Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Amsterdam: Een mooie dag in de stad van Kanalen

Amsterdam, the official capital of Netherlands, is a mix of 13th Century architecture and modern era lifestyle. The old architecture is solely visible in buildings, markets, canals, houses etc. whereas the modern lifestyle is visible in pubs, bars, drugs, clothes etc. It was during the cold weather when I was there in Holland’s working Capital City Den Haag in December, and on a weekend we decided to visit Amsterdam for a day. In the morning we took a tram from our hotel in Den Haag to the central station from where we took fast train to Amsterdam (that cost us around 17 euros each for return ticket, valid upto 12 midnight), that meant that I had to catch the return train latest by 10pm from Amsterdam. We had to pay 1 euro extra for each ticket as we did not use the automatic machine to purchase ticket and rather bothered the lady at the manual ticket counter, we did not dare to take a chance at automatic machine since all was written in Dutch on the various buttons on the machine. It was a double storey train, two classes, first class and general class, and the general class better than our luxury class in an Indian train, spacious, table between seats, newspapers, electrical points for mobile charging and no dust or a minute piece of waste on the floor or seats. Seats were as comfortable as they can be. The scenic view throughout the way was full of huge fields, cattle, canals, large office complexes (many international companies could be seen like IBM, HP, Sony etc.). A little of the passage was through tunnel also. In next two hours we were at Amsterdam Station. The loo was very clean and could be utilized by paying 1 Euro per visit. Just outside the station is tram station for local travel. 
The center of Amsterdam is shaped like a horseshoe, surrounded by four famous canals called the Herengracht, Keizersgracht, Singel and Prinsengracht. These four canals meet at centre at central Dam Square on which Dam Palace is built. On the south of Central Station, there is the world famous (or infamous, depending on how you look at it) Red Light District, the area has many adult shops and peep show bars but there is heavy police presence, and many security cameras to take care of the visitors. Although it is warned repeatedly that you have to take care of wallets and belongings as chances of pick-pocketing are quite high in this area. The official tour in this area is only in the night time. Amsterdam and Den Haag have several excellent museums and two of the best are next to each other in Amsterdam namely The Van Gogh Museum, that houses some of his most famous masterpieces comprising of his work right from his youth in Holland till his death in France. The museum is open every day between 10:00 and 18:00 hours and till 22:00 hours in Friday. Very near to this is a 250-room Rijksmuseum containing one of the best Rembrandt collections in the world. Although at that time the main building of the museum was under renovation, still major art work is at display in the Philips wing of this museum which is open every day between 09:00 and 18:00 hours.
Don’t forget to walk around in the main market adjacent to red light area and on a walking distance from the station. Also spare some time to walk around the canals and the roads to pass through age old architecture which is still intact and beautiful. Look at the houses style, the typical windows, staircases, shops and the churches. We visited Rembrandt’s house where he lived from 1639 to 1657, near to Waterlooplein. In the main city is the oldest church Oudekerk, made in 13th century where Rembrandt’s wife Saskia is buried. Roads being narrower, it is easy to walk rather than drive in a taxi or car and parking charges at various places are as high as 4-5 euros per hour. Being a high tourist attraction, stealing and pick pocketing is at high in Amsterdam. Lucky were we that the day was sunny and there was no rain throughout the day. A day visit of city along with the famous windmills and a diamond factory (some 10 kms away) cost us around 50 Euros each (5 hours tour) and another 20 Euros each for the Canal Cruise by a Boat (2 hours tour). The sun sets here quite early around 3.45 or 4pm and after that it was dark when we traveled in the canal. The lighting of the buildings, market, pubs and restaurant was looking very good at late evening time. Tried to take a snap of a group of people behind a glass wall on 17th floor of a building along the side of the canal doing Aerobics to keep them fit, but it shot blurred as either the boat was running quite fast or they were exercising faster. A famous line for Amsterdam is “it is difficult to distinguish street from canal from October to March due to heavy rains.
Please enjoy some of the photographs shot at Amsterdam uploaded in the video section! (the windmill, the diamond factory, the diamonds…)
The meaning of the title line “Een mooie dag in de stad van Kanalen is “A beautiful day in the city of Canals

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