this week's blogchatter prompt - Happy Days.

Blogchatter is a community of bloggers encouraging each other to take their blogs to the next level. They also host a hourly twitter chat every Wednesday at 8:30 PM IST. Join us for lots of fun and conversations!

33 comments:

  1. This virtual tour through the beautiful streets of Amsterdam was just amazing! Thanks Aditi for this informative and interesting account! As always, your photographs are wonderful as well.

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    1. Thank you! The streets must have been familiar, no? Your summer Euro trip pictures are still fresh in my mind...

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  2. The pictures <3 and the narrative. Also I actually didn't know about houseboats and Amsterdam! I only know one thing about the city :P

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    1. Hehe...there are more canals n houseboat here than Venice...so our tour guide said.

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  3. This was so beautiful Aditi! You have described everthing so perfectly and vividly, I felt I was there strolling the streets of Amsterdam with you! Fantastic pictures too! Loved this!

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    1. Thanks dear, glad you enjoyed this virtual tour.

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  4. Oh, thanks for taking us along- felt I was right there with you. I agree- best to discover by foot - to get all details, the atmosphere. happy you had a great time, my friend:-) Big hugs

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  5. Looks like a wonderful vacation. You brought back the memories of my 2002 trip though I saw much less!

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    1. We just wandered around the streets, didn't really tick off any tourist spots but had a lot of fun! :)

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  6. A wonderful trip that must have been Aditi! Lovely pictures! Made me feel like I was there.

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  7. Amazing pictures. Everything looks so artistic including the food! Love the picture of the two of you, Aditi.

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  8. Houseboat n all taht yumm foo... OMg my gal! Omg! Loving your virtual tours..keep tarvelling Keep posting

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  9. the night views are beautiful and the food looks soon yummy :D Love these glimpses of the city through your eyes. Maybe someday I will explore them myself :)

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    1. The canals looked spectacular at night with those twinkling lights! :) Glad you liked it!

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  10. I have almost traveled through each of those pics to Amsterdam. Get me that smallest house in Amsterdam. Ek dum daudega! :-)

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    1. Isn't it just so cute? I so wanted to go inside and see the interiors...

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  11. You make me wish to apparate there!!!

    SUPERB post Aditi!! :)
    Love the pictures! Love the narration!
    Thanks for the virtual tour girl!

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  12. I always told you that you write excellent pieces of travelogues and you still write so less . Please write more. This makes me feel like going to the place right now

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    1. Thanks Anindya! :) I promise to write more.

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  13. Hi Aditi,
    I genuinely liked your post and commented. Why did you remove my comment?

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    1. Ohhh...there must be some mistake... I didn't remove any comment :(

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    2. All is well that ends well. :)

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  14. Hi Aditi - I'm Dee from Break Out The Skinny Girl blog - congratulations on getting through to the UK Blog Awards final, I just wanted to wish you luck - your blog is great, I love to travel too :)

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    1. So happy to connect with you Dee! Congratulations to you too dear. Can't wait to meet all of you at the award ceremony!

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  15. Hi, Am David Lynne - Your posting pictures and content is very nice and one thing the white flower picture is really Super & i like that.Thanks for share this post. Keep up to post Aditi.

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