Amsterdam was such fun, guys, I guess everybody should visit it once. That might actually be enough for some... =)
It's a bustling city whatever you might read of it. I haven't seen people rushing to work or feeling pressured about anything (well, it was a Sunday), but there are TONS of tourists in all directions. We did enjoy our afternoon though. We got to Shiphol Airport (sorry, this still sounds funny...) around 2pm and then arrived at the Central Station in Amsterdam in about 15 minutes or so. Loved the train, reminded me a lot of the double decked trains of the Cote d'Azur, a memory I've always cherished. And then the city was... well, very interesting.
Having heard of Amsterdam from some friends who'd just visited, I already had some expectations. Some were confirmed, of course, but you cannot imagine the city till you really explore it yourself. As we'd read about cruises along the canals, and we quite liked the idea, we set out from the station to find one. In the wrong direction (North-East). We got to the harbor or what seemed to be the harbor and felt a bit (or a bit more) confused at the HUGE crowd pouring in both directions down what's called a Loop Route. It turned out to be some national seafaring day or something, because there were funny looking pirate ships around, and, well, the crowd. And lots and lots of ships everywhere. As far as we could see there were ships of all sorts and sizes, carrying many many people in all possible directions. We were kidding about culture shock, but there you can easily get one, I'm sure.
After trying our hand of credit and debit cards at a ship cruise office, none of which seemed to work, we gave up the hunt and for good. As we learned earlier, we'd been barking up the wrong mast. The good cruises leave from the other side of the station, by the little canals. No one should take the one that goes around the harbor. Might be funny but I'm not sure if it's worth it. So (as we didn't know about the other offices) we headed inland and spent the better part of the afternoon crossing canal after canal (there seemed to be a hundred of them) and strolling the little streets full of dubious herb shops and bars.
Amsterdam has its own charm, but it's difficult to see at first. After Geneva it seems a lot more chaotic and one really has to spend some time in this funky city to understand its language. And here I don't mean Dutch. It's just that all the crowds and the winding streets full of weird places made me feel really stunned at first. Believe me, it is stunning. It's such a flurry of colors, noises and scents (you know what I mean...) that one might feel the need to adjust. But it goes quickly and then the whole thing feels like one of those college parties I vaguely remember (no, not because of all the pot).
We meandered through the little streets and the bigger ones that felt just as narrow and had an amazing late lunch at a real Ditch restaurant, along one of the canals. All the people around us were speaking Dutch and the specialties board confirmed our choice. The wonderful vegetarian special was an Asian flavored rice and veggies dish with fresh cheese and ruccola leaves on top. Mental note to myself: fresh cheese customizes Asian dishes very nicely and adds an intriguing flavor and such freshness that I'll definitely try this at home!
Is Amsterdam a city I'd like to visit again? Yes, probably. There's a lot of charm to it, especially if you detach from the hoards of tourists. The canals with their little houses on both sides, which are so thin and tall and typically colored. Some look as if they'd be toppling over themselves the next moment. I don't know why none of the houses seem to have been built totally vertical, but it is co funny and charming, one just must take a photo of each one of them! If I were that girl, I'd love to party the streets all nigh and then return to my sweet abode in one of these topsy-turvy little brick cakes of houses. And wake the next morning to the cries of seagulls an sip some horrible tasting but wonderful smelling Dutch coffee looking down the little canal at my doorstep.