Amsterdam: City of Bikes

Oh hey everyone!

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You miss me?  I’ve definitely missed writing on the blog, but have been having lots of fun and keeping busy in my time not spent blogging.  I could list all the things I’ve been doing but I’ll just get right back into it.

My second stop on my last traveling tour of Europe was Amsterdam.  As you can tell from the title, the thing I remember most about Amsterdam was how many bikes there were.  Not people biking for exercise–I hardly saw any of those–but people biking to church, to the store, with friends, everywhere!  Every road had a wide bike lane on each side, or it was on the side of the sidewalk, and heaven forbid you walk in the bike lane!  I got dinged at a few times for not watching where I was watching.  I’m sure the locals hate tourists for that.

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I’m about to get run over.

There were SO many tourists around, it was crazy.   Many of the Amsterdam locals were tall, big, and fair-haired.  Not fat, just tall and BIG!  And lots of blonde/strawberry blonde hair.  I also noticed that the people in Amsterdam spoke English very well, possibly the best of anywhere I had visited (except England, of course).

I saw so much during my short time in Amsterdam… where to start?  I suppose I should begin with what Amsterdam is best known for, the Red Light District and its plentiful drug use.

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Sex, drugs, and alcohol are everywhere in the Red Light District.  Thankfully, it seems to be mostly contained to that area, although you could buy cannabis in various forms pretty much everywhere.  I just did a quick pass through the RLD one day to experience it and get pictures from my blog, although being there made me uncomfortable and quite honestly, sad.

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There were a few streets like this in the RLD.  There were windows with girls standing in them, as well as some shops that sold about what you could imagine.  I always imagined the windows being up higher–I think I saw it on America’s Next Top Model or something–but they were at ground level, which made it really weird to walk by.

All the stores in the area sold sex toys, drugs, and drug paraphernalia.

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This one was just silly.

Something no one ever mentions is the fact that there’s a church right next to the Red Light District.

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What’s wrong with that, it’s just a coffee shop!  Oh wait, it’s called “High Time.”  Never mind.

Not surprisingly, Amsterdam is a very gay-friendly city.  Besides the many rainbow flags waving outside of apartments and establishments, I came across this gem.

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Probably the best name for a secondhand clothing store ever.

Besides the Red Light District and its loose drug laws, the thing that most people recognize in Amsterdam are the famous “I amsterdam” signs.  That’s right, signS- there are two!  One is permanent, always in the same place, and the other moves around.  The first one I saw was the traveling sign which happened to be outside the Amsterdam Public Library at the time I was there.  Fewer people were visiting that one, so with some patience I actually got a picture with (almost) no one in it!

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And of course, I had to prove I was there.

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The other I amsterdam sign, the permanent one, is outside the Rijksmuseum, a huge museum that just underwent a big renovation.  I think it had just reopened when I was there- there were signs for it everywhere.

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There were huge pots of tulips (of course) in the water and all along the outsides.  There were a lot of schoolkids around taking a survey of tourists, so after I answered some questions about what I had seen in Amsterdam and such I got them to take a picture of me in front of the sign.

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It was SO windy!

Amsterdam is also known for its windmills and tulips.  Surprisingly, I had to seek out some traditional Dutch wooden windmills.  This one is called the De Gooyer windmill, and it has a beer brewery alongside it, I believe.

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This windmill was kinda in the middle of nowhere near the place I was staying.  It was just a little windmill; I’m not sure it’s used for anything.

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Then on my way back the road raised up for a boat to go through!  I thought it was funny how the road was completely vertical.IMG_4542Anne Frank is possibly the most famous former resident of Amsterdam.  Of course while I was there, I had to visit the house where she lived in the “Secret Annex.”  Me being the planner that I am (and hater of long lines), I bought tickets ahead of time and I was SO GLAD that I did.  Here’s what the outside of her house looked like the first time I saw it:

IMG_4206You can see where the door is from where the line of people stops, but what’s harder to see is that there’s another door slightly to the left of where all the people are going in.  If you buy tickets ahead of time, you hit a buzzer by the door and someone opens it for you.  You show your tickets, and voila!  You’re in and walking up the stairs within two minutes.  It’s like having a backstage pass that anyone can get.  I think the tickets were the same price, or maybe I paid a couple euros extra as an online fee, but it was totally worth it.

