After a great visit with our friends the Boggs, in Wassenaar in western Netherlands, we made our way to Amsterdam for a 5-day visit. Our trip happened to coincide with the annual national holiday – Queen’s Day. This year was especially exciting as the Queen (Beatrice) had announced she would abdicate the throne to her son, Willem Alexander. This would therefore be the last “Queen’s Day” for a while as next year the country would celebrate King’s day – in honor of the new monarch. The holiday itself is a country-wide celebration and is particularly boisterous in Amsterdam. There is much drinking of beer, wearing of orange and… trade of used personal items?! That is correct. The entire city is turned into a kind of large rummage sale. So as you walk around the city locals have dragged out their items for sale and display them on blankets and tables. You can wander from block to block buying beer, listening to music, watching revelers pass by on party boats and shop for everything that you would expect to see at a giant neighborhood garage sale.
After the big party and the following day of cleanup, Amsterdam returned to normal – or at least as normal as Amsterdam gets. It really is a fascinating and beautiful city. The canals and old dutch buildings are fantastic to see. The museums are abundant – including fine art of the masters at the Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum and fun science and technology displays at NEMO. City tours show off the various highlights of the city including beautiful residential areas and parks, numerous canals, the Anne Frank House and Museum, the Royal Palace and the Heineken experience. Amsterdam is a truly diverse city. Statistics show that residents of Amsterdam represent over 170 different nationalities – making it the most diverse city in Europe. Walking the streets of Amsterdam a visitor will see a true rainbow of ethnicities. It makes for a vibrant and interesting city that is full of surprises. The long-standing social leniency of Amsterdam also allows for a multitude of coffee shops that are like no others in the world and a red-light district that any visitor to the city should pass through at least once.
We really enjoyed Amsterdam and found it to be more interesting than many cities we have visited. Like New Orleans in the United States, Amsterdam has a mysterious side that is intriguing and a perhaps a bit dangerous. Getting a little outside your comfort zone is what travel is about, and Amsterdam provides plenty of opportunities to do that.