Amsterdam is one of Europe’s treasure troves for lovers of architecture both in the historic and in terms of modern design; the charming gabled houses, houseboats, and canals of Amsterdam are downright romantic! Not to be missed in the city is the Rijksmuseum which opened its doors in 1800, moving to its current location in 1808, now completely renovated in 2013 it is itself an architectural masterpiece, they have taken the creme de la crème and put it in one wing, thus you have a convenient capsule of the very best! Then there is Nemo, the science center and The Whale, a housing block - two top modern designs, perfect for a city built on water. The city is built on 90 islands, 62 miles of canals and boosts more bridges than Venice, with 1300 in total.
Bicycles by the hundreds of thousands keep all the population in great shape and moving. In all seasons, a bike is a must. Everyone rides, seriously everyone -- young, old, students, rich or poor, women in high heels and gorgeous outfits, men in suits who just might be a Politian or a Prince. You can cycle securely on bike roads and truly cross the entire country on two wheels.
The people of Amsterdam are known for being very polite, welcoming with a smile and easily switch to English when they see you don't understand a Dutch greeting. Everyone in the Netherlands speaks English fluently, actually it is the best non-native English-speaking nation in Europe. Another title holder is the Dutch are the tallest people, truly.
Amsterdam is a gem to behold, to wander and to taste! We did a walking tasting tour of herrings, cheeses, Dutch pancakes at Pannenkoekenhuis and the famous apple cake at DeBakkerswinkel. It is a tossup between Dutch tire size rounds of cheese or Herring (‘Hollandse Nieuwe’) as to which is probably the most famous Dutch food. If you like fish you should at least try herring once. The raw herring is served together with chopped raw onions and gherkins. Also, the way of eating it is a real Dutch tradition. In the Netherlands new herring is eaten by lifting up the herring by its tail into the air and then take a bite upwards and almost always on the street. We also arranged a sampling of Belgian fries (Patat) and all their toppings and ate a plate of Poffertjes covered in powdered sugar in a much-loved local café while learning about the history of Dutch cuisine. Sitting down inside the Old Amsterdam cheese shop for a cheese-tasting session or to hear tales of the 16th-century Dutch spice trade while you sip on spirits and traditional drinks inside a 17th-century distillery. Prosit! But the one you will fall in love with and bring home are the ‘stroopwafel,’ undoubtedly the most famous and popular pastry from the Netherlands. A ‘stroopwafel’ is a unique kind of cookie. It is a waffle made from baked batter and sliced horizontally. The two thin layers of the waffle are filled with special sweet and sticky syrup (the ‘stroop’) in between. These travel well and are too delicious to leave behind!
If you are lucky to be in Amsterdam in Spring, a magical eight weeks between March and May, one final day must be spent in Keukenhof, the jewel in the crown! This is the biggest and the best flower show in the world! The Spring gardens of Keukenhof are a privilege to view them, people come from all over the world to see 6 million blossoms in full splendor. The views here take the breath away. Over 100 different companies co-operate to plant 6 million bulbs not only to be admired, but also to be a source of inspiration. Different garden themes cover over 32 hectares, all different bulb varieties, aromas and color spectrum. Harmony between nature and culture reigns here because there is art positioned throughout the garden and trails adding to the overwhelming beauty. Tulips as tall as children -- with heads the same size just astounds. An Austrian botanist brought the first tulip to Holland in 1593. And after seeing their magnificence in Keukenhof, it can be easily understood what created the “tulip mania” in the 17th century. But like Silicon Valley and the housing market, the “tulip mania” bubble burst and people lost total fortunes in speculation.
The gardens started as a kitchen garden on a hunting estate, but in 1949 after the war, the local mayor decided to open it as a showpiece for bulb exporters to illustrate their production. Holland today exports 2 billion tulip bulbs alone each year!
If you have a week to spare next Spring, you would be doing yourself the greatest favor by heading to Schipol. Indulge yourself, a river cruise is perfect for a traveler - because you don‘t miss a moment as scenery just glides by, plus you dock directly in towns - perfectly convenient for a stroll. Being on board is so relaxing; take the time to linger over a meal matched with fine wines, read a great book from the library, get a massage or just get to know new friends. And whatever you do -- don’t miss Keukenhof Gardens!!
Dutch Pancake recipe (use oven proof pan) and have your favorite jam handy.
3 tablespoons Unsalted Butter
3 Large Eggs
¾ cup Whole Milk
½ cup All-Purpose Flour
¼ teaspoon Salt
½ teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract
¼ cup Sugar (Plus 1 Tablespoon)
1 tablespoon Fresh Lemon Juice