Amsterdam - Venice of the north
Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands. This name derived from a dam in the river Amstel. It was a fishing village in the late 12th century. The months from April to May and September to November are considered to be the best time to visit because of the amazing weather. There is an interesting fact that this city is situated around 2 meters below sea level. Butthe adverse impacts could be addressed by developing innovative systems of dunes, dykes, canals and barrages.
I along with one of my friends visited this city in December of 2016. Our day long trip started from Amsterdam Central station. It is city's main and international railway station. It was built over three artificial islands. It is a spectacular neo-Renaissance structure with a red-brick façade with stone decorations. The façade is reminiscent of a gate with 2 towers.
From here visitors find themselves in the heart of the city with fantastic public transport links including trams, buses, metro and ferry services. The Amsterdam Metro is a mixed subway.
The station has a wealth of facilities for any traveller including Cafes, Restaurants, Minimarkets, Vending machines, Self-service ticket machines, Ticket office, Toilets, Luggage lockers, Cash machine, Waiting room, Taxi rank and Accessible platforms, Bike hire and bike repair facilities. Amsterdam Airport Schiphol is less than 20 minutes by train from here, it is the only airport in the world that has a museum.
Looking southwards across a water feature The Basilica of Saint Nicholas caught our eye. The main facade is flanked by two towers, with a rose window in between. Superb decorations, sculptures, stained-glass windows and mural paintings can be seen at its interior. The building is a blend of different architectural styles and artistic movements. The entry is free. It is the largest Catholic Church in Amsterdam.
Following Damrak Avenuewe passed Damrak Supermarket which was on west side. Shops in Amsterdam range from large, high-end department stores to small specialty shops. The city also features a large number of open-air markets. Some of these markets are held on daily basis or weekly basis.
Strolling southwards we noticed Beurs van Berlage along east side of the road. It is now used as a venue for concerts, exhibitions and conferences. The building is constructed of red brick, with an iron and glass roof, and stone piers, lintels and corbels. We noticed a crowded café along its southern corner.
The spacious green square named The Beursplein is at its south. Here drinking fountains, trees and monumental lampposts are all nicely arranged. There is a large bicycle parking shed here. Numerous parking facilities like this in the city help to reduce the pressure on public space. The Amsterdam Stock Exchange building is located at its east. It's the oldest stock exchange in the world.
Proceeding further we reached Dam Square. It is roughly rectangular in shape. We saw The National Monument which dominates the eastern half of Dam Square. It was constructed to commemorate the casualties of World War II and subsequent armed conflicts. The central element of the monument is a concrete conical pillar 22 metres in height, covered entirely by white travertine stone. On the front of the pillar is a relief entitled "Peace", consisting of four chained male figures, representing the suffering endured during the war. To either side of these central figures are two male sculptures representing members of the Dutch resistance. Weeping dogs at their feet represent suffering and loyalty.
Above the central relief is a sculpture of a woman with a child in her arms and doves flying around her, representing victory, peace, and new life. A relief of the back side of the pillar shows doves ascending into the sky, symbolizing the liberation. In front of the monument, on either side, are two sculptures of lions on circular pedestals, symbolizing the Netherlands. A semicircular wall surrounds the back side of the monument. The pillar carries an inscription in Latin which translates to "Here, where the heart of the fatherland is, may this monument, which citizens carry in their heart, gaze at God's stars".
The Royal Palace of Amsterdam is situated on the west side of Dam. The palace was built as a city hall. The palace is used by the monarch for entertaining, official functions, award ceremonies and official receptions. The sandstone of yellowish hue has darkened considerably in the course of time. This17th-century grand building remains open to visitors throughout the year. Madame Tussauds Amsterdam is a wax museum situated along the southern edge of this square. It consists of a collection of wax figures of famous celebrities in different categories such as the Golden Age of Dutch history, music, sport and movie.
