The first time I was in Amsterdam, was around the year 2002. At that time, I was only about 12 years old, and have a very limited memory of my experience in Amsterdam and Holland. What little memory I have left of that trip, is that I found Amsterdam to be a rather pleasant city. This nostalgic memory paved the path for my Amsterdam trip this year.
Before I proceed, it is perhaps important to mention that before leaving for Holland, I decided not to do some research on what to see, and what not to see (like I often do), and instead embrace and explore the city more spontaneously. This meant that I didn't go on targeted hunts for modern architectural buildings, but rather wandered around the city streets, seeing whatever would come in my way.
Already on the first day (out of just three), I noticed that Amsterdam has a lot in common with Copenhagen. The bike culture in Amsterdam is very similiar to the one in Copenhagen - not infrastructurally superior, but nevertheless quite efficient it seemed. The old city area is placed in a similar manner to that of Copenhagen, but of a rather greater size. Both cities furthermore have old industrial harbours, which are both currently in the process of being rebuilt to new, modern service and commercial venues. And last but not least, both Denmark and Holland have a rather low topology, which in the case of the two cities, seems to create a similar local weather. One of the greatest differences between the two cities on the other hand, is the vast amount of tourists in Amsterdam. The city's population may be slightly smaller than that of Copenhagen, but with Amsterdam being an extremely popular tourist destination, the tourist population is remarkable. The vast tourism in the city has boosted a bustling café and nightlife (especially in the Red Light District illustrated on the picture below), that brings a dynamic to the city, that Copenhagen quite simply can't compete with.
No matter where you go, and how small the streets you wander, there are people practically everywhere. Tourists taking snapshots of the charming, tilted historic buildings. Local cyclists rushing through the narrow canal streets. Small cafés hidden even the tiniest of passages as illustrated below. Amsterdam is full of life.
The city itself is nothing short of an international example - a statement if you will - as to how much life a city can attract, thanks to pedestrian and cyclist planning. The plentiful canals that characterize the city furthermore create an unrivaled charming atmosphere (except for Venice I can imagine - a city which I long to travel to). In short, Amsterdam is an absolute success when it comes to a living city - no doubt about that! Even the old buildings jump to life, as their old facades lean towards the streets as shown below:
From an architectural point of view, I think that the city as a general experience is really charming and pleasant. On the other hand, one of the things I can't make up my mind on, is the endless rows of the charming in-fill canal houses. Considering the scale of the city rows, the small, narrow houses really make the long row scale more pleasant, but in the long run, I felt that these houses started getting a bit too repetitive. The endless rows of such houses often ended up looking too monotone to the eye in my oppinion, and unlike most pre-neo-classicistic (I may be making up architectural terms now, but I hope you know what I mean!) historic buildings, which often vary in size, color, shape, etc. even when in rows, the Amsterdam houses seemed just to look a bit too much like one another. There are of course the occasional buildings that stand out, such as the one above, or the tiny house below, but the variations are very limited.
I am perhaps being a tad bit too critical right now, so to be honest, the buildings in the oldest town part (around the Red Light District area) do indeed vary quite a lot! Besides the narrow, charming historic streets, Amsterdam (and Holland generally) are well known for their modern architecture. As I mentioned in the beginning, I chose to experience the city first-sight, so I didn't look up any specific architectural buildings and came across rather few of the modern ones around the historic center, where I spent the most of my time. But I did come across one rather interesting little building by the harbour area (shown below). This little gem is actually the Amsterdam architectural center. I really don't have much to say about it, since the building really speaks for itself.
Later, I would come to regret not doing even just a tiny bit of research on the modern architecture of the city, since having seen this interesting little structure, I began to fear I had missed out on a lot of such interesting architectural eye-candies. With that said, I have yet a lot more to explore in Amsterdam, and I'm sure I'll drop by again some day in the near years. All in all, a lovely city, with an absolutely amazing atmosphere, charm and life. I've tried being critical at some of its ways, but I have to be honest about the fact, that I simply adore it!
P.S. The weather was rather unfortunate during my stay, and therefore I apologize for the somewhat grayish appearance of many of my pictures.
- Andy Minchev