Amsterdam the Venice of the North

Amsterdam  is the capital city and most populated city of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.     The city is located in the province of North Holland in the western part of the country.    It is a city of canals and gabled houses.  The canals are known as Grafton, people go cycling and there are plenty of cafes and bars along the canals.  There is a harbor behind the railroad station with a ferry that runs all day and night.

Amsterdam Cityscape

Amsterdam Cityscape canal by jay Iks at freeimages  1436985_82094672

Image courtesy of jay_lks at freeimages.com

The canals is where they started their maritime trade and made their fortune.   The train station was built in neo-gothic style on 3 artificial islands 8,687 stakes were sunk 12 meters deep into the sea in the harbor.   Amsterdam was referred to as the Venice of the North by the Italian traveler Ludovico Juciardini.   Amsterdam is the largest lakeland village in the world.   Bicycles are the main form of transportation and they have their own parking area.

Life here in Amsterdam has always been determined by water.   The city was founded in the 13th century where land and sea are united.   The city lies beneath sea level, therefore, the watermark in the canal has to constantly be maintained.   There is the 300 year old Magere Brug which is of wood construction and a drawbridge, it is known as the most beautiful drawbridge in the world and is operated manually.   The water in the canals are kept clean by nature with the high and low tides.   You can begin your canal voyage at the Central Station it’s a round trip enjoy the view.   The waterways are one-way traffic so you literally go around.

In the Middle Ages, Amsterdam was surrounded by a moat, called the Singel, which now forms the innermost ring in the city, and makes the city center a horseshoe shape.     The Grafton are set in a semicircular belt around Amsterdam, which once was the border of the city and it’s trading routes, but today it’s used as the way of getting around.   Amsterdam is home to more than one hundred kilometers of canals.

The three main canals are Prinsengracht, Herengracht, and Keizersgracht, all 3 are navigable by boat.   The city is also served by a seaport.     It has been compared with Venice because of its division into approximately 90 islands, which are linked by more than 1,200 bridges.     You will see the fortified Tower of Montalban it has been disguised as a church tower.

A must visit of the Netherlands Cape Cod Museum it is the second largest maritime museum in the world, it is called Netherlands Scheepvaartmuseum.    Here you will find documentation of Amsterdam and the Netherlands, sea maps, painting and ships.    The East India Company is also featured and one of it’s old Trading ships The Amsterdam can be explored by visitors, it is a replica of the original Amsterdam, which sank on it’s maiden voyage in 1749, by a storm, off the English coast.

Amsterdam’s name derives from “Amstelredamme,” because of the city’s origin as a dam of the river Amstel.   Originating as a small fishing village in the late 12th century, Amsterdam became one of the most important ports in the world during the “Dutch Golden Age”  in the 17th century, as a result of it’s trade, the city was the leading center for finance and diamonds.   In the 19th and 20th centuries, the city expanded, and many new neighborhoods and suburbs were planned and built.   The 17th century canals of Amsterdam and the 19th and 20th century Defense Line of Amsterdam are on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

As the commercial capital of the Netherlands and one of the top financial centers in Europe, Amsterdam is considered an “alpha world city ,” by the “Globalization and World Cities (GaWC) study group.”   Amsterdam is also the cultural capital of the Netherlands.   Many large Dutch institutions have their headquarters there, and seven of the world’s 500 largest companies, including Philips and ING, are based in the city   ” In 2012, Amsterdam was ranked the second best city in which to live by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) and 12th globally on quality of living for environment and infrastructure by Mercer.   The city was previously ranked 3rd in innovation by 2thinknow in the Innovation Cities Index 2009.”

The Stelling van Amsterdam was constructed between 1880 and 1920.  The invention of the aeroplane and tank made the forts obsolete.   Many of the forts now are under the control of the town councils and the nature department, and may be visited on Monuments Day, which falls on the second Saturday in September, this is the ideal day to visit, since entrance is free.

