Amsterdam succeeds, in its little dirty, shameful but oh so irresistible ways, to get under the skin of the traveler, overpower and charm them so much, that they just have to go back. Time and again. Year after year. That’s probably because Amsterdam is a city that despite its small size is very cheeky and few cities can tickle the adventurer in you, such as this oasis of liberty.
Amsterdam is constantly evolving, everything is changing with a neck breaking speed here. Since the millennium, the city exploded with creativity in every sector – from design and architecture to fashion and gastronomy.
Looking at the map, it is probably difficult to understand the big role that the small country has played in world history. In fact, the little kingdom that you can literally cover with your thumb, has for a long time ruled the world.
Amsterdam‘s beginnings is anything but grand. The city made its first modest debut in the history books during the early thirteenth century when a group of fishermen settled a close to the Amstel River. Here were established the first Dutch dikes – an area that today is the center around the Dam Square.
The crafty “Amstelleddammers” developed a trade with the passing merchant ships, that consisted largely of beer and herring – something that the Dutch had a taste for, and learned to love over everything else on earth.Hollandse Nieuwe (raw herring fillet with chopped raw onions) is now the inauguration rite for anyone who wants to gain insight into the Dutch gastronomy.
Amsterdam‘s most famous area has existed since the 14th century. The name Red-Light District is owed to the small red lamps that visiting sailors placed outside the doors. Today, lanterns have been replaced by red fluorescent tubes, but the idea is the same. Curiosity about the area is great – the neighborhood is full of English party seekers, Italian couples and hordes of Japanese tourists who want to get a glimpse of the Dutch reality: the women behind the window, pay taxes, are connected to the trade and get regular health checks. But here you should fight to resist the urge to pick up the camera – all photography is strictly forbidden and punished.
During the second half of 15th century, the Netherlands, contrary to Spain, and especially Amsterdam were, a haven for all who would not join the Roman Catholic Church, and the influx of wealthy merchants saw that the city grow suddenly, not only in territory. In Amsterdam there was no requirement for your religion, as long as you paid taxes and contributed to the economic development of the city.
Both culture and commerce flourished and Amsterdam became the center of the world and a powerful empire with colonies including Indonesia and South Africa. Names such as Rembrandt van Rijn, Jan Vermeer and Jan Steen sat in the same time the city on art map.
Over the decades it declined, largely because of war and pest. During World War I the Netherlands remained neutral, but the country was hit harder during World War II, when it was occupied and almost its entire Jewish population was wiped out. A comprehensive document of that period is Anne Frank‘s diary, and her secret hiding place can be visited on the Prinsengracht.
During the sixties and seventies Amsterdam was invaded by hippies from around the world. It was undoubtedly the tolerance of so-called soft drugs that converted it to Europe’s “magic center”, completely sealed in the smell of marijuana.
And just what is, in my opinion, without a doubt one of Amsterdam’s finest qualities – to allow anyone to be who you want to be completely without pointers.