• Pranay Maloo

A bit of cheese and a bit of Amsterdam

It was by chance I finalized Amsterdam as the first place to visit in Europe for a solo backpack trip. But I turned out to be a great decision, as Amsterdam was nothing short of a fairytale town for me. The beautiful gabled houses with a rhythm of windows spanning building facades, flowered deck watersides, people riding a bicycle with their easy-going attitude, and the rich art and history it holds are few of the things that made it a special destination for me. It was as if someone had brought to life, a story of a beautiful city from pages of a book.


Though I did some homework, I didn't make a detailed plan of what all to visit. As I walked out of the airport, the feeling of being alone in a foreign land suddenly kicked in. It was a bit difficult to deal with at start as nothing is familiar or homely. But I guess that's why travel makes you rich in experience because you come back with a lot more than what you went with.



I was staying with a friend in Amstelveen, which is a peaceful and lush green area with a perfect setting to call it home. There were a lot of options to take to explore Amsterdam from taking a free walking tour to renting a bicycle or use the tram system to cover major attractions. On my friend's recommendation, I downloaded a local mobile app called '9292' which shows the best possible way from one point to another. It was pretty accurate and helped me move around Amsterdam with so much ease.


I decided to take the tram to cover the city as train travel is something I always look forward to. As I started my day, I first visited Museumplein which is known to house some of the amazing museums such as Van Gough Museum and Rijksmuseum. It is a huge open garden with museums all around it and a pool at the end, with a lot of people and activities happening around. People here had a special thing for art and museums as each one was filled with tourists. I decided to venture in Van Gough museum because I had a bit of knowledge about him and his work.




There was also a flea market in evening with lots of eating options and people were out enjoying, dancing, and having a good time. A cup of hot coffee was a much-needed companion to enjoy the entire scene and hustle and bustle of the market.


From there, I made my way to the famous canal that runs across Amsterdam. It provides a good means to explore the city. One can also board the canal tours offered and soak in the beauty of the city on a boat with good food. As tempting as it sounded, I stuck to my original plan of walking plus tram to explore the city. I also ventured into the tulip museum which provides a beautiful history of tulips in Holland.





Making my way through alleys and small lanes housing quaint eateries, I reached Spui Square. The colorful gabled houses across the canal with bustling cafes made it a good place to sit and relax. I found a good public chair to rest while I observed the area and people also thinking where to visit next.


It then decided to visit Dam Square which houses Madame Tussauds and has a big open area filled with street artists and tourist. With one being a Darth Vader to another balancing hoopla hoop, each artist had a unique way to entertain people. I then made my way to the Centraal munching some delicious batata fajitas or potato fries. The Centraal or Centrum is home to some of the interesting museums, charming and high-end shopping area, and fantastic entertainment. One will also find the magnificent canal ring at the Centraal. The way cafes lined up against each other and the chitter chatter of the people made the entire area more lively.



After a bit of exploring and making my way through local market areas, high-end shops, I decided to visit the famous the Anne Frank Huis (House). There was a huge line to get in to see the place which houses various events of Anne and the Holocaust. But the thought of doing a slow walk through the house with the crowd pushing from behind did not interest me much.


Next day, I decided to explore a nearby area called Zaanse Schans or windmill village. I took a bus from Central Bus station to Zaanse Schans which was 30 minutes ride courtesy '9292' app. It is a small village with working windmills near a canal, a huge lush green land and an entire area set in old times with dummies in the model houses to depict the life that existed in earlier time.





I visited few of the working windmills on some nominal charge. There was a small eatery, and a souvenir shop but what really excited me was the cheese shop where fresh cheese was being produced. The entire shop was filled with the smell of cheese which may be a turnoff for some but I had a great time as I am very fond of cheese. And it would have been a sin to come back without treating yourself to a freshly made cheeseburger and a cup of hot chocolate when especially when the weather started to get cold. So I quickly grabbed both and slowly made my way through the burger enjoying every single bite of it and supporting my body in the cold with each sip of hot chocolate. That was indeed a fun time to get to know how the entire area functioned and how people lived in past.



The last place I decided to visit was the famous red light district. I was in a bit of dilemma whether to go ahead or not but I decided to give it a try. To my surprise, the place somehow managed to keep the seediness away despite being a major tourist attraction. During daytime, it is like any other part of the city with the only give up being the bright glowing signs everywhere. In the middle runs the beautiful canal, and on the sides are the shops lit in red with beautiful women in Monroe getup seeking your attention from behind the window panes. The area truly comes to life at night with gawking tourists walking slowly as they stare women in the window while going from bar to bar. It may be a bit uncomfortable for many to visit this place but I decided to go to this place for the reason to take a peek into the world that so easily and smoothly exists with the world that was outside its boundary. It was an experience in itself to get to know this facet of the world and how it exists. It somehow makes you wonder and imagine that there is a world beyond your boundaries and you are just part of one of such many worlds. I soon bid the Monroe I found in Amsterdam farewell as I made my way to the closest tram station and was soon on my way to home.





The time I spent in Amsterdam gave me some of the best memories to cherish forever. It was an experience of a lifetime as I promised to visit this fairytale town again. It was time to leave Amsterdam with some good memories.

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