Posted on March 4th, 2016
One of the first things that comes to mind when Amsterdam is mentioned is bicycles. Yes, it has become the symbol of Holland and not without good reason. The city is crawling with bicycles. If you’re thinking of using public transport while in Amsterdam then stop right there and don’t go any further. Amsterdam is a very walkable city in the first place but the scenery is even better when enjoyed from a bike saddle. So that is exactly why I rented a bike on my second day in Amsterdam.
Riding a bike in Amsterdam is no easy task and one has to remember that most other cyclists are not going for a leisurely ride through the city but are in a hurry or commuting to work. There are therefore a few rules one needs to follow in order to make your ride a pleasant one:
- There are special traffic lights for bicycles, make sure you follow these and not the ones for cars which read a different message.
- Keep right! This allows the more impatient and aggressive riders to pass you easily.
- Use hand signals to indicate your intention of turning etc.
After paying for and collecting my bike from the bike rental I made my way to the Van Gogh Museum. I had already pre booked tickets at my hostel the day before (I highly recommend doing this!) and so just went straight through to the museum. For the most part when I visit a big city I go to the museums because it’s always on the must-see list. I end up walking around looking at artworks and wondering why on earth I needed to pay such a fee to look at art when I could be outside discovering the pulsating city that awaits. This was definitely not the case for the Van Gogh Museum. It truly was a very comprehensive display of this artist’s life story through his paintings. I was absolutely engrossed and enthralled for the 2 hours that I spent there.
Next I crossed the Museumplein, stopping for the cliché photo with the Iamsterdam sign, before heading over to the Rijks Museum.
The situation I mentioned before about wondering why I was wasting my time in a museum when I could be outside was exactly how I felt after a few minutes in the Rijks Museum. I think it was a combination of the fact that I had already just spent two hours in the Van Gogh museum and so didn’t have the energy, the amount to see was overwhelming (it’s kinda like Holland’s version of the Louvre) and I’d got in for free ( you only pay from the age of 19) and so didn’t feel like I needed to make the visit worthwhile. I walked around a little bit longer contemplating what I should do before making the decision to leave and respond to my beckoning bicycle that was waiting outside.
I was now in no rush to get anywhere for a certain time and so could calmly begin exploring the city on wheels. Wow. What a beautiful and special memory. I found my way to Vondel Park and just relished in the blissful feeling of the gentle breeze in my hair and the feeling of my leg muscles beginning to do a little bit of work.
The park is filled with many bicycle and walking tracks in among the lawns, benches and ponds. I thoroughly enjoyed my cycle through this area which reminded me of the Central Park of New York that I’d seen in movies.
I then made my way to Singel canal from where my canal cruise would embark. I had also booked these tickets before which proved to be more economical. Honestly, there is no better way to discover this city of canals than on a cruise through the canals. It was the golden sunset hour as the boat slowly made its way through the network of Amsterdam’s waterways. It was here that I began to notice that most of the boats lining the canals were actually filled with furniture and homely decor. House boats. From that moment I knew that one day I would love to live in a humble house boat anchored in Prisengracht canal. Wow, may that dream come true.
Making my way slowly back to drop off my bicycle, I just tried to take in as much of this city as I possibly could. My absolutely incredible time here was drawing to a close. Amsterdam has definitely stolen a little piece of my heart and I know that one day I would love to come back. But for now it’s time to bid farewell to the canals, the bicycles, the stroopwafels, the doll houses and breathtakingly beautiful city.
I am so grateful for this little trip. I organised everything by myself, paid for everything by myself and did the whole trip by myself. I cannot help but beam with pride as I realise how much I’ve grown already since leaving home and I think that this trip to Amsterdam and all that I achieved through it is a true mark of my growth as a person.