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Belgium

Amsterdam side trip

img_0361-1.jpgThis weekend I had planned to go to Bruges, another ancient Belgian city, just 30 minutes away. As I was already suffering from Euro fatigue in which every building starts to look the same, I thought that perhaps Amsterdam, 3 hours away,was a better place to go. I also wanted to do some biking, and so after googling some sites, I stumbled upon Mike’s Bike Tours Amsterdam and decided to join that tour.

I went to the train station early Saturday and bought a weekend ticket (41 euro) to Amsterdam. I got on a train to Brussels Central, and transferred to another one headed for Amsterdam Central, passing through Antwerp and Rotterdam. One hour later, my Samsung phone changed its wallpaper theme to a Dutch landscape (a windmill, what else), announcing that we had crossed the border to the Netherlands. I arrived in the Dutch capital around 11 am and I had time to look around before heading for Mike’s Bike Tours in Keerkstraat.

Meeting time for the tour was 12 noon. It being winter and off-season, only 3 people showed up: an Australian couple and myself. The tour guide was, not surprisingly, a guy named Mike, an American who had made Amsterdam his home. We started by looking at some sites within the city before heading off the to the countryside.

img_0355.jpgStarting off for the bike tour on a cruiser bike, with a pink bell! Biking is really the best way to see cities in Europe.

 

 

img_0298.jpgimg_0297.jpgMy buddies from Australia, and Mike the bike tour guide. Mike showed us some old buildings, boathouses and Amsterdam’s famous coffeeshops (to be distinguished from cafes, the ones which serve real coffee🙂 ).

 

 

img_0314.jpgOff to the countryside, to visit a windmill, a cheese factory and a wooden clog factory.

 

 

img_0310.jpgimg_0312.jpgA Dutch windmill, one of the few remaining authentic windmills within Amsterdam. Note the year on the windmill. The windmill was used to turn the canal dam open or close. Nowadays a motor does the work.

 

 

I must say that Amsterdam is a city with character and its people are proud of it. The Dutch do have a long and illustrious history. Its canals are a testament of how they have literally built the city from swamps.

img_0360.jpgimg_0359.jpgHolland is also of course known for its tulips. However, it’s also just as famous for its other produce: cannabis! In fact, in the same market selling tulips, you can also buy starter packs for growing your own cannabis! Its reputation for tolerance is shown in the many coffeeshops selling cannabis. (No,  I didn’t try it🙂 ).

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