13 April 2009

Getting lost in Amsterdam

I lived in Amsterdam for four weeks in the old city. Perhaps four weeks is considered only visiting but as I was working a fair share from my hosts’ home via the internet and tele- confer- encing, helping to renovate an office space across the Het IJ, and cooking in quite often, it felt more like a home away from home. I donned a rusty beat up old bicycle and a heavy chain lock taking to the streets every day commuting like everyone else though with less importance on where I would go.

I had visited the city before and had an idea of the landscape and where I’d like to concentrate. I found a wonderful chocolatier whom I visited at least six times, a fantasical store of ribbons, a store specializing in only cheese, and of course beautiful tree lined canal streets that I found myself lost within each outing. Luckily the water is all encompassing so you can’t go very far in one direction.

"Weet u Vaer..?" and "Bedankt hoor"

These words went a long way in getting me back on track. 750,000 people live in Amsterdam and own some 600,000 bikes. Bicycling to work is the preferred means of transportation, but it’s not lycra that the professionals are wearing but suits, dressy casual attire, and yes, dresses. The bicycles aren’t going very fast perhaps 12 mph tops. Consequently I never broke a sweat, nor would you want to of course dressed for your arrival. The bicycles and cars got along much better than in the US. The bicycles have the right of way here –like in the US, however they are much more respected and treated just like any other form of traffic.

My last day in town I left the bike home and walked most every wear to visit the more famous museums. I was pretty well oriented as you can imagine however had yet to find the Oude Kerk, the old original church built when Amsterdam was first founded, in 1260. I’d seen it from a canal tour but haven’t been able to find it on the bike or on foot. Keeping my map tucked mostly inside my purse I ventured towards its general vicinity and found myself smack dab in the Red Light District. That plain clothed women dressed as myself were leaving from glass doored buildings as if done working for the day, was not a comfort to me. It was a beautiful historic part of town but I was more worried about getting out and abandoned my search for the old church. It was then I found it, realizing its grandeur as I literally walked around it!

I would definitely recommend a long layover when flying through Schiphol and taking a cab to the old city to enjoy a canal tour, visit a chocolatier, and to find yourself temporarily lost in the beautiful canal streets.

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