This blog is about my trip to Amsterdam, once a financial centre of the world owing to the trading system of Dutch Company and well built canal system used for shipping goods worldwide. It is now the cultural and financial capital of Netherlands and is said to be the most multicultural city as it houses 177 nationalities, but I think the roots of this tolerance can be found in the hard won religious tolerance in 16th century when Amsterdam rebelled against Spain, one of the reason for the being the religious persecution of Protestants.
With this historical backgroud I proceeded for my one day trip in Amsterdam, which was organised by my institute Sprachakademie, Fachhochschule, Aachen. We were first taken for a city tour in a boat but later on we explored the ‘canal city’ on our own.
The journey started early in the morning, all of us reached the venue to board our double decker bus. I took the front seat on the second floor because apart from the alpha world city-Amsterdam, I wanted to explore the landscape of Netherlands as well. When we reached the city centre of Amsterdam, a boat was waiting to take us for a canal tour through the heart of the city on the sails of the river Amstel,a calm river used for transportation but was once a river with rapid current and after which the city has been namwd.However, as the city flourished and its trade expanded more and more canals were built to cater to the growing needs of transportation and space to live, which gave birth to house boats – an idyllic view of beautiful houses on water which makes one wish want to live in one. Some of the sights you see on the way are -a replica of a sunken ship which was home to a monopol trading company ; the world’s famous botanical garden – Hortus Botanicus ; Saints’ Nicolous Church, named after the patron saint of sailors ; weeper’s tower – from where sailors’ wives used to bid bye to their departing husbands and hence the name ‘weeper’ and many other interesting things, all of which can be narrated by the tour guide on the deck. After an hour’ voyage we were brought back to the North end of the city and it was time to move towards the south to see the city on the foot. We passed by Madam Tussads, the big baronial churches with detailed carvings. Living upto it’s designation of cultural capital, Amsterdam has many museums namely the Jewish Historical Museum, the Anne Frank Museum – dedicated to the life of Anne Frank, the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam- housing a comprehensive collection of paintings from Dutch Golden Age (17th Century) and a restored house of the world renowned Dutch painter Rembrandt.
I strolled outside the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, a few steps away from it stands the big “I amsterdam” in red and white colour. The ambience was jovial and I was enchanted by the melodious music being played by the street bands. Though I only had a day I felt i did my best to understand the city and its mood, which was lively and cheerful.
One of the most striking things about Amsterdam is that you come across a new canal after every few steps which are well maintained The houses in Amsterdam have big windows and narrow front part owing to the condition imposed in the past that more the house faces towards the canal, more the owner has to pay as tax.
Afterwards we headed towards a quiet courtyard in Begijnhof – one of the older inner courts in the city where beguine (women of strong Catholic faith, who has taken a vow of chastity) used to live. The place has been preserved in all its elegance and the silence here is just serene which makes you want to sit or even lie down in the garden. Few peaceful minutes seemed to stretch and we later visited Schuttersgalerij, a public gallery displaying city’s Civic guards.
We climbed on top of the Amsterdam Public Library to have a panoramic view of the entire city . On the return journey we bought some souvenirs such as the tiny wooden shoes since Amsterdam has been famous for its clogs (wooden shoes).
I bid goodbye to Amsterdam by visiting a church in the vicinity of the library. It was ornated with golden work and had soothing ambience, exactly that’s what is needed after a day full of Amsterdam adventures.