There was conflict with Spain, “In the 16th century, the Dutch rebelled against Philip II of Spain and his successors.   The reasons for the uprising were the imposition of new taxes, the tenth penny, and the religious persecution of Protestants by the newly introduced Inquisition.   The revolt escalated into the Eighty Years’ War,  which  led to Dutch independence.   The Dutch Republic Revolt leader William the Silent,  became known for its religious tolerance.   Jews from the Iberian Peninsula, Huguenots from France,  prosperous merchants and printers from Flanders, and economic and religious refugees from the Spanish-controlled parts of the Low Countries  found safety in Amsterdam.   The influx of Flemish printers and the city’s intellectual tolerance made Amsterdam a center for the European free press.

In 1578 the previously Roman Catholic city of Amsterdam joined the revolt against Spanish rule.      In line with Protestant procedure of that time, all churches were converted to Protestant worship.   Calvinisim became the dominant religion, and although Catholicism was not forbidden and priests allowed to serve, the Catholic hierarchy was prohibited.   This led to the establishment of schuilkerken, covert churches, behind seemingly ordinary canal side house fronts.   One example is the current debate center de Rode Hoed.   A large influx of foreigners of many religions came to 17th-century Amsterdam, in particular Sefardic Jews from Spain and Portugal, Huguenots from France, and Protestants from the Southern Netherlands.    This led to the establishment of many non-Dutch-speaking religious churches.    In 1603, the first notification was made of Jewish religious service.   In 1639, the first synagogue was consecrated.   The Jews came to call the town Jerusalem of the West,  a reference to their sense of belonging there.

If you are in need of refuge because of religious persecution your best bet to be safe would be here in Amsterdam.   Not only do they give asylum to those in need but they are very friendly people who ask no questions.   There is a very good reason why Amsterdam is so heavily populated and many of the rich put their money here and hold their many secrets.   You are safe.

IJburg  is a collection of artificial islands east of the city currently being developed to help deal with Amsterdam’s housing shortage.  Welcome to the windy and watery city.    IJburg is made up of three islands, Steigereiland, Haveneiland and Rieteilanden, in the IJmeer lake east of the city. The islands are connected by bridges along its main artery IJburglaan.   IJburg is also connected to the city with a main bridge and a 15-minute tram ride to Central Station.    A biking/walking bridge connects it to Diemen and Amsterdam Oost.      IJburg equals water. It consists of several islands connected by bridges, has a harbor and the city’s only real beach.     The water reflects in the air and the light is therefore brighter than in the rest of Amsterdam.    The wind blows stronger than in the rest of Amsterdam, like a sea breeze.     The wind blows away the clouds and the sun seems to shine more often.     IJburg feels like a holiday island all year.     IJburg has many tourists who love the combination of modern architecture, water, nature, good restaurants and hip shops.

Ijburg Bridge

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

Image courtesy of anitab0000 at freeimages.com

The 17th century is considered Amsterdam’s Golden Age, during which it became the wealthiest city in the world.   Ships sailed from Amsterdam to the Baltic Sea,  North America, and Africa, as well as present-day Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, and Brazil, forming the basis of a worldwide trading network.   Amsterdam’s merchants had the largest share in both the Dutch East India Company and the Dutch West India Coge Company,   These companies acquired overseas possessions that later became Dutch colonies.   Amsterdam was Europe’s most important point for the shipment of goods and was the leading Financial Center of the world.   In 1602, the Amsterdam office of the Dutch East India Company became the world’s first stock exchange by trading in its own shares.

Amsterdam’s prosperity declined during the 18th and early 19th centuries. The wars of the Dutch Republic with England and France and during the Napoleonic WarsAmsterdam’s significance reached its lowest point, with Holland being absorbed into the French Empire.   But the later establishment of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands in 1815 marked a turning point.   The end of the 19th century is sometimes called Amsterdam’s second Golden Age.   New museums, a train station, and the Concetgebouw were built; at the same time, the Industrial Revolution came about.   The Amsterdam-Rhine Canal was formed to give Amsterdam a direct connection to the Rhine, and the North Sea Canal was formed to give the port a shorter connection to the North Sea.    Both projects dramatically improved commerce with the rest of Europe and the world.   In 1906, Joseph Conrad gave a brief description of Amsterdam as seen from the seaside, in The Mirror of the Sea.