I didn’t go in that day; I had tickets for something like 7 PM that night, or the next night, I can’t remember.  No photos are allowed in the house, and that was one time I didn’t break the NO PHOTO rule.  It was such a hallowed place; I felt it as soon as I walked in the door.  Everyone was quiet, respectful, and followed the no photography rule.  I was glad for it because then people were focused on the place, the pictures, the history, etc, instead of getting a good shot.

I don’t even know what to say about my tour of the house, except IF YOU’RE IN AMSTERDAM, GO.  Seriously.  Do it.  I did take some pictures of the outside of the house.

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The address for the house is 263-267 Prinsengracht.

IMG_4427I offered to take a photo of some nice ladies and then they took one of me.

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Man, Amsterdam is known for a lot of things, isn’t it?  I bet you can guess one… it starts with a t and ends in ulip.

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That’s right, I found the Amsterdam Tulip Museum!  It was a little place, but so cute.  The front room is a shop with all tulip-y things (one of the only souvenirs I brought home is a wooden tulip I bought here) and then you can pay entrance to get into the actual museum.  I was debating if I wanted to spend the money or not, then saw they had a student rate that made it like, 3€ or something.  Sometimes places like that ask for an international student ID card, some ask for any ID card (I kept my ISU ID with me all the time), and some don’t ask for anything.  I don’t think I had to show anything to get the student rate here.  I paid up and walked through a door where I experienced this:

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TULIPS EVERYWHERE!  It was a strange little half door (you can see the feet of people in the shop behind me) on a timer; I walked in, the door shut, and then 30 seconds later the door in front of me opened.  It was very strange.

The museum was beautiful, with lots of fresh tulips everywhere.

???????????????????????????????It was more than that, though.  In the basement where the self-guided tour started, there was a lot of information about how tulips became popular, and the rise and fall of the market.  It was really informative and interesting!

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Here, educate yoself.

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Each picture had a written description next to it.  Side note, where can I get some of those awesome benches for my house?

Upon walking up the stairs, I saw this nifty map painted on the wall with tulip festivals from all over the world marked on it.

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Oh wait, what’s that I see?  Let’s come a little closer.

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Notice anything yet?  Let me get a little closer…

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PELLA IOWA IS ON A MAP IN AMSTERDAM!  I think I squealed.  So if you can’t make it to Amsterdam… I guess ride a bike, visit a windmill, smoke some weed, read “Diary of a Young Girl,” and go to Pella!!  Just kidding about the weed part.

The last part of the museum was a room where there was a video playing with a narrator explaining how tulips are grown, harvested, and packaged to be sold.  All along the outside of the room were pictures and actual tools used in tulip farming.

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I was really glad I went into the tulip museum.  And right down the block was the Amsterdam Cheese Museum.  I’m not a huge fan of cheese and I didn’t want to go in and get samples shoved at me (I’m weird, I know), but I did take a few pictures.

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I could smell the cheese from the door. Blech.

I made friends with the cow out front.  I really should have taken a picture of Emmy with it…sigh.  Missed opportunities.

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Going back to the flower theme, I hit up the Singel Canal, which has a floating flower market.  All the merchandise is on barges!  Honestly though, you couldn’t really even tell.  They’re pretty permanent.  There were lots of tulips for sale, of course…

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and lots of marijuana stuff, even more of course.  I’m going to take a wild leap and guess that “Cannabis Starterskit” means “Cannabis starter kit” in English.

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There was a ton of marijuana everything around.  Paraphernalia, incense, stuff to grow it, actual weed, pretty much anything you could think of.  Speaking of weed, there was even more at the Waterloopein Flea Market, which was probably to be expected.  I took a bunch of pictures of the pot-related stuff, but I’ll just share this one, since it reminds me of this scene in the movie “The Hot Chick.”

IMG_4303There were a lot of…unique…items at the flea market.

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Needless to say, I walked out empty-handed.  I did take a shot of the aisle though to show a better idea of what it looked like.

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Pretty much anything you could think of was for sale there.  Lots of bike accessories, of course; I think those are just front tires for sale on the right side.  I wonder where they got them…

There were a ton of old churches and buildings around Amsterdam.

