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Amsterdam gracht   Amsterdam Begijnenhof

  • Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands (Holland to you?). It is a magnificent city (but I am a little prejudiced, of course, being Dutch!), where the very old and new meet each other. It is a city full of foreigners (like you?). There are so many of them, that the Dutch sometimes address you in English instead of in Dutch, because the chances are, that one has to speak it anyhow. Dutch is losing the battle in this metropolitan city! There are about 750,000 inhabitants (The Netherlands has about 17 million). There are many canals. During its history, Amsterdam (which by the way is called that name, after a dam which used to be in the river Amstel, which still flows through the city. In those days it was called "Amstelerdam") had to expend again and again. New canals had to be dug to defend the city within and now Amsterdam has many kilometers of canals, concentrically starting away from the "IJ", the harbour of the city. You'll find that quite a few people don't live in houses, but in houseboats in the canals. And often they have their own little garden, very neatly kept and full of flowers in spring! And with a bit of luck with their own parking space next to it. The transport item is the push bike. Near enough each Dutchman has a bike. So, after scratching the old and very young, that still leaves some 10 million bikes around the country. A country which is only 41,160 square kilometers. Is it a wonder, that you will find biking tracks alongside nearly every road throughout the country? And as there are usually no free parking spaces to be found anywhere near the center of the town, it is the best way of moving about! By the way, you can rent a bike at most railway stations in the Netherlands for little money! Or otherwise there are trams, buses, taxis and an underground train (Metro).

  • Currency: Euro. 1 Euro is about US $1.32. The Netherlands, together with many other European countries (Austria, Belgium, Germany, Finland, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, Austria, Portugal, Spain, Ireland, France) have changed to the European currency. There's more coming! And guess what name the new money has? Yes, Euro. Each country will have its own reverse on the coin. The Dutch will still carry the image of their queen Beatrix and proudly so. But the Euro will be accepted in all of the European countries participating, no matter what the rear of the coin looks like, which makes things very simple for the poor tourist. Only once you'll have to learn what the value is of your own currency in Euro's. The currencies are the same nearly all over Europe. But not the prices! Articles of the same kind and brand can have a different value in the different countries! All this has started happening in 1999 on the stock exchange and the currency itself has been introduced on January 1st., 2002. So brace yourself for it! Changing money in The Netherlands is simple. Any bank or change office (and there are many galore!) will change anything. There is no bargaining anywhere, so don't even try it.

  • windmills during festivities, Dutch flags up!

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  • Voltage: 220V, 50 Hz.
  • Country code for telephoning: 31
  • Time compared to GMT: +1.
  • Visa: For most countries only a valid passport is required. This is true for all European Union residents (There are no customs on the borders anymore, so one can keep going on the roads, without grabbing those passports anymore!). Also for travellers from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Japan and the USA, for visits up to 90 days.

  • Health risks: Cholesterol, blisters on your feet and spinning out, man!!!!!
  • Tourism: An average of 6.5 million visitors in Holland per year!
  • Language: Dutch. But most Dutchmen speak fluent English, reasonable German and some a little French. Besides those languages, other cultures invaded Holland and with it some languages. Like Surinams, Marroccan, Turkish, Arab and many more became part of the country.

  • Activities and tips. Oh boy, this is difficult. Because there is so much to see, experience, feel, eat, drink and what have you, that it is nearly impossible to give you some ideas. Let's look at some of the more out of the way things, besides museums, theaters, restaurants, parks, canal tours, the Concert Gebouw with the best acoustics in the world, the Leidse Plein (square), Rembrandts Plein (another square you must see), and off course: the "Dam" square with its Palace built on poles. The Rijksmuseum with the many Rembrandts, like the "Night Watch", Mac Donalds and King Burger (huh?), the Zoo "Artis", etc. As far as those items go, I'm sure you'll find them. Before I go on: Coming from the main railway station, just stroll straight on along the Damrak. On your left are cruising boats that will take you through the canals and the harbor. A must. Language is no problem. They speak English, German and French, next to Dutch off course, There are many shops to look into. Arriving on the Dam square, cross over slightly to your right. That's where the main shopping area starts: the Kalverstraat. Behind you another street with shops: the Nieuwedijk. A cheap but good place to eat (self service) is the La Place, above the super store Vroom and Dreesman (V&D) in the Kalverstraat.
    But at night, there are other scenes. You MUST go and experience the Red Area, with all the prostitutes sitting behind windows. You say that's not for you? Take it from me, then you're like me. Yet, my wife led me through it once when we had an American guest and honestly, I enjoyed it. It is full of tourists, just having a look, without the purpose of 'business'. And I think that maybe only 1 % comes for the sex. There are groups of tourists, led by official guides, strolling along there! There is NO danger, except maybe for pickpockets, but then you have those in every city. Do it, you'll enjoy it. Just dive in, across from the Main Railway station, slightly to the left. And if you need anymore information from a Dutchman, please let me know. I might be able to help you with more things than one, like hotels, restaurants, tickets sightseeing suggestions, etc. etc. I might even take you there myself. All free of charge, off course! Just drop a line. My e-mail address is

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Created: April 1, 1998. Updated: mei 7 2012