So after telling you that there’s more to Netherlands than Amsterdam, apparently karma decided to teach me a lesson.
And oh boy, what an enjoyable lesson I’ve got!
Up to that moment I have seen Amsterdam for only one day and I was happy about it, honestly. But I wasn’t blown off my feet.
I was still unimpressed by it. I was still “meh” about it.
I’ve seen the busy streets of a well renowned capital of the world, I’ve seen the busy and lovely canals of the city, the cartoonish looking buildings which are slowly sinking in the ground, the wonderfully brick-laid streets, I’ve seen the smoke-choking coffeeshops and the red light district and I even had the chance to see the once-every-5-years SAIL ship parade.
I could’ve said that I’ve seen enough to be blown away, but I was still unimpressed by it. I was still “meh” about it.
Don’t get me wrong, I was twisting and turning my head the whole time, but still…
That was until I decided to give it another chance. I decided not to be very judgmental and to jump to conclusions so easily.
I’ve let it go and I wasn’t sad or angry about it
Sooo, I asked around everyone if they know anyone who can host me over there. I had left only 7 days of my stay in Netherlands so I wanted to make it worth and to see Amsterdam for a couple of days. After all I still haven’t taken the days off for that week.
The days were passing and I couldn’t find any hosts. One evening when David, my host’s son, asked me if I still want a ride to Amsterdam I kind-of abandoned my plan and told him that I don’t have a host so probably I won’t go there anymore. I’ve let it go and I wasn’t sad or angry about it. It just was how it was.
David told me that he could still drive me there in the morning and pick me up in the evening. I was thinking of maybe visiting the city in that way and I told him that probably I’ll do it like that.
This way I managed to stay in Amsterdam for 3 full days!
Of course that the things didn’t go as I planned.
Later that evening, David put me in contact with the sister of a friend of his who needed a catsitter. This way I managed to stay in Amsterdam for 3 full days!
I did housesit a few times, but never catsit, haha.
And if this wasn’t enough I managed to get my hands on a museumskart from my host. With that card I got access to almost all the museums in the city, for free!
Even though this is a touristic thing, I would totally suggest you to buy one or get your hands on one if you can. The things you will be able to see and understand afterwards are worth all the money.
This card literally opened so many doors to me that I didn’t even know where to go.
I’m not a museum type, but after this experience I can’t say the same thing
I was lucky to be Anne’s catsitter and while we went for a walk in the city and talked about various stuff, she started to point me things and museums that I must visit. When we got home we made a list and I knew what I will have to do: spend my days in museums.[I’m not a museum type, but after this experience I can’t say the same thing].
Because having a great place to stay and the museum’s card was not enough, I even had a bicycle with me for the whole time. David was nice enough to bring one with us, with the car.
Get a bicycle!
This way I managed to have a real Dutch and non-touristic feel of Amsterdam. And I am oh so grateful for this. The whole perspective of the city will change if you opt for experiencing it this way.
If you want to have a non-touristic stay in Amsterdam the first tip would be to “get a bicycle”. This advice doesn’t come only from me, but mostly from the people I spent my time with in Amsterdam.
David told me that the first thing a visitor should do when they arrive in Amsterdam is to get their hands on a bike. He even told me the easiest way to do it:
“You go in the center around 2-3 or 4 AM and you buy a bike from a junkie. The bike will be probably stolen, but for the days you’ll stay there it will be enough. Also at the end of your stay you can give it back to another junkie. It’s like a “social security system for junkies” – you get a bike and they get money to survive, everyone is happy”. Except for the owner of the bikes, I would add.
But yes, having a bike in Amsterdam changes everything. I know I’ve said this already, but it really is a game changer.
If you like museums you’ll be overwhelmed in Amsterdam. There are so many to choose from that you’ll probably paralyze only by thinking which ones to pick.
If you’re undecided and don’t know anyone from there, I would suggest you to take a look over this ebook. I got it from the author and I must say that it would’ve came handy if it wasn’t for Anne.
As you know, I prefer to discover the places I go to through the help of locals, but this guide comes very close to that so that’s why I recommend it.
Use your hands to signal where you’re going when you cycle!
With my museums list on my phone, I started my quest and I started exploring the city.
When you’re in Amsterdam pay a bit more attention to the traffic(cars, bikes and pedestrians) than you would do regularly. The place is quite busy and you have to know where you’re going. Oh, and also use your hands to signal where you’re going when you cycle!
In my first day I managed to see only one museum, Rijksmuseum, which is HUGE.
Honestly over there I’ve seen more paintings that I ever saw in my life. But now I can gladly say that I’ve seen a famous Rembrandt painting. I don’t brag about, but looking at it and interacting with it felt really nice and seeing it live was quite something for me.
Keep in mind that almost all museums close at 5PM, so you won’t have so much time to see them. You’ll have to wake up early to see more of them.
So after I finished my visit to the first museum I went home, with the plan of working on an article. But again karma wanted to show me that Amsterdam is cool too so I was invited by David to have dinner with him and a friend of him.
I also had the chance to interact with the famous coffeeshops.
This way I had another non-touristic interaction with the city and felt really good.
