On the Road is a weekday feature spotlighting reader photo submissions.
From the exotic to the familiar, whether you’re traveling or in your own backyard, we would love to see the world through your eyes.
I had no idea that Amsterdam was so beautiful, and so charming! ~WaterGirl
Here’s my suggestion for Paris After Dark: Amsterdam After Dark! No worries my trip was rated G. I was traveling alone so I didn’t do anything too risky.
After my trip to Paris in August 2019, I took a train to Amsterdam, where I spent three nights before returning back home. Just like in Paris, where I took a day trip to Normandy, I also scheduled a day trip that combined a visit to Kinderdijk, an UNESCO World Heritage Site featuring well-preserved windmills dating as far back as the 1700s, and The Hague. Over two and a half days, I squeezed in a visit to the Anne Frank House, the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and the Mauritshuis museum in The Hague.
I knew that bicycling was the predominant mode of transportation in Amsterdam but I wasn’t prepared to see it in action. This bike garage was the first thing I saw as soon as I stepped outside the train station in Amsterdam. There were just so many bikes or all different shapes and sizes! I was so much fun to see it play out with both pedestrians and cars.
I rented a bike for only one day and it was a fun way to get around but interestingly enough, it was hard to find a place to “park” it because although bike racks were everywhere, they were always full of bikes. Still it was a lot of fun riding through the small canal-side streets.
Just something that caught my fancy that first evening I went out walking.
As I mentioned in the intro, Kinderdijk features working windmills. Although they are no longer the primary method of keeping the land in that area dry, they are kept in working order as a fail safe in case modern technology fails. Aside from the engineering wonder, it was a beautiful, peaceful place to explore. I was able to go into two windmills: one from the 1740s and one from the 1960s. Caretakers would live in the windmills rent free so long as they were on the job. The inside of the windmills shared space with the actual mechanical system of the windmill as well as the kitchen, a sitting room, bunks (sorry, no indoor plumbing).
This is also something that caught my fancy because of the brickwork. This gate was leading out of the Binnenhof in The Hague.
While biking to make my program/tour at the Anne Frank House early on the second day there, I crossed several of these bridges. The light was just beautiful I had to stop and take it in.
Just so quiet.
After I returned the bike, I walked to Vondelpark. I settled down to do some people (and duck) watching.
Here’s one example of the sorts of bikes I saw in Amsterdam. I also saw tandems, both for adult riders and combo adult, kid; some that have a flatbed in front; these. It was pretty eye-opening. I felt safe riding the bike while there. They had traffic lights for bikes and traffic lights for cars; protected bike lanes. But aside from that, there just wasn’t much car traffic in the Canal Zone. I don’t feel as safe taking to the streets on my bike here in Chicago.
The pics are gorgeous!
BJ is taking me on a tour of some of my own best travel memories lately.
I spent a month in Brussels for work in 2008, and managed one weekend in Amsterdam. Sad to say, I didn’t get out of the city. It was a lovely couple of days anyhow — people very friendly and welcoming, food amazingly varied and handy to my hotel, canals and sky gorgeous. And way more people spoke English than in Brussels, although I did okay in Belgium with my smattering of French.
I too chose the Van Gogh museum over the Rijksmuseum, and I have a picture of the same parking garage by the train station! I have to say, I got out of the station and was overwhelmed by the water and sky. Brussels was nice, but at least where I was staying and working (and touring) it had a more closed in feeling. Their river was put underground a couple of centuries ago, IIRC.
The bikes — just, wow. A friend had told me that “everyone” rode bikes in Amsterdam, but I had no idea what that meant until I saw it. I can well imagine that you felt safer than in an American city. I felt safe as a pedestrian, too, which does not tend to be the case in, say, Cambridge/Boston, where the drivers are nuts and the bikers all think they have the right of way over everyone else no matter what, and should never have to slow down for any reason whatsoever. No Tour de France wannabes on the streets of Amsterdam, at least in my experience.
As a matter of interest, I was told that those tall narrow houses came about because the owners were taxed on the square footage of the footprint. So — you’d buy a tiny lot and build upward
ETA: I missed the Anne Frank museum. By the time I tried to get a slot, the wait was too long and I would have missed my train. Maybe next time.
Another PS: the train station is under the airport in Amsterdam. So much sanity compared to e.g. Boston, where they couldn’t even manage to connect North and South Stations for Amtrak travelers when they did the big dig.
One of my favorite cities. Went there after Paris; what a difference in scale! Paris made one feel insignificant amount monumental streets and buildings, while Amsterdam felt homey and comfortable in comparison. Thanks for sharing the pics – they capture it well.
