Friday, December 9, 2016

An Afternoon Tour of Amsterdam

Vendredi, 9 décembre

Several months ago, I took an impromptu trip to the Netherlands with my friends. We wound up skipping over the big cities and instead spent our time petting wild horses in Nijmegen and sitting on the (very cold) beach in Domburg. It was a blast, and I detailed all of it a blog post appropriately titled "There's More to the Netherlands than Amsterdam." At the time, I wrote about how I'd never much been interested in Amsterdam: from the Red Light district to the seedy coffee shops, there just was not much about the Dutch city that I had ever found appealing.

Fast forward to December, when I got the opportunity to travel up to Utrecht and Amsterdam for a work event with the Dutch Fulbright Commission. After a morning of meetings, I decided to spend the afternoon on a free city walking tour. I think I may owe Amsterdam an apology...

My walking tour was organized by Sandemans, which offers guided tours of a dozen or so European cities. (You might recognize the guides' trademark red umbrellas!) The tours operate on tips: instead of buying tickets ahead of time, you wait until the end of the tour and pay your guide however much you think the tour was worth. Our guide explained that not getting paid until the end of his tour ensures that he gives a great performance each time ... and I have to agree. At the end of our nearly three-hour tour, I happily forked over the cash in my wallet!

Here are some of the highlights from our sunset tour of Amsterdam.

Oude Kerke, the oldest church in Amsterdam.

Sunset reflected in the windows inside the Begijnhof.

One of the most surprisingly fascinating parts of the tour was a quick detour into the courtyard of a building now belonging to the University of Amsterdam. Several hundred years ago, however, the Oostindisch Huis was the headquarters of the Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie, or Dutch East India Company. (If you're starting to hum the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack to yourself, you're not alone...) The Dutch East India Company dominated the global spice trade in the seventeenth century, at which point the city of Amsterdam experienced its Golden Age. When the VOC decided to sell shares in its stock to the public, the Oostindisch Huis became the location of the world's first stock exchange!

What self-respecting tour doesn't end with a massive wheel of cheese?!

If I'd had more time in Amsterdam, there is so much more that I would have liked to have done and seen! The city is home to some of the world's most famous museums -- Anne Frank House, Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, and more! -- as well as some of the cutest little side streets and shops I have ever seen. As it takes under two hours to travel between Brussels and Amsterdam on the high speed Thalys, I have a feeling that it won't be long before I find myself back in Amsterdam...

1 comment:

  1. Just saw this! So glad you went on a tour. Maybe you can go back when tulips are blooming!