These were the elements of Amsterdam that resonated with us the most during our first ten days here. We found it entertaining to look back on this after being here longer. Maybe you will too. Our thoughts have since evolved. Take a look at what we thought initially.
On Thursday August 13, we arrived to Amsterdam, the capital city in the Netherlands. It was a warm and sunny day—something we were told to enjoy because it won’t last. Sure enough, it was cloudy and rainy three days in a row. Then, it was warm and sunny again. Today we overheard a waitress telling some fellow diners that the only nice months out of the calendar year are June, July, August, and September. “Otherwise its rainy, cold, and dark,” she said. A Dutch friend has said talking about the weather relatively frequently is a common practice.
It is very diverse in terms of so many nationalities in one place. The official welcome book from the Expat center reports that there are 178 nationalities in Amsterdam. And we’ve seen that. You can hear people speaking many different languages or speaking English to each other with strong foreign accents. In the midst of it all, it’s difficult to know who is actually of Dutch heritage. Which is cool.
Biking culture is big here. Amsterdam is not car friendly and encourages biking instead. We have found the bike culture a little overwhelming. The people on bikes will run over you, your baby, your dog, your grandma, or whoever else gets in their way. We haven’t seen this with our own eyes, but we feel this could easily be the case. We plan on getting bikes, but no helmets. We would look like the largest of lames in this city wearing a helmet or using any type of safety gear whatsoever. People of all sizes and ages, from adults to infants and preschool age children, are found riding bikes or being escorted with no helmet. no knee pads, no nothing. We must figure out how to ride in style immediately, our lives depend on it.
The Food and Drink
There is good food here. Fresh juice, good beef, fresh veggies in the salads, etc. Coffee is at a premium in Amsterdam. There are so many cafes that put a certain overly hyped American coffee franchise to shame. We went down a seemingly low key and unassuming alley and discovered Chinese, Mediterranean, Indian, Tibetan, and Nepalese food all on one block. Not to mention a whisky bar, a piano bar, and two corner stores stocked with cheap beer, wine, and snacks. This was all within a relatively close radius to our residence.
Bread and cheese are staples in Dutch cuisine, and you can expect them to be apart of most meals. Literally, people eat these two items for breakfast, lunch, a snack, and maybe even again at dinner.
We ate at a very cool restaurant on our third day of being here. Japanese Pancake World is the only restaurant in Amsterdam that prepares Japanese Pancakes. Scrumptious!
Tap water here is drinkable but restaurants typically charge you for it if you request it. You should not assume that you will have complimentary water with your meal when you eat out. On the bright side, Heineken is sometimes cheaper than the tap water. G really likes cheap Heinies (pun intended), and their brewery is only about 5 minutes away.
SAIL week is happening. We were lucky to catch this since it comes once every five years. People sail to this lake which used to be a bay, and they travel from many different parts of the globe, representing some tens to hundreds of countries, and this is the largest event of its kind in the entire world. That is no wikipedia reference, that’s word in these streets. Straight from the source, a local Dutchman who was raised in a town about 45 kilometers southwest of the city. That’s right, kilometers, not miles. Upon arriving, you immediately notice the insane amount of boats, their range in size, and the representation of flags. It looked as if the United Nations decided to have a meeting on the lake. What’s the one thing that all the boats have in common, other than a sail? It’s the visible joy on every persons face who are on the boats and ships. People were partying in the middle of the lake, also in the surrounding canals that run throughout all of the center part of the city. They were enjoying various sprits, wines, cheeses, and breads. Enjoying all of this while cruising through a beautiful city via the comfort of a calming boat ride on the canals and lake. This is the perfect event for any sailor, no matter the size of the boat. It’s all about the motion in the ocean (that’s what she said).