Next stop is Amsterdam, one of the most important world ports back during the Dutch Golden Age in the 17th century. Today, the city can still boast the oldest stock exchange in the world along with historic canals, many famous museums, a thriving red-light district, and cannabis coffee shops. However, more than anything, I will remember the city’s beautiful canals and architecture.
The canals, a result of 17th century city planning, make four concentric semi-circles with open ends running into the bay. (Interesting fact: Their lack of stagnant water ensures that they do not stink up the city with foul odors.) However, despite the charm the canals provide to the city, they only set the stage for its diverse and historied architecture. The oldest building still standing, the Oude Kerk (or Old Church), was built in 1306. There are also samples of renaissance architecture from the 16th century, baroque architecture from the 17th century, and gothic architecture from the 19th century. That all said, my favorite architecture was that of 17th century residences built around the canals. These buildings are all very narrow, have elaborate front steps, and show off ornate gables. The gables have utilitarian purposes because the buildings are too thin for large staircases, thus making it almost impossible to move furniture up and down. Instead, the buildings use a hoist and pulley system to transport large items into the house, with the hoists attached to elaborate gables on top of colorful and embellished facades. These residences make up the familiar canal image people conjure up when imagining Amsterdam.
Amsterdam has more to offer than walking around and appreciating its beauty, thus Gabe and I sit down with Lonely Planet, TripAdvisor, and the like and we decide what we are going to visit. Of the many museum options, Gabe and I decide to visit the Van Gogh museum, with its more than 200 paintings by Van Gogh along with many drawings and letters. Memorably, the exhibit creatively displayed Van Gogh’s famous bedroom painting next to a matching physical room. We spent an afternoon in the museum followed by some time soaking up sun and reading in a nearby park.