In my recent travels to Europe I had the opportunity to visit Frankfurt, Paris and Amsterdam. Of the three destinations I had only allotted a mere 24 hours in Amsterdam with the notion that my other destinations would have more to offer, both architecturally and culturally. I stand humbly corrected. Of the three destinations, I was most pleasantly surprised by Amsterdam’s stunning vistas and richness in history and a culture that only left me wanting more.
After creating the world’s first Stock Exchange in 1602, Amsterdam (coined after its route origin from the dam in the river Amstel) became the world’s most important port during the Dutch Golden Age. Although it is now known for more fringe attributes, I was astounded to learn that Amsterdam has more spectacular canals than Venice, along with countless number of bridges and residential architecture from a diverse array of schools of design such as Gothic, Dutch Renaissance, French Baroque, modern day contemporary, along with its very own school of style, Amsterdamse. This remarkable blend of structures, including the famous “dancing houses”, astutely line four main canals that form concentric half-circles through the city centre and flow between the Amstel river and IJ bay. It is truly a sight to be seen.
The Eastern Docklands of Amsterdam, known as “Java Island” is a marvel of modern architectural design. Constructed in 1995 and designed by 2 artists, Guy Rombouts and Monika Droste, this small island is composed of 9 “fool’s bridges” over 4 canals. This area is packed with narrow rows of houses designed by 19 different architects. You will find pedestrian and cyclist traffic to the north and a shopping promenade to the south.
Amsterdam is the business and financial capital of the Netherlands and, despite its well-to-do status, is also one of the world’s largest bicycle-friendly cities that includes all socio-economic groups of people. I was surprised to see the hundreds of bicycles in rows and, sometimes unorganized, piles of tightly parked bicycles at almost every street corner. I found the city to be clean, the people genuine and dining to exceed my every expectation. Walking the streets and feeling the essence of these easy going Dutch while soaking in the beauty and history of this unique waterway city makes for a vacation worthy of an extended stay.