Arriving in Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport. You get off the plane and go through customs. Collect your baggage (hopefully all goes smoothly). What is the first thing you think of? Where’s the nearest coffee shop? How do I find my accommodation? Will I be able to get past the language barrier? What is going to be the best way to travel? Most of these questions are probably the same whenever one arrives in a different country (maybe not, where’s the nearest coffee shop?) You soon realize that Amsterdam has a completely different feel to it. Starting at the airport and continuing to the city center you will find that it is clean, multi-cultural and well organized and that is the pattern one will find throughout the city.
My traveling companion and I found found a taxi right out side the airport. The driver was very nice, helpful, spoke English and wanted to converse with us just because we spoke the language. He was eager to practice as he had a dream to drive across America in a 60’s Mustang with his wife. He took us directly to the short stay offices to sign in and waited a long time while I went and did the deed (due to all the paper work, paying the safety deposit, the $30.00 extra for signing in early and the final amount for the apartment). The people in the offices were friendly and helpful, but you could tell that they had ‘seen it all before’ and were going through the motions. What seemed very different, strange and unusual to me was common place to them. Once this was achieved the taxi driver drove direct to our apartment. Chatting to him on the way, it transpired he was driving a Tesla with in built Sat nav screen and all mod cons. He told us that there were other Tesla taxi’s around, just in case you are thinking this is unique. He help unload our bags and left us too out fate with a cheery wave.
Standing outside of our building with our cases, we were right besides a open air market with 200 yards (at least) of various stalls. Directly to our right was a Sushi bar and to the left at the end of the road was the Troppen museum. We had defiantly arrived in a bustling area of down town Amsterdam, which we later found out was a mainly asian area. So we open our main door and are greeted by three flights of stairs (daunting to say the least) and lug our luggage (excuse the pun) up the stairs to apartment 12. The apartment was very small, with living room come kitchenette, a box bedroom and a fairly decent sized bathroom. I will say this for the Dutch. They sure know how to cram a lot of stuff into a small space. Included in this space was a dishwasher, washer/dryer, combination oven/microwave and gas stove. We also got our very own balcony. Unfortunately, we were unable to go onto it as the window had been screwed shut. So I phoned the Short Stay people; who explained that they would send someone to check it out. A guy called Mike arrived a very short time later and explained in very good english that it was screwed shut because we had neighbours and previous guests had caused problems. It turned out that the city rents out the building to Short Stay with the proviso that problems with guest are kept to a minimum. Noise laws in Amsterdam are very strict (and you can understand why given the close proximity that people live and work in within the tight confines). We as tourists; can go home having had a great time, but the Amsterdammer’s have to carry on having different visitors as neighbours. Thoughtless, loud and sometimes downright rude and it must get very waring. Anyway we got to look out onto the balcony. There appears to have been a courtyard down below (although I couldn’t really swear to that). I also point out to Mike, the big rip in the bedstead and he takes a picture. I am taking no chances of loosing my deposit. I notice there are lots of rules to renting this apartment and there is a very helpful poster pointing them all out (all or most related to not pissing off the neighbours I suspect). They are as follows :- Silence between 10pm and 7am. No smoking in the apartment or building (and you can’t get on the balcony to smoke either). No Cannabis (the poster tells you to go to the coffee shop). No alcohol abuse (although there are wine glasses in the kitchen and so we assume that it is ok to drink in moderation). Keep your garbage inside. No cigarette butts in the garbage. Never leave the key in the lock (they have to break the door down if you do). Do not touch the smoke detector. Infringements of any rules means that I will lose my deposit of $300. it is my guess that these rules pertain to previous guest misdemeanour’s and I begin to understand why things appear to be screwed up (literally in the case of the balcony door) so tight. Personally when I live somewhere, whether it is for years or a few days, I want to become part of the culture and so will do my best to fit in.
There appears to be certain codes that the Amsterdammers live by but they are generally very tolerant of tourists. The signs are there if you take the time to observe. For example, you will see that it is generally best to walk down the right side of any pavement. Also, it is a good idea to stay out of the bike lanes. Amsterdammer’s ride bikes like most other people walk (you will see bikes of all shapes sizes, age and colour, absolutely every where. Families of three on one bike. A boy with his girl on the cross bar. Two wheelers, three wheelers even four wheelers. You can even rent one if you are feeling brave and want an adventure). Most of the time pedestrians have right of way (although I wouldn’t personally want to test that out too much). There are designated places on every street where you are safe to cross. A lot of the roads are paved with bricks, so sometimes it can be a little difficult to decipher where the bike lane ends and the pedestrian pavement starts. You will soon learn after getting shouted at or hearing a persistent bike bell bearing down on you a few times. Amsterdam is fun, interesting and exciting in so many way and on so many levels. I am feeling the need to write about it and I am sure there will be more for me to relay to you. Watch this space.