Amsterdam, Netherlands

Trip Start Jul 25, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Netherlands  ,
Saturday, March 3, 2007

Our drive up to Amsterdam was long (nearly 6 hours) but uneventful.  Driving on the German Autobahn is an amazing experience... where else can you cruise at 90+ mph and still have other cars whizzing by you as if you're standing still?  It's such a rush - we're hoping that the EU initiative to enforce a speed limit on the Autobahn will not get passed!

Once in Amsterdam, we decided to look for accommodations that could serve as a home base to explore the surrounding areas.  We were hoping we would have better luck here in a big city than we did in the small Alpine villages where we had originally hoped to 'settle down.'  The first few days in town were spent looking for apartments. We visited several and chose one in the outskirts of town in an area called Watergraafsmeer (20 min. by tram or bike to Central Station).  Our new home is a two-story, two bedroom brownstone - typical of Amsterdam housing it has narrow, steep staircases, large windows and small kitchen/bathrooms!    The area is very residential with easy access to shops/markets as well as the tram.  The #9 tram has a stop right outside our building complex and we're in walking distance to Oosterpark (our favorite park - prettier than Vondelpark!) and Tropenmuseum (the cities anthropological museum).

After securing a place to stay we set out acquiring the necessities of Dutch life... the first thing we did was buy used bikes. The flat topography of the Netherlands is ideal for biking and everyone here rides bikes. There are separate biking paths on almost every road and supposedly more bikes in Amsterdam than either cars or people! Ironically, the bikes here are not all that nice... most are old and ugly although the costs of bicycles are much higher than in the US.  We've learned that bike theft is the number one crime here and have wisely invested in a large chain to lock up the bikes.  The other essentials we acquired were a discount card at our local grocery store (Albert Heijn), a membership to the movie rental store near our apartment, and a Museumkaart (which allows us unlimited access to museums throughout Holland for the next year!). Within a week we were settled in to our pseudo home. 

So far we have really enjoyed exploring and learning about this most socially liberal (progressive?) country.  The people are so kind (even to American tourists!) and it's really nice that 90% speak English - the language barrier here is not the problem it's been in other areas.  We are especially enjoying our daily bike rides in and around the city. 
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