”Amsterdam lives and breathes creativity. One moment you walk into a building from the 17th century, and the next you find yourself in a hub of creative start-up companies.”— Marcel Wanders
HOW DID IT ALL STARTED?
I was dreaming of Amsterdam already as a little girl. I not only wanted to visit it, but to be a part of this remarkable city – to actually live in it.
About 4 years ago, my wish came true.
Staying in Croatia didn’t give me a bright perspective, so I simply packed my suitcase and went away. Moreover, finally I realized I’m not a tree.
I remember the first thing I thought when I came to downtown Amsterdam was: Wow! This city is so symmetrical! Every building and house looked the same to me. It took me even three months to actually stop looking for hours every night my apartment where I was staying.
In this article, I will share with you some interesting & general informations about Amsterdam from a local point of view. I hope you will enjoy reading it.
You see, it makes a big difference to visit Amsterdam and to actually live in it. First and foremost, if you live in Amsterdam, you will not find yourself crushing into bikes all the time while walking and you will less likely be a part of traffic accidents – several times a day. 🙂
These unfortunate situations are happening to tourists and visitors very often. The reason is that after a certain period of living here, you acquire a culture of cycling. The once long and somber strapping of a bicycle with heavy and thick iron chains, you replace with the ease of same strapping, feeling like Lara Croft. Lara Croft sumo – dressed in layers! 🙂
Yep, Amsterdam is a really cold city. For one person from Croatia, especially Dalmatia, getting used to the weather really took a while. In fact, I never even got used to it. In brief, always wear extra clothes, because at some point you will definitely need it. Raincoat or umbrella too. It rains very often.
The climate is sub-oceanic, humid and rainy, influenced by the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, so the winters are cold but also quite cold summers. The wind blows frequently and is extremely intense, especially from November to March. Nonetheless, it’s not perfect anywhere, is it !? There are good and bad sides everywhere.
I fell in love with Amsterdam primarily because it is very vibrant, alive and extremely liberal. It has almost perfect urbanization too and 180 imperfect and different nations of the world. How cool is that!?
Amsterdam is not as big or bustling as London or New York (unless you are slow-cycling, scared tourist that has just arrived), but it has a great and infectiously good vibe. Whether you are riding a bike and singing out loud or dressed in a Yoda costume, absolutely no one will mind you.
The special charm of Amsterdam is the freedom to interact people. There are not many places in the world where you will sit by one of the 1281 bridges, and at least three people will ask you how you are because they really care, wish you a good time, ask if you need help, just give you a compliment or try to make you laugh. I don’t allude to the fact that such situations are present only in Amsterdam, but my experience has shown that they are most common here. That’s why I love Amsterdam the most.
This exceptional city has more bridges than Paris, the most famous bridge being the Magere Brug or the Skinny Bridge. The “Venice of the North” as people call it, consists of 165 channels, even more than Venice! Seventeenth-century Amsterdam canals, located in the heart of the city, were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in August 2010. They consist of the eponymous areas: Singelgracht, Herengracht, Keizersgracht and Prinsengracht, which I highly recommend for visit. Many of the homes in these canals date from the golden age – 17th century – and are one of the most beautiful and oldest – although many of them have been upgraded and restored.
There’s a good reason why Amsterdam’s houses are so tight – money. You see, back in the 17th century, locals were taxed by the breadth of their estates, which aroused great interest in narrow houses. Many of these houses are cleverly designed to be narrow and not so wide at the front but wider and longer at the back, giving the false impression of being small.
The history of Amsterdam dates back to around 1250, when Amsterdam was a fishing village. Today it bears the title of the world’s most important center for finance and trade, called a global or alpha city. The name Amsterdam comes from Amstelredamma, which indicates the origin of the city around the dam in the Amstel River. Since 1983 it has officially been the capital of the Netherlands, nicknamed Mokum, which is derived from the Hebrew word ‘makan’, meaning the city. The history of the first canals in Amsterdam were excavated for water management and defense. The store exploded – guess when – in the 17th century, in the aforementioned golden age, and was completed around 1660. By then it had grown up to 4 times larger, and today it is considered to be the most agile and efficient waterway system in the world, built on as many as eleven million columns.
It’s the most watery city in the world and it’s located about 2 meters below sea level, just like one third of the Netherlands. The lowest point is 6.7 meters below sea level while the highest point is about one thousand meters above sea level. Perhaps this can give you a better idea of what the landscape in the Netherlands looks like – totally flat!
There’s one more thing that’s very much Amsterdam like – bikes! There are more than 881,000 bikes in this city that rarely sleeps. Believe it or not, that’s four times the number of cars in it. According to 2015 statistics, there are more bikes than people, which are making the number of only 821,752. However, Amsterdam has more inhabitants at the end of this year than ever before! It is estimated that there are now 873, 200 inhabitants – still less than number of bikes! The reason of so many bikes is probably the brutally expensive public transport, which is 32% more expensive here than the average cost of public transport across the whole Europe. It is also interesting to say that the city draws between 12,000 and 15,000 bikes each year from the canals.
Fortunately, today the water in the canal has been cleansed more than ever before. Twenty-four of the city’s 16 existing watercourses are closed three times a week, so that clean water can flow from the great lakes of IJsselmeer. Specialized cleaning boats with large shovels and nets often patrol to clear the surface dirt from the canals. Since 2005, all houseboats in the city have been connected to the sewer system. Pure water has also attracted many wildlife and birds such as ducks, herons, seagulls…Even 20 different species of fish and crustaceans live a healthy life under the water surfaces of the city!
Certainly it’s interesting to experience Amsterdam cruising across the canals or over night in one of the boats for rent. Funny fact is that back in the old days, when canals were still used to transport dresses, living on a boat in Amsterdam was a sign of poverty, while today living on boat is a sign of wealth. All of today’s ships you can see are pretty old. The oldest was built in 1840 as a fresh drinking water boat and is located at the Prinsengracht-Amstelveld site.
If you are an art seeker, Amsterdam is the right city for you! It’s a home to over 70 museums, many of which are well known around the world. The city has more than 7000 monumental buildings too, 40 parks, 38 markets and 55 theaters and concert halls, so there’s a plenty of activities and places to enjoy!
And although I call Amsterdam my home, I will always follow the motto: home is a feeling, not a place.
Let me know in the comments what would you like to know more about Amsterdam, as well as any suggestions if you have one.
I may include some of your questions in my next post.
Any feedback from you means a lot to me. 🙂
Thank you for reading!
Tot volgende ker!
(Until the next time)