I thought I would never go to Amsterdam. I thought I would never want to go to Amsterdam. Despite multiple opportunities to go, I had always chosen not to because of everything I thought I knew about Amsterdam.
Sometimes God derails “our” plans so He can show us something special.
I was on call last month to fly domestic flights. I like to play it safe so that I can spend more time with my family and young kids back home. I sat at the airport one fine day in a comfortable chair with this computer on my lap. No doubt, I was working on some blog post. My official start time hadn’t even commenced when I got the call.
I actually said aloud, “I don’t want to go to Amsterdam.” In the same breath, however, I had to acknowledge that He who is in heaven willed for me to go there and I would be fine.
Our flight from New York would be around 7 ½ hours.
Amsterdam proved to be a juxtaposition of what I expected it to be and what it actually is.
Here are a few reasons why:
1. The Dutch are a very friendly people
Everyone I met, starting with the flight over was friendly and courteous. I did not sense anger and aggression in these people, but rather a willingness to help.
2. They are a very tall people.
I didn’t notice it so much until we were greeting passengers as they got off the plane after we landed in Amsterdam. I realized that I had to look up to most people as they got off the plane.
3. They are both trusting and trustworthy
I noticed beginning with my experience at the airport that there seemed to be an expectation in the air that you would do right by people and the people would do right by you. There was little pretense to getting from the airplane to our bus area.
I noticed this as well at the train station. The doors to the gates were completely open. Anyone could have walked through and gotten a free ride on the train system. But no one did. I stood there and watched for a while. Each rider approached the gate, scanned his or her transport card and walked through the gate.
I even watched as a group of tourists approached the gates and one by one began scanning their cards.
4. They have travelators
Okay, I had to google this one. I had never seen something like this before. A cross between an escalator and a moving sidewalk.
5. They have more bicycles than people (and they have clean air)
I had to watch myself on the street, not for cars, but for bicycles. I have never seen so many in one place. The modes of transportation I saw were walking, biking, electric rail, water taxi, train, and of course, horse-drawn carriage.
The city is compact enough to get around easily. Cars were a rare sight. The air was crisp and clean (especially compared to the polluted, smoggy city I am from).
6. A River Runs Through It…
I thought Amstel was just a beer. It turns out the Amstel brewery was located on the Amstel river because the river water was used to make beer (according to Wikipedia).
7. They have a serious crush on French fries
(And french fries must be accompanied by ketchup and mayonnaise.) I walked past plenty of places that mainly specialized in serving French fries.
8. They have an even bigger crush on Argentine food.
To say that there is an Argentine restaurant on every corner would be an underestimate. I’m sure I missed a few of them.
But wait, there’s more.
9. “The Birds” could have been filmed here.
10. Dam is not a cuss word
(And it’s pronounced “dahm”.)
Amstel-the River Dam-the Dam
According to this site, the city grew around a dam in the river Amstel, hence the name.
Dam Square is a popular meeting point and cultural center. From its midpoint, you can view the Royal Palace, Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum, and the New Church.
I saw numerous performers in the plaza including a man dressed up like the grim reaper available to take photos.
11. They have hot dog stands
It’s not surprising that New York was once called “New Amsterdam”. I felt a little like I was in the Big Apple as I ordered a hot dog in the middle of the Dam Square. (Sorry, locals, it wasn’t as good as the stuff back home).
12. They love Albert Heijn
All my flight attendant friends told me I had to visit the Albert Heijn grocery store. What they didn’t tell me was to BYOB. Bring my own bag.
The Netherlands is one of the largest exporters in the world of agriculture. This makes a trip to the supermarket (and the produce aisles) so delightful. It is eye candy for the vegetarian (or simply lover of all things fruit and vegetable).
I exited the store carrying my chocolate and cookie mementos for loved ones back home and headed down the long street back to the shuttle that would carry me back to my hotel. I didn’t have to get far when I found an obliging plastic bag someone had courteously discarded on the street. I took full advantage and was able to carry my purchases with greater agility.
13. They have Biscoff cookies
I couldn’t find the word Biscoff anywhere on the package; however, there was no doubt about what it was.
14. They have Dora and Diego.
As the mother of a three and five year old, I felt obliged to bring home a package of cookies with those famous Nick Jr. faces on them. (I left the pasta behind).
15. Amsterdam is a foodie’s dream
Every type of food you could want or imagine to want was available.
I ended my evening by dining at a simple restaurant with an eclectic menu.
I settled on dinner at an eclectic restaurant with some other compats. They all ordered different things. Upon our table were lasagna, pizza, and chicken satay.
No, it wasn’t especially authentic; however, the quality of everything on the menu was outstanding.
16. The houses are something from a postcard
17. The Dutch language is similar to English.
I spent many of my sleepless hours watching TV. Most channels were in Dutch and one channel in particular was showing a documentary filmed in China. The subtitles were in Dutch and I found myself able to understand many things I read.
Example: This is my friend. Dit is mijn vriend.
I was awake most of the night in my hotel room after returning from the huge meal. I reflected on the day’s events and what I had learned.
I came to Amsterdam expecting one thing. In return, I got many others.
The most important thing of all I learned about Amsterdam is…
18. It’s not all about the RLD.
(This list was compiled from my personal snapshot of experiences. I have since learned many other fascinating facts about this city, however, I have chosen to include only what I saw through my eyes that day.)
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