Tag Archives: amsterdam

Food Series Post: Amsterdam


Picture this. I’m in Amsterdam and really hungry. I don’t know where I want to eat, but I decide that it must be a nice-looking restaurant. So I found Mario’s. It’s a nice little place with a great view of Centraal Station. I sat down, enjoyed the wonderful scenery, and waited to be served. When the nice waitress came to me I learnt that “closed” in Dutch is “eindigen” and that “open” is, well “open”! When I asked her what was the most Dutch thing I could have, I also learnt that the restaurant I was so comfortably sitting in was in fact Italian, and only served Italian food. I was stuck with a pizza. Well, stuck is a bit insulting, seeing as it was absolutely delicious! I hardly drink alcohol, but decided that in the name of cultural exploration, I would have a sample of Heineken. If my solid food was going to be Italian, I could at least sample the most Dutch of beers while I was Holland!

Cheers to Amsterdam!

 

 

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Videopost: What I Liked Most (Amsterdam)

The bicycle culture of the city is something to be admired. Watching and speaking with the locals, I was able to compile a little video. Hope you like it!

Travel Update: In Amsterdam

Travel Update

When arriving to Amsterdam via train, you will most likely exit from the Amsterdam Centraal Station. Centraal Station dominates the landscape its established atop, can be seen from many places in the city, and is probably the best marker on any map of the city you’ll use.

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Of course, markers and maps are only as good as your ability to apprehend your present position in relation to those previous and/or your ability to decipher the names of streets or important landmarks nearby. In Amsterdam, I found my self either to be sufficiently lacking, or the city to be an all-powerful and omniscient conspirator against my cause.

Like me, you will come to see, my friends, that booking your hostel before you arrive at your destination is best. It secures your accommodations against unscheduled uncertainties, it locks in a reasonable price, the required deposit acts almost like a savings mechanism to help your toward achieving your total trip goal, and most of all, it makes you aware of where you’re going when you step off your plane, bus, boat, or train. In all these points, except the last, my journey to Amsterdam mirrored these ideal benefits. When plotting the location of my hostel, I had saved google maps as PDFs to give me directions from the station. Well, somehow, I was walking around for at least two hours looking for the hostel walking this way and that and ended up asking people who thought they knew where it was and people who didn’t.

When I discovered the general location of the hostel I almost jumped into the canal out of anger. The Google rendition was horrible as it had placed the hostel on a main street, when it was actually on a side street branching off from it. But Google wasn’t fully to blame for my protracted detour as much as the city planners were! The city is designed in a way that makes walking long distances when looking for unrecognizable places totally necessary (unless you can get your hands on one of the many bicycles for rent). Within the bounds of the old city, a large amount of its streets are placed in a semi-circular pattern radiating from the area of Centraal Station. The distinctiveness of the area is also enhanced by a very handsome and ubiquitous element, the canal system. Although aesthetically pleasing, however, the canals that run through the middle of each street in this section, make answering the perennial question of “why did the chicken cross the road?” really easy: either he was really into walking two-block distances or  he liked swimming.

To be continued…

Amsterdam

Holland vs. Netherlands

When I called my credit card company and had them authorize my card for international purchase, I had to list every country I wanted to use it in. When it came to this northern European state, I took a pause, as I was accustomed to the use of either name given in the section heading. Well, for the credit card company, for future courtesies abroad, and for my own personal increase, I decided to do a bit of research. Typing in Holland in many fact-finding web sites will redirect you to the page for the Netherlands, but there has to be a difference right? Well, the answer is both yes and noHolland properly refers to the geographic region presently occupied by two western Dutch coastal provinces: North Holland and South Holland. The word is commonly used as a pars pro toto (a term describing a concept called by the name of one of its lesser parts), with this region of the Netherlands, being used to refer to the whole.

Dutch in other provinces, understandably, do not like this designation, and as far as possible, the country should be referred to as the Netherlands when visiting. The Netherlands is notable in that Amsterdam is established by the constitution as the country’s capital. However, Den Haag (The Hague) playing host to the parliament, government, supreme court, and embassies and international organization headquarters,  is the seat of government.

Pedestrianism

One of the things that will immediately strike you is the amount of road space dedicated to bicyclists. Check out the upcoming video post!

The Coffeeshops

You will definitely see many coffeeshops (written as one word in Dutch) in the Netherlands. Although it is illegal to sell the drug in the country, they are licensed to sell cannabis in small quantities to consumers without fear of legal reprimand. They must, however, operate within limits (e.g. they cannot sell to persons under the age of 18).  As recently as April of this year however, the ban of the sale of such products to foreigners has been upheld by Dutch courts.

 
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The Street Names

The streets in Amsterdam were often confusing to find on a map. Asking for directions was also a chore, seeing as I had no idea at first how to pronounce the German Eszett (“ß”). Hint: It’s pronounced like a long or double s. Even when words looked simple enough, like the street sign pictured in the gallery, the locals weren’t able to understand me.

The XXX Symbol

This symbol that you will see emblazoned across many a street or sign has nothing to do red light districts or the sort. What appear to be x‘s are actually Saint Andrew’s Crosses like those that appear in the coat of arms of Amsterdam and on the Amsterdam official Flag. There are different theories as to their meaning, but one says that they were derived from the coat of arms of a noble whose estate once covered a large part of the city.

Heineken

As you may or may not know, Heineken, one of the most awesome beers ever brewed [not an endorsement] is Dutch. In Amsterdam, the old brewery has been transformed into the Heineken Experience, a great tourist attraction that I was unable to visit due to my short stay in the city.