The Keizersgracht Canal
As I stepped off of the ferry in Rotterdam, I knew this was not going to be any ordinary trip. After all I was not in the Netherlands to see the tulip fields of Lisse or the open air museums of Arnhem; I was there to experience the student paradise that is, Amsterdam.
Amsterdam's famous 'slanting' buildings
Upon arrival I had time to take in the scenery of a city which is undoubtedly beautiful and quirky, especially the picturesque canal running through the city and the tall buildings which benefit from Amsterdam’s “non-straightening” restoration policy. But upon remembering that I was in a city where prostitution and marijuana are legal, I was keen to explore the mischievous side of the Dutch capital – the side that sees students flock in their droves all year round eager to experience the surprises this small city with a big reputation has to offer. So upon leaving my bags at the hotel I ventured ‘behind the scenes’ and was soon exposed to the numerous sex shops, brothels, sex cinemas and “coffee shops” that have made the city famous, and of course wanting to immerse myself in the culture I made sure to sample the local “coffee”…
- Street entertainer in Dam Square
Emerging from the back streets in a rather relaxed haze I continued my tour, not missing out on the souvenir shops – which were in essence an Ann Summers store with the addition of drug paraphernalia and clogs – before finally ending up on the infamous red light district. This was definitely just as I expected but nonetheless shocking.Women (this was often questionable), stood behind red-lit windows barely clothed while tourists and locals surely enough, window shopped. Visitors wanting a bit more could witness a live sex show and as charming as that sounded I decided to bi pass this and settle on a highly intellectual and cultural tour around one of Amsterdam’s most prestigious museums…the sex museum. Eventually ending the night drinking Dutch lager in a bar which boasted a hole in the ceiling as its smoking ventilation, “Is this your first time in Amsterdam…this definitely won’t be your last” said the bar man, and that is probably true, I can see why the city attracts returning visitors year upon year.
Bikes are the most popular form of transport in Amsterdam
Of course there is a lot more to Amsterdam than the obvious student attractions and keen to venture a little deeper the next day I was soon introduced to the world-class museums, cafes and culture that Amsterdam has to offer, taking a break from the thrill seeking and hustle and bustle to unwind with the locals in the stunning Vondelpark. Later as I boarded the coach and began to head back to the ferry port I could slowly feel the buzz of Amsterdam fading into the quiet towns and fields surrounding, and reflecting on my experience I could not help but admit I had fallen in love with the city. The beauty of which is somewhat masked by preconceptions; preconceptions that are not always misplaced however, as Amsterdam is still definitely not for the faint-hearted.
Places to visit
Dansen bijJansen (the only student club in Amsterdam)
Amsterdam Centraal Station
Getting to Amsterdam
Easy Jet flies from Robin Hood Airport Doncaster Sheffield directly to Amsterdam, prices vary depending on the date of departure. Visit www.easyjet.com or www.robinhoodairport.com
P&O ferries run a ferry to Rotterdam with a coach transfer to Amsterdam, from Hull only. Again prices vary depending on the date of departure. Visit www.poferries.com