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I spent the last week of May in Amsterdam. My wife had to travel there on business and I tagged along for a short vacation. This was my first visit to Amsterdam. I did not do any research in advance of the trip, deciding to just take everything in on first impressions. Here is what I found.

The first thing I noticed is that it was cold and windy. The weather seemed a lot like Seattle. For some reason I was expecting it to be warmer. I guess I never noticed that Holland borders the North Sea and is at a higher latitude than London. It also never occurred to me that those iconic Holland windmills might be an indication of how windy it is there. The land is very FLAT. In fact, the entire country seemed to be a giant marsh. The amount of technology and human effort invested in controlling the water and keeping it out of the inhabited areas is impressive.

The culture in Amsterdam, I am told, is uniquely Dutch and unusual for Europe. Dutch people seemed to me to be polite, friendly, and (famously) tolerant. It was hard to figure them out at first. They have a very abrupt and direct way of speaking that sounds, to my American ears, like they are scolding you. They sound German. After a while I realized they are just direct and honest and seem to possess a contented and wry view of the world that I grew to like.

There are a lot of museums in Amsterdam. We visited a few of the main ones. The Rijksmuseum is the primary art museum. It was partially closed for renovation, but they still had an impressive art collection on display. The main attraction is The Night Watch by Rembrandt. We also visited the Van Gogh museum, the Historical museum, and the Anne Frank house.


Prior to our visit, I did not realize how many canals there were in Amsterdam. It is sometimes referred to as the "Venice of the North". The canals criss-crossed the entire city. We did a few boat tours and got a great view of the city from the water.

Typical canal scene near the Anne Frank house in the Jordaan neighborhood.

I have never seen so many bicycles in my life. Bicycles seem to be the main method for getting around town. It was a bit overwhelming at first. I almost got run over a few times. After a few days, I got the hang of it though and rented a bike and rode it all over town. I found this webpage which has a good illustrated description of the Amsterdam bike scene.


This dog was watching intently out the window of one of the canal houses

I saw a lot of BMW motorcycles. I took this picture of an R1150RT near Centraal Station.