We are on day 15 of walking the city of Amsterdam. I’m finally starting to understand how the streets are laid out and can sometimes navigate to our apartment or a cup of coffee. I think once you get the city it makes sense (like any other place) but Amsterdam is tricky. There are close to zero major landmarks (or the mountain guide in Colorado) to provide assistance. Most of the city was built in the 17th century (also known as the ‘Golden Age’) when the Dutch were jumping on the whole colonization-band-wagon (i.e. Dutch East India Company). So, the Dutch started building up their port city of Amsterdam that was below sea level. (Wooden beams anchored in wet lowlands don’t provide a lot of support over 5 stories.) But the Dutch prevailed by digging canals, pumping out water, and were successful in reclaiming land from the sea for their unique short skyline. I have never visited a major city quite like Amsterdam. The quaint architecture and style continues along every canal that circles the center. It appears that the Golden Age exerted enough influence that the entire city was built at one time and has been virtually left untouched. Hence, the reason one can easily lose their way. “Are we on that charming tree lined street with the sidewalk cafe? or Is this the street with the yummy ice cream and gilded bridge?” I didn’t even know when we entered the Red Light District…I thought there would be some indication of seediness; flashing lights, littered streets, or signs. Instead, we were just walking along another peaceful street during the day…When, bam! Girl in a window. (disclaimer: this is not to say the Red Light District wasn’t shocking, it was. I was just expecting something flashier, like if Vegas had legal prostitution). The cities compacted nature casts a golden glow on all and the more seedy areas (that are in every city and usually much larger) appear to be more controlled and cleaner. Although, Amsterdam only has a population around 800,000 which might limit the less appealing aspects of a city.
The structures of Amsterdam stand through the ages and welcome new people and cultures. The welcoming encourages all to utilize the bricks that stand. Modern malls and shops surround old squares where merchants used to bring in goods (kind of similar) and a number of historic churches now host plays and pop artists. Starbucks has claimed a beautiful location on the second floor of the train station. Gorgeous 14 foot ceilings draped with elegant window furnishings reminiscent of the past. Another Starbucks boasts a colonial Dutch map with blue tiles resembling traditional Delft pottery. Cities and landscapes all over the world have inspired wanderlust for generations and I’m incredibly grateful for the time we’ve already had in this golden city.