There are many beautiful cities in Europe, but Amsterdam is unique. Amsterdam’s beauty lies in its sublime hush – something that one yearns for in their chaotic urban lifestyle. City streets, devoid of automobiles, look serene. The only sounds that fill the chilly breeze are the occasional ringing of bicycle bells and the gentle sound of water flowing in the canals around. Unusual, unconventional and unique- Amsterdam is a place where travel becomes more than just sightseeing.
A bird’s eye view of the city is truly astounding. The city spans out from the centre, in the shape of a crescent, with rows of concentric canals, known as the Grachtengordel, embracing the heart of the city. It is mesmerizing to see the exquisite view from a height- it’s like a queen’s precious pendant floating in limitless sapphire seas.
The Netherlands was one of the wealthiest and most seafaring nations of North Europe. Ships sailed from Amsterdam for Dutch explorations and voyages to distant, exotic continents. The entire city was redesigned and restored after the Second World War (1939-1945). Exhibiting true European dedication towards the preservation of cultural heritage, all structures of importance were carefully protected. Today, when one stands in the Dam square, Amsterdam’s central square, it is not difficult to imagine how the scene would have been, some centuries back. The architecture and landscape, so carefully preserved, is still as grand as it ever was. One is awed to look at the stately neoclassical Royal Palace and the 15th-century Gothic New Church that are situated there. Tram lines zigzagging across the streets are the only installations of modern times.
It’s a city of curiosities and the best way to explore it is by getting lost in it without a map! Fresh air, clear skies, an occasional drizzle, a few bicycles dashing by, all this makes even a casual walk down a lane memorable. The famous Cannabis coffee shops are everywhere in the city. Cannabis coffee shops are a perfect place to taste Dutch brownies or “space cakes”, as they call them, fresh herbal juice, and interact with the natives over a cup of hot coffee. These coffee shops can also sell up to 5 grams of soft drugs legally- a true example of Dutch unconventionality.
You can find a perfect blend of modernity and tradition in Amsterdam. The city is home to numerous museums on all kinds of subjects like art and artifacts, history and some unique ones like a museum on the history of marijuana. Het Museumplein or the Museum Square, located at the city centre, is where the most significant Dutch artifacts and relics are put on display. The most prominent names on the square are the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum. However, it is rather difficult to find the parliament house in the city, as it does not have one! Though Amsterdam is the capital city of the Netherlands, the centre of politics is in The Hague.
Evenings bring out the true character of the city and it is no fun walking when you can take a ferry. A ferry ride in the canals is the best way to spend an easy, yet lively evening in Amsterdam. The canals are a culmination of skilful city planning, and this is the reason why Amsterdam is known as the Venice of the North. It is enchanting to gaze at the quaint buildings, baroque architecture and quiet streets, as city lights glimmer under the dusky sky. The ferry ride even takes you to the vibrant red light district of Amsterdam, where one can see all the brightness and show from a safe distance.
“No journey carries one far unless, as it extends into the world around us, it goes an equal distance into the world within”, wrote Lillian Smith, the celebrated American writer. Amsterdam’s peaceful environment mysteriously soothes the soul. One returns with a feeling of wholesomeness and brightness, to embark on another journey afresh.