From there we walked towards west to visit Anne Frank House. On way we crossed three canals by beautiful bridges. Amsterdam has more than 100 kilometres of canals. Maximum part was dug in the 17th century during the Dutch Golden Age. They contribute to Amsterdam's fame as the "Venice of the North". Planned pump stations were built to flush the canals out using water from Bay of Zuiderzee.
We were surprised to know that bikes are thrown or disappear in the canals every year. Each year many bicycles are pulled out of the canals and it is referred to as 'bike fishing'. The river Amstel ends in the city centre and connects to a large number of canals. Boat tour in surrounding canal is very popular.
The canals served for defence, water management and transport. Visitors can glide through Amsterdam's canals in style and comfort aboard a luxury open-air boat. The canal belt is now recognised as an UNESCO heritage site.
On the bank of Prinsengracht canal we saw the building used by Anne Frank and her family to hide from Nazis during Second World War. This young Jewish girl left a diary that describes the hardships her community went through. The Secret Annex was preserved as it is, and still has the belongings of Anne and other members hiding there. The museum has in-display all-important and authentic documents along with photographs, images and personal belongings of all residents. The audio tour provides visitors with more information about the persecution of the Jews, the Second World War, the people in hiding, and their helpers. The Anne Frank House can only be visited with an online ticket for a specific date. This diary is now one of the most selling bestsellers worldwide. When we came out the sun has set by then.
The Westerkerk or Western Church is a Reformed church is located at the southern side of this museum. It was built between 1620 and 1631 in Renaissance style. The Western tower is the highest church tower in Amsterdam. Anyone may climb the Tower and enjoy a truly unique view of Amsterdam from its balcony. Information on the church and its history are given by various digital screens placed in the church.
Little Northwards of Anne Frank House, on the other side of the Prinsengracht canal a small museum has been organized, dedicated exclusively to Dutch cheese. Dutch cheese has more than 600 years long tradition. Netherlands is the largest cheese exporter in the world. The top floor of the museum is a specialty cheese shop with most well-known Dutch brands. Visitors can taste and experience the unique flavor of the best cheese.
This museum also has an exclusive section where one can learn the art of cheese making. The Tulip museum is located at its south. The museum shows history of the Dutch fascination with the tulip and sells flowers. The tulip has been introduced here in the middle of 16th century from the Ottoman Empire. Tulip is the National Flower of this country. We noticed few souvenir shops also adjacent to this place. Few prominent souvenirs of this city can be chocolates, cheese, Local art, Ajax merchandise and Jewellery.
The most important museums of Amsterdam are along the Museum Square located at the south-western edge of the city. The National Museum is dedicated to arts and history in Amsterdam. Nearby Van Gogh Museum houses the world's largest collection of Van Gogh's famous paintings and letters.
We came to know that in the city centre driving a car is discouraged. Parking fees are expensive, and many streets are closed to cars or are one-way. Amsterdam is one of the most bicycle-friendly large cities in the world. Number of bicycles in this city outnumbers the city dwellers. Bicycles are used by all socio-economic groups because of their convenience, provision of bike paths and the flat terrain.
We were returning towards Amsterdam central.
We saw many restaurants on our way.
Since Amsterdam is a multicultural city, a lot of different ethnic restaurants can be found. Restaurants range from being rather luxurious and expensive to being ordinary and affordable. We had our dinner in a Tunisian Hoteland it was sumptuous. After refreshment we travelled to Sloterdijk station from Amsterdam central by Metro. It lies about 3 km northwest of the city centre. International coach services operate from here. Most ticket purchasing system is done online or by using Apps. We were terribly addressing the pinches of cold while we were waiting for our bus to reach next destination. Our brief and cherish able Amsterdam tour came to an end.
Amsterdam has many parks, museums, open spaces and squares throughout the city. Amsterdam has the highest concentration of museums per square meter of all cities in the world. The city is also well known for its nightlife and festival activity. Millions of international tourists visit this city annually due to its extravagant attractions.
The author is a civil Engineer and a serving Military Officer