I have just returned from the single longest journey of my life and I am left feeling incredibly tired, but not because I traveled so much but rather I’m beat from all of the incredible things I saw and experienced that it has left my body, mind and heart exhausted. I feel as if I now carry the places, the cities, and the people in my heart. It’s something unreal inside me that still lives on and I am at a complete loss of words to describe the impression I have been left with from everything I’ve seen.
When we bought our tickets to Amsterdam, I was a bit intimidated just because you hear all of the typical stories of Americans traveling there and getting messed up. I’m not that kind of guy. Sure, I like to party just as much as everyone else, but Amsterdam seems to be a hotspot for ignorant American tourists and I didn’t want to be one of those.
But to my surprise, Amsterdam was one of the most intriguing, unique, and breathtaking cities I’ve ever seen. And that stands alone: sure the Red Light District is fun to take a walk through, and yeah, smoking pre-packed joints in their legendary coffee shops is always a good time, but the city as itself is an undeniable gem.
Being “Dutch” myself, I was excited to return to our family’s roots, even if our family fled Holland in the early 1600s which hardly makes us Dutch, but at least my last name comes from there. I was excited to observe the culture and the people and I’ve come to the consensus that they are the pedestal of the perfect human environment: it makes you proud to be Dutch…actually; it makes you wish you really were Dutch.
Amsterdam’s endless canals, the buildings that all lean forward (and others from one side or another), and the distinct uniqueness and at the same time the similarity that each street possesses, one can only feel breathless when attempting to take in all of the beauty.
Apart from the aesthetic enchantment of the city, the culture is remarkable. According to our tour guide, the way of life in Amsterdam is all centered around one word: Tolerance. That means you won’t have any issues if you do the following:
- Make money
- Don’t hurt anyone
- Be quiet and discreet
Although the Red Light District and the coffee shops may be far from “discreet,” anyone can do whatever they want in this city. It’s a place to go to live your life the way you want it. They have erected a statue supporting sex workers all over the world and that all people involved in the industry should be respected. Also, they have the first (and maybe only) homosexual monument. Of course gay marriage is allowed in Holland. Like I said, everyone can do whatever they want without any persecution from anyone. It’s a beautiful society and it’s a way of thinking that the United States will never see.
Also, as if their society couldn’t be more perfect, everyone there speaks perfect English. When I say perfect English, I mean perfect. They hardly have an accent, but everyone is comfortably fluent to a level that shocked me. Even the most unsuspecting people spoke perfect English: A little Dutch boy asked us to buy some postcards to raise some money to save the rainforests and he spoke flawless English (he couldn’t have been a day over the age of 10). Even the people that worked at the kebabs spoke perfectly. I was blown away. It made me really think: Why can’t Spain speak so well? What are we doing here in terms of English education that they are doing there to be so successful?
Furthermore, I’ve been to New York, I’ve been to London, but I’ve never been in a more dangerous city in my life: Between the chaotic tram system, thousands of people passing by on bikes, cars, buses and others, I’ve never been more afraid to cross the street. We swore we were going to get hit by someone, but we miraculously survived without getting even a scratch. The entire bike-culture is wonderful and I wish I could be one of its citizens, passing through the endless stream of streets and alleys on bike. Maybe one day I’ll get a Dutch passport and I’ll be one of the thousands of bike travelers that skillfully maneuver through the maze of brick streets.
Some other interesting facts to note:
The Dutch wear orange because it has to do with the Duke of Orange whom the government hired hundreds of years ago to help reorganize their government. Their flag is red, white, and blue, but orange is a historically symbolic color to their country.
Also, in case you live under a rock, New York was originally New Amsterdam (which is where my family originally moved to) and Brooklyn and Harlem get their names from neighboring districts to Amsterdam in Holland. Even the term “yankee” is Dutch for “young person.”
As for our trip, we ended up rooming with four of the most incredible people, all from Finland! We went out together every night and had a blast together. Later, we met some Dutch guys who taught me how to pronounce our original Dutch last name and what it meant: it means “crossways.”
During the day, we visited the Anne Frank museum, which is probably one of the best museums I’ve ever seen. It is set up so well that doesn’t leave you feeling too depressed, but rather uplifted, it makes you want to change the world so that something so horrific never happens again. Anne Frank’s life was just so short and what she did was really beautiful.
We also saw the Van Gogh museum which is a must-see but wasn’t anything too spectacular (in fact, I was a little disappointed).
Amsterdam is a city that I would return to in a heartbeat. We were only there for four days, but they were some of the best four days of my life, honest. I want to return to Holland to see other parts of the country and maybe even learn a little Dutch since I’ve got Dutch in my blood. Either way, Amsterdam deserves all the popularity it has.
Write more later,