At the beginning of the new millennium, social problems such as safety, ethnic discrimination and segregation between religious and social groups began to develop.   Forty-five percent of the population of Amsterdam has non-Dutch parents.   Large social groups come from Suriname, the Dutch Antilles, Morocco and Turkey.    Amsterdam is characterized by its social tolerance and diversity.   The former mayor of Amsterdam, Job Cohen, and his alderman for integration Ahmed Aboutaleb, Now mayor of Rotterdam, formulated a policy of “keeping things together” which involves social dialogue, tolerance and harsh measures against those who break the law.

Amsterdam has an oceanic climate, Köppen climate classification Cfb, strongly influenced by its proximity to the North Sea to the west, with prevailing westerly winds.  Both winters and summers are considered mild, but there are times when it is a little cold.

Vondelpark is the largest park in Amsterdam.  Vondelpark is near the Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum, the nightlife of Leidseplein, with its famous nightlife and clubs like Paradiso, Melkweg and Jimmy Woo!, has a view overlooking Vondelpark.  There are several buses and trams nearby which go across the city.
Amsterdam is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe, receiving more than 4.63 million international visitors annually, this is excluding the 16 million day trippers visiting the city every year.

 

Amsterdam’s Museums arranged according to the most frequented:

Ann Frank House is where Anne Frank was hiding along with 7 other people from 3 different families for 2 years during World War II.

Van Gogh Museum the largest collection of artwork by Vincent Van Gogh in the world is housed at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.

Rijksmuseum is a grand four floor museum which leads visitors on an exciting chronological journey through the art and history of the Netherlands.

Rembrandt House Museum is located in Jodenbreestraat, Amsterdam and is where the famous Rembrandt resided while he painted many of his famous paintings.

Huis Marseille is the first museum in Amsterdam to be dedicated completely to photography.

Heineken Experience is a historical brewery.  The building serves as a public visitor’s center for tours related to the Heineken beer company.

Stedelijk Museum is the premiere contemporary and modern art museum in Amsterdam.

Museum Van Loon is the name of the old Van Loon house that lives in Amsterdam’s heart.

Zaanse Schans is an attraction that serves as both a museum and an outdoors conservative area. It is located in the Netherlands.

Amsterdam Museum the history of the beautiful city of Amsterdam.  People of 179 different nationalities inhabit this diverse city and this diversity is celebrated with the My Town exhibit.

Allard Pierson Museum collection of antiquities dating all the way back to 4000 B.C.E., This museum holds some of the world’s greatest archeological finds.

Joods Historisch Museum is made up of four synagogues that hold various works of art.

Museum Willet-Holthuysen beautiful period furnishings that won’t be found in other museums.

Science Center NEMO is the largest museum an educational center has five floors hands-on exhibits.

Ons’ Liee Heer op Solder Ons’ Lieve Heer Op Solder translates to Our Lord In The Attic Catholics could worship there at a time when Catholic masses were forbidden

Scheepvaartmuseum The National Maritime Museum

Hash Marihuana & Hemp Museum the museum is dedicated to the history of the cannabis plant.  Believe it or not, cannabis has been a part of human life for thousands of years.

Hortus Botanicus is home to a collection of plants that is very unique.

Tropenmuseum is an anthropological museum

Famous festivals and events in Amsterdam are:  KoninginnedagKoningsdag since the crowning of king Willem-Alexander in 2013, Queen’s Day – King’s Day;  the Holland Festival for the performing arts;  the yearly Prinsengrachtconcert, classical concerto on the Prinsen canal in August;  the “Stille Omgang”, a silent Roman Catholic evening procession held every March;  Amsterdam Gay Pride;  The Cannabis Cup; and the Uitmarkt.  On Koninginnedag—that iwas held each year on April 30th, hundreds of thousands of people travel to Amsterdam to celebrate with the city’s residents and Koningsdag is held on April 27th.   The entire city becomes overcrowded with people buying products from the freemarket, or visiting one of the many music concerts.

