We arrived in Amsterdam at our planned campsite for the next few days quite late in the evening, and they were already full. This was irritating as it was by far the best site for visiting the city as it was a quick commute by tram into the centre. However, they did let us sleep in their very tight car park for the night… which still cost us full price. We got up early in the morning and prepared to leave, but thankfully a space had become available, so we got to stay inside the gates for the next two nights, yay!
Old Amsterdam, is layed out in roughly a semicircle arrangement facing the Ij waterway that leads out to the sea and inland to several key European waterways. Concentric rings of canals and the canal occasional spoke spread out from the centre with the majority of the buildings facing on to a canal. At the Ij end of hub, land has been reclaimed to build Amsterdam Centraal station, which is where the majority of trains and trams terminate. This is where we started another Rick Steves audio walking tour, which proceeded to send us along Damrak, the main street through the heart of old Amsterdam.
Following Damrak took us up past the old stock exchange to the main Dam square. This walk was taking us quite some time as we kept stopping to look in shops and at the sights! We stopped for lunch at Amsterdam Museum and sat outside in the courtyard of what used to be the orphanage. Once I’d refuelled with a lovely burger and Joolz had eaten some apple pie we pressed on with the tour.
The tour continued through a small carpeted art gallery within the museum and then on into Begijnhof, a beautifully peaceful courtyard area where women or beguines live. These women are not nuns but enjoy greater freedom than nuns in a convent. While beguines took a vow of chastity, and while they considered themselves obliged to attend Holy Mass every day and pray various official prayers, they were free to leave the court at any time in order to get married.
The tour also suggested riding the slanted elevator up to the bar at the top of a shopped mall to admire the view. We then meandered off through the flower market, before passing several of Amsterdam’s legal-not-legal Smart Shops of interesting ‘natural products’.
Amsterdam is famous for its art galleries. We aren’t fans of fine art, so we went to the Moco museum to see some pop and street art. They currently have a Banksy exhibition on.
We’d seen quite a lot of the traditional sites of Amsterdam and soaked in some of the culture, but we still had a day left for something a bit different…