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Koninklijk Paleis

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Nationaal Monument

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Neiuwe Kerk (New Church)

 

Oude Kerk (Old Church)

Oude Kerk (Old Church)

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St. Nicolaaskerk

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Vondel Church

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Westerkerk

Oude Kerk (Old Church)

Oude Kerk (Old Church)

I also went into a cool neighborhood/apartment complex/park thing called Begijnhof.  You walked through a doorway and then came into a green area with flowers and trees, surrounded by apartment buildings/townhomes.

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There was a chapel inside:

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and a nice calming atmosphere.

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It would’ve been a neat little area to live.  There were gates on certain parts of the sidewalks with signs that said “Residents only”–gotta keep the tourists out!

I also enjoyed two parks in Amsterdam, Vondelpark and Wertheimpark.  Vondelpark was HUGE and is the main park in Amsterdam.  It was beautiful, with lots of green grass, flowers, budding trees, and still water.

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Statue of the poet Vondel

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Two things to notice: the big arch being installed, and the woman with 2 kids in her bike cart!

Wertheimpark was lots smaller, but nice nonetheless.

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These ducks would fly along the water with their feet dragging, splashing the whole way, and then land on the water again. It was strange!

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An Auschwitz memorial.

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Each rock symbolizes a prayer sent on behalf of the victims.

Someone I talked with–I think it was the guy working at this little shop I stopped at–told me about a restaurant on the top floor of the library in Amsterdam.  It was a nice little cafe with free Wifi, and the food was good and reasonably priced.  There was a little balcony with tables outside, and while I didn’t eat out there, I did go take a picture of the view.

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It was a very modern-looking library with these cool lights–reminded me of Ikea!

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At one point when I was walking around I happened to walk by the Artis Zoo.  I didn’t go in, but I did see some cool things from the outside!

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Flamingos!

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There was a stegosaurus too!

I also took a bunch of other random photos from around the city… I’ll just dump them all there so you can get a better idea of what it looks like to walk around Amsterdam!

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Ice Bar… I didn’t go in, but I imagine everything is made out of ice!

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The Amsterdam Dungeon

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Bikes bikes everywhere, but not a one to ride…

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They just tied a rope around a sofa and were lowering it out a window. WHAT.

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I liked the shutters on this building.

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Super pink car.

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Locks, of course!

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Not to worry, Christians! There is somewhat a Christian presence in this city!

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Proof.

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This building looked so Dutch to me.

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Am I in Venice??

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Cool seating at the airport.

In closing, I loved Amsterdam and all there was to see there 🙂 I hope you enjoyed this long-awaited massive post!

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Categories: Travels | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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6 thoughts on “Amsterdam: City of Bikes

  1. Aunt Clare

    Unbelievable!
    Glad to see the Mallards there look like the Mallards here.
    The sofa pic is priceless – nice job. Also, GREAT job on the bike photo leaning against the bridge rail. I really like that.

    • Thanks, but I can’t take credit- I got the inspiration from a photo my friend Cat took in Amsterdam. It’s on my parents’ bookshelf at home!

  2. Dad

    So cool!

  3. glorianelsoncsep@gmail.com

    Awesome pics and narrative. You are an incredible travel blogger!!!!

  4. Kelsy

    Hi, Kelsey,

    I’m going to be an assistant in Strasbourg next year. I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog; it’s been extremely helpful! Sorry for a comment completely unrelated to your post (Amsterdam sounds awesome!), but I remember reading that you used STA Travel for your flights. I’m planning to do the same, so I was curious, did you have any issues with them? I’ve heard mixed reviews but nothing first-hand. Thanks!

    • Oh hey, I love your name! Glad you’ve found the blog helpful- I love getting comments like that on any post! I had a GREAT experience with STAtravel, I really can’t recommend them enough. They had the cheapest tickets I found anywhere (I think it was $806 round-trip Chicago-Paris), and they ended up being the cheapest when I was looking for plane tickets for my boyfriend too. In addition, I changed my ticket to come back earlier and it only cost $50! My friend bought the same tickets as me from STAtravel but she changed her ticket through Swiss Air, and it cost her $250! Plus, when I was changing my ticket I was chatting online with a representative-person and he was super nice and helpful- looked up the cheapest tickets on a bunch of different days so that I didn’t have to pay any extra for a ticket, just the $50 change fee, and he also bought a ticket for me from Chicago-Moline (closer to my house) and didn’t charge me anything to do that, and the price was the same as what I was finding on SkyScanner.

      TL;DR, Skyscanner was awesome for cheap tickets and changing my ticket and I really recommend them 🙂

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