Walking Tour of Amsterdam

Taking walking tours of a city can be a great way to learn interesting facts about a city as well as see important landmarks. The walking tour that we took in Amsterdam was interesting as it was a free tour where participants are asked to pay the tour guide what they felt was a fair price for the tour that they received. In some ways it forces the tour guide to be more creative, informative, and lively. We are sure that most people pay the same prices as the other paid tours, but you aren’t obligated.

Our Tour Guide
Crossing a Canal
Us on the Tour

The tour that we took combined information about the “coffee houses”, the red light district, the history of Amsterdam in World War II, as well as just the general history of the city. We heard many interesting facts and folklore about this city that was built on swampland so many years ago. According to folklore, the first settlers in the area that is now the city of Amsterdam did so as the result of a bet. The first couple of attempts to populate the area failed as the buildings sank into the marsh land. In order to finally build the city, they pounded poles made from trees that are up to 100 feet tall into the moist ground to stabilize the buildings. Eventually they used wind mills to pump the water out and create the canals that crisscross the city.

The Palace Sits on Thousands of Wooden Poles
Our Meeting Place
Learning about the Family Plaques

As for the coffee houses and the history of pot or Marijuana in Amsterdam. We were actually surprised to hear that marijuana is not actually legal in Amsterdam, but they issue permits for the coffee houses to sell marijuana, kind of an odd arrangement. Because it not actually legal, you won’t see any signs specifically saying that they sell marijuana and hence the reason that they are considered and marketed as coffee houses. The story we were told of the first coffee house in the seventies was that the police knew that the owner was selling marijuana, but that heroin use and addicts were a much bigger problem, so they turned a blind-eye to the coffee house and it spread from there. We were also told that  Amsterdam took a unique approach to combating heroin as they house the addicts and provide them food, clean lodging, and heroin, which keeps them off of the streets. In fact we did not see anyone begging for food or money on the streets of Amsterdam during our time there. Unfortunately, because it is not legal, but tolerated, the coffee houses have to purchase their marijuana from typical drug cartels, which is not helpful for society in general.

Canal with Boat Tours
First Autopsies Conducted Here, Which is Now a Restaurant
The Start of Our Tour

As for the red light district, we just did a quick pass through the streets and wandered passed a couple of the famous windows. It is another unique approach to a controversial topic, but the people of Amsterdam have a live and let live attitude in general, so they are far more tolerant than people in other parts of Europe or the world. The local prostitution union even offers classes for aspiring prostitutes, but the number of windows available for them to use is shrinking as gentrification has started to modify the area. Another interesting fact was that the church in the red light district used to have the sailors pay for their sins before they spent a night of debauchery. Since they wouldn’t have time to go to church prior to having to return to their ships, they would confess what they intended to do with their free time in the red light district, pay for their sins, and then were absolved allowing them to have comfort if they should die during their next voyage.

Church in the Red Light District
Family Plaques
Leaning Buildings

Other interesting places that we saw were the smallest house in Amsterdam, the Anne Frank House, and learned about the leaning houses that line the canal. Each of the buildings that line the canals have hooks near the roof and the buildings lean slightly forward so that they could use pulleys to raise heavy objects to the upper floors since the stairs are so narrow. If buildings are leaning left or right, that is due to them sinking slightly and it is not intentional. About the only thing that we don’t like about the walking tours is that they almost always bring to a store or two to try some local favorites, like cheese, with the hope that you will buy items from that particular store, most likely producing a kickback to the tour company.

The Red House is the Smallest House in Amsterdam
Anne Frank House in the Distance
Notice the Hooks

If you get a chance to go to Amsterdam, we would highly recommend taking a walking tour, you will enjoy it. In fact, we would recommend taking walking tours in many cities, even cities in your own local area or the city that you live in. You might be surprised by the things that you learn about a place you thought you already knew.

Canal that Anne Frank Saw Daily

Amsterdam from Above

We were fortunate that our hotel in Amsterdam, Netherlands, had incredible views of the city from its rooftop lounge. Seeing the labyrinth of buildings from above is always a wonderful way to get a true sense of a city. We have mentioned previously that we almost always try to see the places that we visit from both the street level as well as from a tall building, tower, hill, or even cable car. This was definitely true of the places that we visited while we were in Europe, so when this week’s Daily Post Photo Challenge came out with Atop, we had plenty of cities to choose from. Hopefully you’ll enjoy these views as much as we did.

View of the Harbour
The City Divided by Canals
Cathedral Towers
The Skyline Explained with the Actual Skyline in the Background
Across from the Train Station
Industrial Center


Making the Most of a Few Days in Amsterdam

Once again we took advantage of the opportunity to travel from Frankfurt and took a four-hour train ride to Amsterdam. We were lucky that the weather cooperated for the most part, although we did have one really rainy day. There was a lot to see and absorb in the few days that we had and we felt that we were able to truly gain a sense of the history and culture of the fascinating city. We want to share everything that we learned and talk about the highlights of the trip, but we are already planning our final trip for our stay in Frankfurt. We apologize for the brevity of our posts in recent weeks, so we want to assure everyone that we will be providing much greater details in the coming weeks and months when we are no longer traveling every weekend while working every weekday. With that in mind, here are a few photos from our visit to Amsterdam.

One of the Many Canals
Dominating the Skyline
Beautiful Architecture
There are a lot of Bridges
There are a lot of Canal Tours
There is Wonderful Architecture all over Amsterdam