Madrid is a wonderful city to be in for the opportunities it presents, but there are many times when I feel the need to get out. So far, I’ve been able to do that a few times, and while I have yet to discuss every destination visited thus far, a post on my recent escapade to Amsterdam was an absolute must.
Amsterdam is a city I knew absolutely nothing about before last year. I had never once thought about it, unlike many wannabe-travelers who know about the city’s reputation as a wonderful hang-out spot. I just never had the desire to go, as it seemed more like a city to live in for a while rather than one to visit as a tourist. Last year, however, I met a few exchange students from Amsterdam who peaked my interest in the city. It was around the same time that I started looking into graduate schools that I would want to apply to in the future – one of them being one in Amsterdam. From what they had told me, the city was somewhat similar to my hometown, and yet it was nothing like it. Looking back now, that contradiction is Amsterdam in a nutshell.
Now, Amsterdam has a reputation for being the relaxed traveler’s haven. As someone who’s now been there, I can say that it’s true – it’s the place to go if you’re into that kind of thing. It’s the kind of place you should go if you absolutely love to hang out, to chill, to be as low key as you can be when going out. It’s the kind of place I would have loved three years ago.
That isn’t to say I didn’t like Amsterdam at all; there was much to appreciate. I loved the architecture – while gloomy, it suited the city quite well, and it felt like Europe (which Madrid often doesn’t). The people are nice, speak English extremely proficiently, and the city itself boasts several signs all over for visitors to find their way without ever having to ask for directions. The canals are magnificent, the boathouses are a marvel, and the city is as open-minded-while-also-reserved as any city could ever be. Amsterdam is a tourist’s paradise, and at the same time, it’s not. It’s unlike any other city I’ve ever visited, and that’s saying a lot. No remnants of the city felt familiar, and at the same time, I never once felt uncomfortable in a too-distant-from-me kind of way. The city left me questioning it and wondering about it; there was little to derive from my somewhat short visit, yet it wasn’t that short at all.
The major highlight of Amsterdam for me came on the very last day; a not-so-sneaky sneak-into Amsterdam Arena, where major footballing club AFC Ajax play. As a friend of mine and I visited the stadium, we didn’t expect to be let in, but a fellow tourist let us in and somehow we managed to waltz into the stadium with no security. It was a fantastic sight to see for me, especially, as football has been a major passion of mine since I was a kid. It is with that final visit that my trip to Amsterdam was complete; and while I didn’t visit any coffee shops or even go boating, I felt I got a good grasp of what Amsterdam is all about while not having done much in the city at all. At the end of the day, it was a major check off my European-cities-to-visit list!
Here are some photos of the trip. Next time, I’ll get to Sevilla and some of the other Spanish destinations I’ve visited thus far!