For this prompt, I opened up Google Maps, typed in the letter A, and let auto-fill do its thing. Thus, here we are, with Amsterdam up for discussion.
In many ways, Google has proven handy, because I’ve been to Amsterdam (albeit it was two decades ago now). It’s a vibrant city, a colourful and modern city, yet a city laced with a deep history.
There is evidence for early settlements as far back as 3,000 years ago, and evidence for Bronze Age, Iron Age and Roman era activities also exists. Because of the peaty wetland the city is built on, Amsterdam is a relatively late bloomer among European cities, but once established, it soon became an important centre for the Dutch. Without giving an in-depth history lesson, it is fair to say that Amsterdam rapidly became the most important city in the Netherlands, which is why it is now the nation’s capital.
One of my biggest memories of the city is how well-organised everything was. A great deal of time has gone into developing a robust, efficient public transport system, complete with trams, plenty of bicycle links, and lots of open spaces for pedestrians. In fact, Amsterdam is rated as one of the best cities in the world for cyclists, and bikes often have right of way over other vehicles (with the exception of trams, which do not stop for anything!).
Another striking memory is how clean Amsterdam was. A lot of effort has gone to maintaining a lovely city, no mean feat.
It is impossible to separate Amsterdam from two of the elements that have made the city a tourist attraction, namely the legal use of cannabis, and the red light district. For obvious reasons, it’s not advisable to take kids on a stroll through the red light area, but when I went there with colleagues from an old job, we did walk through it. It is seedy, that is beyond question, but the city’s approach to the world’s oldest profession is undeniably pragmatic. The same could be said of the attitude towards cannabis.
One thing I won’t forget from my trip is listening to a bloke, speaking with a thick Scottish accent, asking how much it is to eat… well, I’ll let you imagine what he was referring to.
It is in Amsterdam that I had one of the best Chinese meals I’ve ever had. There was a restaurant (I think it’s still there) set on a boat moored in a harbour. It was an amazing restaurant, superbly decked out, and the food was spine-tingly good.
One final memory of the trip is that my luggage got more out of it than I did, thanks to a detour it took. My friends and I flew home to Stansted Airport, and my luggage went to Switzerland. Quite how that came to pass, I do not know!