Continuing my theme of writing about past places I have visited, I thought I’d talk about Amsterdam. I’ve now been 3 times and it’s one of the places I would happily move to tomorrow if given the opportunity. I think it’s a mixture of the memories I have of going (I went for my 21st birthday and had an amazing time with 2 fantastic friends) which create a nostalgic feel, the fact that everyone speaks English which as a woman (or anyone in fact) makes me feel quite safe and secure. Add to that the beauty and friendliness of the city itself and you have a surefire winner with me. Of course if you love those special cigarettes it might well be high on your list (and possibly not the only thing that’s high either) but… I’m assuming everyone knows about that great tourist trap so this post is about those slightly more unknown treats in Amsterdam that are a wee bit further off the beaten track :)
As always my photos from a few years ago aren’t great due to being taken on a camera phone, but hopefully you get the idea anyway. Having been 3 times I’ve had the opportunity to explore Amsterdam off the beaten track a little. I’ve done all the usual things on my 1st visit (spending far too long in all the cafes, visiting the sex museum etc), so the next 2 times I went I tried to do something different.
Being a hippie at heart and always having had a n affinity with buddhism although I’d never describe myself as practising; it was great to find a fully functioning Chinese Buddhist Temple ‘Fo Guang Shan’, right in the centre of Amsterdam. Not many people I’ve met know about it and it offered a really peaceful break from the bustle and ‘greenery’ of the city.
Located in Amsterdam’s Chinatown at, Zeedijk 106-118, 1012 BB AMSTERDAM. I really recommend going if you can. It is a centre for meditation but also offers tours. According to tourist information, “the animals on the roof represent the Chinese Zodiac. The dragon is thought to protect the entire temple grounds. The buildings flanking the temple house the Buddhist nuns and a library. The characteristic architecture of these buildings makes for an unusual juxtaposition with the typical Dutch buildings surrounding the temple.”
Wandering further afield on my 3rd visit took me to the real life fairy tale castle that is Muiderslot. It was a bit of an adventure to get there – it took 2 trains, a bus and a bit of a walk but it was well worth the visit. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more perfect representation of a fairytale castle up to date. It’s included in the UNESCO world heritage sites and dates back to the 13th Century. It was built by Count Floris V but 300 years later was inhabited by ‘the Dutch Shakespeare’ Pieter Corneliszoon Hooft. The castle is huge, with it’s own moat which comes with picturesque lilly pads. It’s a real family day out with plenty to do and see – there’s a fanatic armoury, and an interactive quest for children and adults alike. I happened to go on a gorgeous hot day and the actual town of Muiden is also very beautiful too. According to tourist information you get there by the following instructions:
Your Connexxion 1 day or 3 days ticket for the Amsterdam Region is also valid on bus 320, 322, 327 and 328 from Amsterdam Amstel Station to Muiden/Muiderslot. Take the train to Weesp and a bus to Muiden or cycle along the river Vecht in 15 minutes to Muiden.
From March 30st 2013 you van take the ferry from Amsterdam IJburg, tram 26 from the Central Station, to the castle. A great trip away from the city. For information and bookings: http://www.veerdienstmuiderslot.nl
As you can see the Castle also boasts some lovely gardens where they hold battles and a falconry. It’s all set in the midst of some peaceful countryside too by the river so it made for a nice walk back to the station.
One of the reasons I love Amsterdam is it’s architecture. It manages to merge the quaint with the modern, culture and history with liberal laws on marijuana consumption and it also appears to do it with comparatively few social problems. Now I know the sex district and the drug culture worries some but it’s not something you even notice unless you purposefully venture to those areas – or at least that’s what I found anyway.
My favourite cafe in Amsterdam is called the dolphins – it has trippy underwater murals downstairs and sells some of the best greenery in the city (in my opinion) – if you like that kind of thing then I fully recommend a trip there (if it’s still open of course)!
Even writing this post has just made me want to go back – Amsterdam most definitely stole my heart!
I loved this little house near to Muiden … although I think it would be the city in one of the higgledy piggledy town houses that I’d ultimately choose to live, overlooking the canal right in the middle of the city hubbub.
So there you have it … my 1st love but hopefully the 1st of many to come. One day I really hope I get the opportunity to live in this city even if only for a few months. Barge life does also appeal in many ways although maybe not in the winter months!