The yearly Holland Festival attracts international artists and visitors from all over Europe.   Amsterdam Gay Pride is a yearly local LGBT parade of boats in Amsterdam’s canals, held on the first Saturday in August.   The annual Uitmarkt is a three-day cultural event at the start of the cultural season in late August.   It offers previews of many different artists, such as musicians and poets, who perform on podia.

SPORTS

Amsterdam is home of the Eredivisie football club Ajax Amsterdam.   The stadium Amsterdam ArenA is the home of Ajax.   It is south-east of the city next to the new Amsterdam Bijlmer ArenA railway station.   Before moving to their current location in 1996, Ajax played their regular matches in De Meer Stadion.   In 1928, Amsterdam hosted the Summer Olympics.   The Olympic Stadium built for the occasion has been completely restored and is now used for cultural and sporting events, such as the Amsterdam Marathon.   In 1920, Amsterdam hosted some of the sailing events for the Summer Olympics held in neighboring Antwerp, Belgium by hosting events at Buiten Y.

The city holds the Dam to Dam Run, a 10-mile race from Amsterdam to Zaandam, as well as,  the Amsterdam Marathon.

The ice hockey team Amstel Tijgers play in the Jaap Eden ice rink.   The team competes in the Dutch ice hockey premier league. Speed skating championships have been held on the 400-metre lane of this ice rink.

Amsterdam holds two American Football franchises:  the Amsterdam Crusaders and the Amsterdam Panthers.  The Amsterdam Pirates baseball team competes in the Dutch Major League.   There are three field hockey teams:  Amsterdam, Pinoké and Hurley, who play their matches around the Wagener Stadium in the nearby city of Amstelveen.   The basketball team My Guide Amsterdam competes in the Dutch premier division and play their games in the Sporthallen Zuid.

There is one rugbyclub in Amsterdam, which also hosts sports training classes such as RTC, Rugby Talenten Centrum or Rugby Talent Centre, and the National Rugby stadium.

Since 1999 the city of Amsterdam honours the best sportsmen and women at the Amsterdam Sports Awards.   Boxer Raymond Joval and field hockey midfielder Carole Thate were the first to receive the awards, in 1999.

TRANSPORTATION

Metro, Tram & Bus

The Amsterdam Metro is a mixed subway and above ground commuter rail with various lines, just like in the states.
Eurolines from AmsterdamAmstel railway station, IDBUS from AmsterdamSloterdijk railway station, and Megabus from Zuiderzeeweg is the east of the city.

Car

Amsterdam was intended in 1932 to be the hub, a kind of Kilometre Zero, of the highway system of the Netherlands, with freeways numbered One to Eight planned to originate from the city.

The A10 ringroad surrounding the city connects Amsterdam with the Dutch national network of freeways.  Interchanges on the A10 allow cars to enter the city by transferring to one of the 18 city roads, numbered S101 through to S118. These city roads are regional roads without grade separation, and sometimes without a central reservation.   Most are accessible by cyclists.   The S100 Centrumring is a smaller ringroad circumnavigating the city’s center.

In the city center, driving a car is discouraged.  Parking fees are expensive, and many streets are closed to cars or are one=way.   The local government sponsors carsharing and carpooling initiatives such as Autodelen and Meerijden.nu.

National Rail

Amsterdam Central Station is the city’s main train station

Amsterdam is served by ten stations of the Nederlandse Spoorwegen, Dutch Railways.   Six are intercity stops:   Sloterdijk, Zuid, Amstel, Bijlmer ArenaA, Lelylaan and Amsterdam Centraal.    The stations for local services are:   RAI,  Holendrecht, Muiderpoort and Science Park.   Amsterdam Centraal  is also an international railway station.    From the station there are regular services to Destinations such as:   Austria, Belarus, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Russia and Switzerland.    Among these trains are international trains of the Nederlandse Spoorwegen, Amsterdam-Berlin, and the Thalys, Amsterdam-Brussels-Paris/Lille, CityNightLine, and InterCityExpress, Amsterdam-Cologne-Frankfurt.