I cycled to an area of the city which is not central and I’ve walked into a building that is very old, but still very nice looking. If you pay attention the buildings in Amsterdam, you’ll see a big hook sticking out of almost every one, from next to the roof. That’s because most of the buildings in Amsterdam(especially those close to the water) were in fact warehouses. Those hooks were used to lift goods to the other floors, or these days they are used to lift the furniture inside the house. That’s also why the houses over there have the windows so big
And I also had the chance to interact with the famous coffeeshops. I am grateful that I had this experience as a local, because we went inside a nice, small coffeshop where everything looked very normal and regular. The only difference was the fact that weed and hash were also sold there. But besides that there was absolutely no difference. No lots of smoke(as you’ll see in the center), no dim lights so you don’t see shit, no commercial and marketing of “weed”. Just a normal looking café.
I think that the word “coffeeshop” is overrated
By the way, if you want to feel even more as a local you should refer to the coffeeshops as “shops” – the locals will understand what you mean and you won’t look like a tourist who’s overly excited about weed.
Personally I think that the word “coffeeshop” is overrated and used only to catch tourists’ attention.
This intuition was even confirmed by the locals who told me that the central shops have way too strong weed and also the fact that they don’t use good ventilation systems on purpose, only so the tourists would be even more attracted to it…
eat take-away food and enjoy it next to a canal
Another way of experiencing Amsterdam as a local, besides cycling all over the place and spending your day in the museum, is to eat like a local, maybe after you’ve visited SOLO coffeeshop.
So on my second day, after the museums closed, I went out with David again and with a Romanian facebook-friend(up to that point). And what do locals do in Amsterdam after they’ve been to a shop? They eat take-away food and enjoy it next to a canal.
And that’s exactly what we did as well. I went with the flow again and relied on David’s suggestion. So we shared a portion of Indonesian food from Toko Joyce. Even now when I’m writing the article I am drooling. I highly recommend eating, at least once in your lifetime, Indonesian take-away from Amsterdam. It’s worth every cent! I swear on ‘whatever-you-want-me-to-swear-on”!
And because karma was really determined to teach me a lesson those days, after we finished eating our amazingly tasting food, we heard some music. The music was coming from the canal and on the bridge next to it we saw a crowd starting to gather.
This trippy performance was the best way to end our day.
We slowly walked that way and leaned over the rail to look in the same direction everyone was looking at. That’s how I discovered that on a small boat there was a performer, dancing with some white flags in his/her hands while a projector was beaming nice light patterns on them on the music of a saxophone played by a very talented guy. This trippy performance was the best way to end our day. You can see a recording of this performance in the video at the beginning of the article.
Or at least that’s what I thought. In fact my day ended several hours later, in the same place, after talking about all the subjects you can talk about.
It never came to my attention, until that day when I noticed it.
I even discovered a really nice cultural difference regarding Romanian’s way of living compared to the Dutch. It never came to my attention, until that day when I noticed it.
Apparently we, the Romanians, have a very funny way of saying goodbye to someone when we’re about to end our meeting: by continuing to talk for at least another half of hour(up to a day if you can).
Romanians will know what I mean. If you’ll visit a Romanian you’ll notice that when you’re at the door, or even outside already, we’ll continue talking about something that we were previously talking about. And this process will continue for a long, long time until one of you will have to say(the fifth time) “Ok, now I REALLY have to go!”
This was so amusing for me to notice and to actually see myself doing, because I was out with a Dutch and a Romanian. After the first half of hour the Dutch left. Me and Mihaela stayed there for another 2 or 3 more hours. Hahah!
I arrived to the museum soaking wet
During my last day in Amsterdam I had the most Dutch experience anyone can have: cycling through heavy rain, for half of hour. My plan for the day was to go to Nemo, the science museum, for a few hours with Mihaela(my Romanian friend) and afterwards to visit EYE museum.
Firstly I must say that I arrived to the museum soaking wet. No, you don’t get me. I was so wet that my boots were filled with water, that’s how wet I was. Hahaha!
But if you think that I was angry or furious, you’d be wrong. In fact I was probably the only person in Amsterdam who was cycling on that weather with a huge smile on his face while whistling and singing. What else could I have done? Curse? Get angy? Be mad? At nature? Hahha! That’s a good joke!
I’ve spend 7 hours in the same museum and I wanted more
Aaanyway, as I was saying I arrived at the museum and after using my card, which was in its last day of validity, me and my friend went inside. First thing we did was to go on the roof to get ourselves a cup of coffee. We met there a nice barista and for half of hour we talked and laughed with him a lot.
Then we got inside the museum and I was stunned! This isn’t a regular science museum. Nooo! In this museum you have lots of exhibits that you can touch and interact with. You can do all sorts of experiments and get your hands on various things. It’s a museum that I will always recommend to everyone. I’ve spend 7 hours in the same museum and I wanted more; since the moment it opened until they closed it I didn’t go out. I was that excited and fascinated.
The museum is set on 4 or 5 different floors which become more andmore interesting and more and more complex as you climb them. From the “kids” area where you interact with perspective, basic bridge building methods and all kinds of levers and pulleys, all the way to the last floor which is about the human brain and human behavior and lastly about smart technologies.
They even have a LAB where you can do various experiments. You get all the proper gear and instructions, water baths, microscopes, petri dishes, you name it!
Please, go and see that museum! You won’t regret it
Besides these museums I’ve also seen the Jewish museum, hermitage museum and a couple more.
This was the first time when I experienced a city from a more touristic position, but still relying on locals’ recommendations, and I have to say that I enjoyed every second of my stay there.
So I can thank karma for proving me wrong and for showing me that there’s more to Amsterdam than weed and prostitutes.
Now I see this city from a completely different perspective and I am glad that I have learned a bit of its history .
If you’ve been to Amsterdam, what places did you see and what would you recommend me to visit next time?
Let me know in your comments!