Thursday, January 17, 2013

Amsterdam - The Venice of the North

Although the seat of Netherland's government is in The Hague, Amsterdam is the nominal capital. It is also the country's largest city, with a population of more than 750,000, and the most visited, with over 3,5 million foreign visitors a year.
A visit to Amsterdam is not complete without enjoying the canals. They are a symbol of Amsterdam and of great cultural and historical value. In 2010 the World Heritage Committee decided to submit the 17th century canal ring area to the UNESCO World Heritage List. The city does its utter best to maintain and protect the canals - their Venice of the North.
One of the must sees is the Golden Bend, the canal from Leidsestraat to Vijzelstraat with the most beautiful and magnificent stretch of canal houses in Amsterdam.

The Reguliersgracht and Herengracht has a unique view over fifteen bridges. Make sure to stand on the side of the street with the odd numbers! One of the most picturesque bridges of Amsterdam is the Magere Brug (the skinny bridge), which at night is romantically illuminated.
Visit the Begijnhof, an inner court that dates from around 1300 with typical Amsterdam-style houses. Its fascinating history with many historic events includes the sisterhood of Catholics and even miracles. The women that joined the sisterhood of Catholics were called "begijnen". These were women who lived like nuns without ever taken an oath to God. They cared for the sick and gave education to the poor. With their own set of rules they were for instance allowed to leave the sisterhood to get married.
A story the world needs to hear can be found in the Anne Frank House. It's situated in the center of Amsterdam and holds the hiding place where Anne Frank wrote her famous diary during World War II. Anne was a normal girl in exceptional circumstances. For more than two years she described the events of her daily life in hiding in her diary. Anne's original diary along with some of her other notebooks are on display as part of Anne Frank House's permanent exhibition. The collection and temporary exhibitions focus on the wartime persecution of Jews, contemporary fascism, racism and antisemitism. See for yourself how Anne, her family and other people were living while hiding from the Nazis. Take into account, that visiting the Anne Frank House is a moving experience, which has already touched millions of people from all over the world.

After you are done sightseeing consider some shopping around the beautiful squares and experience some culinary delights. Cheese is important in Holland, and no less so in Amsterdam. The economy of the country and the city revolves around their main consumer exports like flowers, cheese and beer. You have the opportunity to visit multiple cheese shops, and taste the flavors of many different regions of Holland. Wander over to the Oud Zuid neighborhood on Stadionweg to L'Amuse and compare Dutch cheese to the rest of the world. With over 400 varieties, this shop keeps their cheese stock in climate-controlled facilities according to each one's specific needs.