A woman from anywhere (formerly Mohagan)
@JanieM: I was in Brussels and Amsterdam last spring for an art history tour and found the language situation just as you described. I had fun using my tourist French in Brussels, and then in Amsterdam, it almost felt like cheating since EVERYONE seemed to speak English.
What great photos. I was last in Amsterdam in 85, and it looks like things hav changed significantly. Love the bikes! I also really appreciate your composition. Nice work on the windmill photo and the brick underpass.
What I’ve always wondered is, do they ride bikes in the dead of winter there too? I cringe at the thought of trying to bicycle in snow and slush.
Lovely pictures, btw!
@A woman from anywhere (formerly Mohagan): Having a smattering of French and German, and being a native English speaker, I could decipher a lot of signage in Brussels, which is almost all in both French and Dutch. I was *so* envious of the local people I was working with, who switched amongst French, Dutch, and English effortlessly.
Of course, they have their own language issues internally, or at least so I was told, as in, more Dutch speakers learn French than v.v., and the former resent it.
They keep the streets and sidewalks clean, I suspect.
I’ve had the good fortune to visit Amsterdam several times. A few have been 23h layovers that I could coax out of Delta for no extra airfare. Others have been a little longer, and included either overnights in The Hague or Rotterdam.
I’ve enjoyed every visit. Even the one with surprise snow! (I have a couple photos – it was am early December stopover. The canals were quite charming with the holiday lights and the big, wet flakes).
I enjoyed the few days I spent there late in the last century, although the city didn’t strike me as the greatest advertisement for social libertarianism. One member of my party was the target of an attempted mugging at knifepoint as he crossed a bridge. Well, the Yank was a burly guy, and the Dutchman a skinny character—“a hundred pounds dripping wet,” as my associate described him, dripping wet being what he was after his intended victim picked him up and tossed him into the canal. At this point he, the American, was surrounded and hemmed in by a crowd of censorious locals, and presently the constabulary arrived—dunking muggers is apparently frowned upon in Holland—and detained him for much of the afternoon. I’m afraid the experience kind of put him off the whole country.
I love Amsterdam! I need to get back there sometime.
These are great pics! They bring back some good memories for me: I’ve been to Amsterdam a number of times (I have numerous relatives in the Netherlands). I really like the canal pics–it’s lots of fun to walk around the side canals on a nice day.
ETA: I’d be happy to contribute to an Amsterdam After Dark series.
Lovely pix! I live a few blocks from that first canal. That building at the end was a church (obvs) then a police station and now some kind of modern design museum.
I went to Amsterdam a few years ago and was lovely. The flower market was one of my faves of the trip. I did get to the Van Gogh and Rijksmuseum as well as the Ann Frank and Rembrandt houses and walked around the Begijnhof and the Palace.
There is very little snow in winter. Because of global warming the temperatures nowadays hardly get below freezing. There is a famous ice skating race that goes through eleven towns and many lakes and canals in the northern Netherlands (Frisia actually), over 120 miles long. Each december the press starts obsessivelymonitoring the temperatures for a period of a week or two of serious frost that is needed to keep the thousands of skaters safe. And each in March there is dissappointement, again no race this year. I think the last time it took place was in the 1990s.
But it can rain a lot so all Dutch have elaborate rain gear for biking, to keep themselves and their cargo dry. Most people go shopping with their bikes, children go to school on bikes, all year round. Many people have multiple bikes, very sturdy ones for shopping, fancier ones for out of town trips, spare bikes for when you have a flat.
I have one of the bikes — called a bakfiets (or literally “box bike”) — pictured in the last photo. It is awesome. I cannot overstate how much I love the thing, as do my daughter and puppy. When was the last time your spawn and pet companion got super excited for just getting into an automobile? Yet the bike makes every trip an event. You can haul so much stuff, you can put a cover on it so your passengers stay dry (and warmer), you can see the world in a more immediate and humane way. Here in Boston, the bike infrastructure is getting so much better than it was in the bad old days. I have gotten more positive comments about the bike and my passengers (from notoriously cold Bostonians) in the few years I’ve had the thing than the total of all other positive comments I’ve received out in public in my previous 30 years here combined. Many people say that just seeing the bakfiets makes their day.
Love the sense of perspective in your photos.
My son lived in Copenhagen for two years (attending the university) and biked everywhere. Similar to Amsterdam I think, with dedicated bike lanes separated from the cars. People biking in the rain, in the dark… When he returned home, it took him a few weeks to adjust to the danger of having to track the cars around them while biking to work — that would cut into bike lanes mindless of bicycles… Wish *we* invested more into making commuting by bicycle the standard.