Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Living in Amsterdam: Top Ten Favorite Things

Sometimes it takes leaving a place to make one stop and reflect on all the experiences of the current situation, and that’s exactly what’s happening to us now that we’re about to leave Amsterdam. We’ve only been here less than a year, but we have experienced what feels like a lifetime of new encounters and different perspectives.

So I’ve decided to summarize it into another “Top Ten” list – Here are what I consider the top ten things we have enjoyed about living in Amsterdam:

Number 10: Biking as the main mode of transportation

Since this top ten list isn’t in any certain order, I’ll start with the most obvious, at least for us “cycling enthusiasts”. It has been so much fun to use our bikes to get around everywhere – to and from work, to get groceries and run other errands, to go out to dinner or concerts… We haven’t owned cars for almost a whole year now, and we haven’t missed it at all! Ok, maybe just a few times I have wished for a warm car to sit in when it’s January and raining with a 50-mph wind and we’re all dressed up for work (they tend to dress more formal here), knowing that we might as well not dried our hair that morning (!)…but luckily those times were few (and “what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger”, right?!).

For more about biking here, see Jeff’s blogs:

Cycling in Amsterdam, Part 1 & Part 2 (“My New SUV”)

When you use your bike as your car, you have to get creative with ways to carry things, since your "trunk" or "back seat" consists of a basket and maybe some panniers...and you can always strap things on too:

Number 9: Seeing everyone else biking everywhere

As a cyclist (and environment supporter), it is a wonderful sight to see more bikes than cars commuting to work in the morning. There were so many bikes on the bike paths, there were mini “traffic jams” at some intersections. I couldn’t help giggling when I see men dressed in crisp pin-striped suits holding their briefcase in one hand and biking to work! Including Jeff:

Women wear dresses or short skirts with heels while biking… anything goes. (By the way, that is a general theme for Amsterdam as you’ll see later in this blog.) Also I love seeing parents riding with their kids on the bike, taking them to school or riding around town:

Jeff and I laugh all the time when we see what some people carry while biking – some things have included a full-size ladder, a Christmas tree, rugs (see Jeff’s blog pic doing that himself)… the list goes on and on. Definitely a different way to use a bike than we were used to!

Number 8: The canals

Amsterdam has much more beauty than I think it gets credit for. The canals give the city a unique feel (some call it the “Venice of the North”), so that there’s less concrete and more of a nature feeling (just don’t look at the water too closely!)

It’s especially beautiful at night, when the lights on the canal bridges reflect in the water. That was really nice in the winter since it got dark so early!

Number 7: The buildings

We’re not usually into architecture, but this is different - In the city along the canals, all the buildings are connected, yet each has a different style. I guess we’re used to the U.S.-approach of making it all the same to minimize the material costs and get it done faster/cheaper/simpler. But not in Amsterdam – People here have liked to express their individualism, even through the buildings they design! It has been referred to as “the largest outdoor museum” since it is so interesting just to walk or bike around and look at the different designs:

Number 6: Our apartment

It’s only less than half the size of our smallest previous house, but we’ve actually loved having the smaller space – Less to keep tidy means more time to be out playing! And we are always able to talk with each other no matter where in the apartment we are, since it’s basically one big room (but the bedrooms are separate rooms). Jeff had to be very creative to fit all our skiing and backpacking equipment into the one closet that we have, but he made it work. The only problem was that we had to take everything out if we ever needed something in there! Overall it has made us see how we can live in a smaller space than typical in the U.S., and we’re just fine (although another closet or two would be nice!).

The windows overlook a canal, so it has been fun to be sitting on the couch and watch boats go by in our “front yard”!

Whew, this Top Ten list is turning out to be long! So I will take a break here… But stay tuned for numbers 1 through 5 coming soon (can you guess what they might include?!)…


Brian said...

I have your number 1. Space Cakes

Anneke said...

So where are these 5-1 best bits of the Netherlands? ;)
Or did you just stop after having found the hills?

Becky said...

Yes, exactly! Been a little distracted :) but items 5-1 are still on their way... so don't touch that dial!

Anneke said...

:D No problem, enjoy reading your blog anyway! Just like to know.