Airport

Amsterdam Airport Schiphol ranks as Europe’s 4th busiest airport and the world’s 14th busiest for passenger traffic.   IATA:  AMS, ICAO: EHAM is less than 20 minutes by train from Amsterdam Centraal railway station and is also served by domestic and international intercity trains, such as Thalys and Intercity Brussel.   Schiphol is the largest airport in the Netherlands, the fourth largest in Europe, and the fourteenth largest in the world in terms of passengers.   It handles about 50 million passengers per year and is the home base of four airlines, KLM, transavia.com, Martinair and Arkefly.   As of 2013, Schiphol was the sixth busiest airport in the world measured by international passenger numbers.    Just a note, it makes you wonder Why?  It seems that people have catched on to Amsterdam and their liberal and friendly way of accepting all people.

Cycling

Amsterdam Police Bicyclist cross a bridge over Prinsengracht.

Amsterdam is one of the most bicycle-friendly large cities in the world and is a center of bicycle culture with good facilities for cyclists such as bike paths and  bike racks, and several guarded bike storage garages, called fietsenstalling, which can be used for a nominal fee.   In 2013, there were about  1,200,000 bicycles in Amsterdam outnumbering the amount of citizens in the city.   Theft is widespread – in 2011, about 83,000 bicycles were stolen in Amsterdam.   Bicycles are used by all socio-economic groups because of their convenience, Amsterdam’s small size, the 400 kilometres, 249 miles of bike paths, the flat terrain, and the arguable inconvenience of driving an automobile

 

Hotels in Amsterdam to name a few:

The Toren, Hampshire Hotel – Amsterdam American, Inntel Hotels Amsterdam Centre, Hotel Okura Amsterdam, New West Inn Amsterdam, Amstel Botel, The College Hotel, Movenpick Hotel Amsterdam City Centre, WestCord Fashion Hotel Amsterdam, Hotel CC, Meininger Hotel Amsterdam City West, The Flying Pig Downtown, St. Christophers Inn at the Winston, Amsterdam Houseboats, Volkshotel.

Remember I mentioned on my other country visits how I like going to Pensions/Hostels?  Well,  here is one in the heart of Amsterdam.

Amsterdam has a great hostel called Hostelling International Hostel people say that this hostel offers great value for money, it’s a nice mix for international visitors’ and that they’d recommend it if you want a quiet night in Amsterdam.  They offer delicious Dutch breakfast of cheese, meats, eggs and more.

This modern Hostelling International hostel is centrally located right in the middle of the famous Vondelpark, within walking distance of the Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum.    They have 536 beds divided over two-, four-, six- and eight-bedded rooms and some large dormitories.   All rooms have a shower, toilet and washbasin and free individual lockers, bring your own padlock or buy one at reception.   Rates include bed linen, breakfast, taxes and free Wi-Fi.    City tax is not included, please pay upon arrival, €1.25 per person per night.

 

Restaurants in Amsterdam according to your taste are as follows:

European, International, French, Italian, Indonesian, Thai, Mexican, Moroccan, Cafes, Mediterranean, Fast Food, Bakeries, Tapas, Pizzerias, South American, Vietnamese, Turkish, Ethiopian, Spanish, Burgers, Caribbean, Middle Eastern, etc.

Remember Amsterdam is very diverse and they welcome all nationalities.

 

De Wallen, also known as Walletjes or Rosse Buurt, is a designated area for legalised prostitution and is Amsterdam’s largest and most well known red-light district.  This neighborhood has become a famous attraction for tourists.  It consists of a network of roads and alleys containing several hundred small, one-room apartments rented by sex workers who offer their services from behind a window or glass door, typically illuminated with red lights, similar to New Orlean’s Mardi Gras.

 

 

Introduction featured image on top courtesy of michaelaw at freeimages.com

 

 

 

 

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