The following is an excerpt from the book Just Unplug and Go… How Traveling the world Saved One Man’s Soul
Amsterdam is the enchanter of Western Europe if you ask me.
It has the international residential flavor and historical ‘oomph’ of London, along with the ‘articulate adornment of architecture’ philosophy and aristocratic atmosphere Paris brings to the table. Just add quaint bridges stretched over tranquil canals everywhere, semi-legal weed, lots of beer, great food, all locals in the city on bikes and floating abodes on water to the mix for the most unique and ‘Man, that goes down easy’ city cocktails in Western Europe.
Small enough to feel comfy, large enough to allow plenty of wandering, with parks that are so inviting you have a hard time leaving them to go ride your bike some more — Amsterdam is just the right size.
You know that pair of jeans we all have that are perfectly worn in, fit great and still looks terrific when you wear them out on a Friday night?
Fits everybody perfect, with nonchalance and flair at the same time!
How can you not love a city where 90 percent of the inhabitants ride bikes every- where, everyday? Morning, noon, night, and late night — this is how you get around. It is fantastic.
It gives the city a quiet hush. The bustle is still there, but without so much of the noise that accompanies bustle! Plus, and this is my absolute favorite factor about Amsterdam, because everyone is on bikes or on foot you get to people watch the entire town.
Park yourself down at a coffee shop or restaurant on a bridge and watch as this ever-changing, always intriguing world walks or rides on by.
Best people watching city I have been to thus far.
I rented a bike for seven days and rode it around for at least six hours every single day. A plethora to see, do and absorb. Soooo much fun. Especially during rush hour!
Yes, they do have rush hour. It’s just with bikes instead. And they most definitely have rules of protocol. You better catch on quick or they will politely, but sternly let you know what’s up.
Keep your head on a swivel cause bikes come at you from all directions, there are specific lanes to be in based on the speed you pedal, cars are still at play along with a lot of pedestrians, and you better know which way you are going cause they expect you to make decisions and move quick.
Study some history on the Dutch and you will find they have been travelers for- ever and a day. It is in their blood. The whole dang city is a port. Therefore it stands to reason they would be naturals at hosting travelers too. Exceptionally accommodating.
Food is plentiful and delicious, always served with a smile. Beer gardens abound and weed/coffee shops are sprinkled here and there. Whenever you bring legalized weed to the equation in any city it always has an indelible effect on the “check this character out” factor.
Even if you do not partake I strongly suggest hanging out in one of the shops for a couple hours. A whole different and pleasurable vibe exists when you walk through those smoke-filled yet welcoming doors.
I mentioned the parks above and think it worth a follow up. They have three main parks in the city and a smattering of smaller ones throughout. The main parks are quite expansive with canopy tree lined bike paths and walkways, quaint gas lamps lining keeping them all well illuminated, weeping willows cascading over small ponds with fountains, terrific sculptures scattered everywhere, open fields for sports/relaxing on a blanket and the safest of ambiances.
Women walk these parks alone, late at night, with a comfort level not usually seen. To me this conveys volumes about the way they are as stewards of civility and decency.
Nobody does the shudder concept better than these peeps. You know, the kind you install on the windows of the outside of your home so that should inclement weather come through you can close them up to protect the windows from shattering due to flying debris.
This city has taken shudders to a higher form than simply function. They are as imperative to the artistic nuance and visual spectacle of Amsterdam as the canals. Vibrant colorful mosaics which convey an inherently whimsical yet avant-garde streak runs through the veins of her streets and people.
One other aspect of Amsterdam I find endearing is the variety and number of buskers, artists and musicians the city attracts. Talented, clever, witty and visually stimulating shows put on by people from all walks of life who love their craft; and what a splendid craft it is to perform and captivate a street audience form scratch.
Live art on the streets is such a welcome gift to these eyes, always reminds me the soul of the world is alive and vibrant.
I spent a significant portion of my time here alone. While I had several conversations with interesting people as I always do during my stay at a super cool hostel and enjoyed the company of my friend Bebe the first weekend, I was still nursing the remnants of the aforementioned viral infection. All told, it took six weeks to run its course through my body.
Thus, beyond the shear exhaustion of having traveled quite a bit of ground over the previous five months, the infection slowly drained whatever was left of my spirit. Amsterdam became the city of tranquility for me. I slept in the grass in parks, chilled at coffee shops, relaxed by numerous bridges, languidly ate meals while reading books and generally went inward with my thoughts.
Don’t get me wrong – I had a remarkable experience! I adore this city. It was the perfect setting for me to recover and re-boot for the last leg of my journey. Some- times the infinite silence of people watching leaves a louder impression on your soul than 100 conversations.
Also, again I was lucky enough to have a friend, the beautiful and vibrant Karen C., take me out for a meal and some sightseeing. A friendly face warms the heart so very much when on the road to nowhere in particular.
If you like to really and truly want to watch a city unfold before your very eyes every day, and in doing so gain a comprehensive understanding of it’s people and traditions, park your ass on a chair by a bridge over a canal for awhile, then take a bike ride around Amsterdam, and then park your ass again.
Rinse and repeat repeatedly throughout the day until you leave.
Amsterdam, like Paris, is charming company — quirky, kitschy and without guile. She is the eccentric and captivating girl you could never really get out of your mind, even when hanging out with the stunner.
She leaves that wistful, reoccurring thought “Wonder what would have happened if we…”