Amsterdam. I wore tennis shoes and I was proud.
When I flew into Amsterdam, and I have to be honest, it was most definitely a “culture shock.” But it was a weird culture shock because I came from Bordeaux, France, where I have been living for the last four months, so I was making comparisons between those two cities. There was still a European atmosphere in Amsterdam, probably shaped by its architecture, the narrow roads, trams and buses. So, what happened? For the first time in Europe, I put on some tennis shoes and a backpack, map in hand, and officially looked like a tourist (as opposed to trying to fit in with heels and purse as in France).
One of the initial things I remember thinking was:
This is not Bordeaux.
This is not our tram.
It doesn’t look like our tram, it doesn’t even sound like our tram.
That one thing made me realize that somehow, I am officially attached to Bordeaux.
Speaking of sound, Amsterdam also didn’t have the ubiquitous click-clack of heels, as Bordeaux seems to. Instead of hearing shoes, I heard bike bells as locals tried to squeeze by the tourists who flooded the city on the sunny weekend. The Dutch in Amsterdam love bikes. In fact, there are more bikes in the city than there are people.
(according to a cruise I took)
The architecture was a juxtaposition of something miniature but grand. On average, the buildings in Amsterdam are taller than those in Bordeaux, so I couldn’t help feel “small.” But at the same time, they look like something out of a fairy tale. The houses are close together, some are even tilted because of the canals’ effect on the foundation. Yes Amsterdam has canals!
The canals of Amsterdam circle and seem to engulf the city center. My first impression of the map of Amsterdam was literally: what is this place? There were many side streets that could be taken that would add to the adventure of exploring a new place, but walking along the canals was something special in itself. It was full of boats with tourists, and ducks and even swans. The waterways are a unique characteristic of the city. And I would recommend a touristy cruise down the canals.
And coffeeshops? Yeah. Go in, ask for a menu and a grinder. Enjoy. Coffeeshops are another unique thing about Amsterdam. Each one has its own atmosphere, and you just have to figure out what you’re into and what you’re not into. Some had dimmer lights and soft music. Some are more lit with a louder buzz.
Oh, and one more thing. The street names are impossible to pronounce!
There are other things left that I want to share, so look out for some more blog posts coming soon.