Exceeding Expectations


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Europe » Netherlands » North Holland » Amsterdam
January 20th 2013
Published: January 21st 2013EDIT THIS ENTRY

IAmSterdamIAmSterdamIAmSterdam

Welcome to Amsterdam! Thanks Schiphol Airport
For most people travelling to a top tourist destination for the first time, we are heading there with an already pre-conceived notion of what to expect. An idea of the landscape, the people, the culture or the food perhaps. Most often we base this on word-of-mouth knowledge; stories that our friends & family have provided as to what that place might be like. For me travelling to Amsterdam was no different. As I am sure for many of you as well, Amsterdam was a city that I had often heard stories about, both good & bad, from all sorts of people in all walks of life. But the most common opinion or ideal which I think many of us hold is that this place: is party central. It turns out that yes in a way this is true, but on the other hand that is the very LEAST of what this magical place truly has to offer.
I journeyed to Amsterdam hoping to find some relaxation and a vacation from my currently quite hectic Venetian life. As I stepped on the plane Friday morning I felt that giddy sense of excitement in anticipation for what I thought I would find.
Centraal StationCentraal StationCentraal Station

Main hub of all trains, in and out of Amsterdam
To be totally honest, I too thought this was going to be a weekend to let loose and enjoy the Amsterdam I thought I knew. How very wrong I was indeed haha. Turns out two days before leaving I started feeling a little under the weather. I was not about to let this ruin my weekend however so I threw on a brave face, tried to rest and refuel as much as I could prior to take off, and away I went.
As I first arrived in Schiphol Airport I was already surprised by what I discovered. One of the most organized airports I have ever been too, the cleanest as well. And ENGLISH on almost every sign I saw haha. As I passed a Starbucks immediately on my right I chuckled thinking, "wow I am really not in Italy anymore!". But yet nothing about it felt like North America either. For starters, my 5'3" stature basically meant I was a dwarf in a country full of gorgeous, blond giants! It was like I had stepped in to another dimension, for that stereotype really does ring true here!! But everywhere I turned I saw smiling faces and was greeted
Canal+BikeCanal+BikeCanal+Bike

My first image of many similar.. a bike on a bridge, overlooking a canal :)
by most people I passed in an adorable Dutch accent. It felt like I had found a strangely perfect combination of my ancestry, the Dutch language hit a soft spot with the German in me, yet the uber Scandinavian look of these beautiful people made me feel like I was getting my first taste of my Mom's Swedish side. (SIDE NOTE: I am super proud to say I got mistaken for a Swede FOUR whole times during the weekend.. never before has this ever happened to me haha).
And the organization and ease of the city continued. The train right to Centraal Station was a breeze, finding the hostel was even easier! Only a short 10 min walk down streets with which had names that I will never possibly be able to pronounce haha. But what struck me the most when we first stepped out in to the brisk winter air, was how BEAUTIFUL this place was! I guess I just didn't imagine that a city with a reputation for legal prostitution would some how be one of the most architecturally breath-taking sights I had ever seen! Immediately at that moment I knew my plans for the weekend had
CanalsCanalsCanals

My first official Amsterdam "canal shot"
changed. I no longer had any interest to party the three days away, instead my inner history buff was screaming.. MAKE TIME TO SEE ALL OF THIS PLEASE! The problem though, is that there is literally endless things to see and do. I think a week in Amsterdam would only be enough to give you a taste of what it really has to offer. And I know now that my three days there were not nearly enough to explore all I wished I could have.
But again this is the other problem, because yes museums and monuments and exhibits are fascinating, but the other point of Amsterdam is to really soak in the culture and understand just why this city is so incredibly tolerant and open-minded. I did something on Friday night that in most European cities there is not a chance a lone single female could do, I went for dinner solo (to one of the best Thai restaurants I have ever been..) and then I proceeded to stroll through the Red Light District alone for almost two hours. Why would I do this might you ask? Well for starters it was one of the safest places I
Tulips in WinterTulips in WinterTulips in Winter

Damsrak Square. Center of Amsterdam, Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum in the background
have ever been. And secondly, I had no intentions of getting trapped in a loud crowded bar when I could be out on the street really seeing what there was to be seen. And although I pride myself on being very open-minded, I will still admit that the truly out-in-the-open atmosphere of the Red Light district still shocked me at first. Everywhere I turned there were women behind glass walls, displaying their goods to the world. The funny thing was, no part of it felt dirty or inappropriate to me. It didn't even seem that "sex-driven" to be honest. They weren't doing anything that would offend anyone walking by, simply showing off the wares to those who were interested. And the strangest thing to me was that, because it was so out in the open, something about it seemed completely normal. Instead of dirty, or shameful. The same goes for the marijuana coffee bars & shops that line almost every street corner. When you take away the stigma of "illegal/wrong/disallowed" people all of a sudden seem to change their whole attitude towards things. Yes of course I saw drunken people. Yes of course some people were rowdy and belligerent. But
Royal PalaceRoyal PalaceRoyal Palace

Opposite Madame Tussaud's in Damsrak
there are always one or two everywhere. And to be honest, I didn't see any hard drugs. I never saw any fights. All I saw were people all over truly enjoying themselves in a very relaxed environment.
As I have already written half a novel here, I will continue on in another blog in the coming days. I just wanted to give you all a little update on the weekend and some fresh reading material for the always boring Monday at the office! I am told that many of you are actually reading this, and in fact excited to hear more. I can't tell you how truly blessed & loved this makes me feel! For anyone that knows me, I have always been a little more chatty than most (ha ha!) and the fact that anyone cares to actually read what I have to share, makes me feel a lot less lonely here on the other side of the world! So thank you one & all. And I promise to keep writing and sharing my adventures with you all! Ciao ciao for now xo.


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Anne Frank Huis on the left, a cathedral tower in the background


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