Min Lee discovers the mixed charms of Amsterdam — buxom prostitutes. tulips and cake — and enjovs the city‘s many faces.
While Paris in Spring time is a
cliche. Amsterdam in April (or May) 3
provides the sttmefl‘lxsrnl. the excitement of the new and the unexpected — btit in a place where the natives actually like to speak linglish. A perl'ect weekend break -- made all the more perl'ect because you can lly direct from Iidinburgh or (ilasgow. arrive in Schipol one and a hall hours later. and be in (’entral Station hallan hour alter that. Amsterdam is a city filled with energy. the How in the streets is constant day and night. like the Iidinburgh Festival in a good summer. Plenty of drama (‘linglish spoken‘) in the theatres. music olall kinds everywhere. The cales close at l or 2am. but the bars are open until you want to go home. By day the pedestrians surge along the trallic-l'rce Kalver-Straat (a glossier. longer Rose Street ) and around the Dam: by night on the l.eidesplein. the Spui. the Rembrandtsplein. and Regulierdwarstraat. 'l‘lie lamous bicycles hurtling along the narrow
streets beside the canals prove a hazard at lirst. ll you're lucky the rider will singorwhistle: sometimes the shaking and rattling alerts you. No glossy ten-speeds here: the solid sit-up-and-beg machines chained to the canal railings in their multitudes (over hall'a million in the city) were built to survive the cobbled streets. Waiters dodge smartly as they cross the streets from the cales and collcc shops to the tables at the canalside. Sitting in the open is the lavoured pastime ol' all Amsterdam‘s youth. On Sunday in the Dam (.»\msterdam‘s most celebrated square). the steps around llolland‘s national monument to the dead ol World War ll provide seats lor talking. sunbathing. smoking. or
watching an impromptu rock
performance. 'l‘he cal'es which llank the square are packed in layers. 'l‘he young drink pints ol beer on the outside. w lllle inside older couples or whole lamilies indulge in the Sunday
treat ol plate-si/ed pancakes. with
Holland's largestarts festivaltakes place in
strawberries and cream.
tourist board in London (see below) can provide information on the various
Getting There Amsterdam in JUNE. types ofaccommodation_ Apex llights lrom Glasgow ranging from hotels to B & 8 and Edinburgh to \Nhere to S‘ay to hostels.
Amsterdam cost £103 and £105 return respectively. They're bookable at least 14 days in advance and you have to stay over a Saturday night. Student (lights from Glasgow cost £116 return. Contact Campus Travel at The Hub. Hillhead Street. Glasgow (041 357 0608) and 90 John Street. Glasgow (041 552 2867) or The Edinburgh Travel Centre. Bristo Square. Edinburgh (031 668 2162) tor lurther details. Train lares (or under-26$ cost £59 return ex-London.
What to Know Belore You Go
Temperatures range from 160to190 duringthe summer months. with rain an ever-present possibility. Dutch currency isthe guilder (l or Hll).
Shop and bank opening hours are much like those in the UK. although many shops stay closed on Monday mornings as well
Accommodation is relatively expensive and is often in short supply. The
' uh? :
Trams and buses are
ap/n'lgelnaik or pol/bratty" (small scraps of dough deep fried while you wait. then smothered in icing sugar and topped with a large lump ol butter).
liating is a serious business in Amsterdam. whether done in a traditional bar setting like that olthe He! .lIu/t'apatl on l’rinsengracht (bare lloor boards. dark wooden lurniture. large vases ol llowers and the original bar) or in one of the Indonesian restaurants found in most sections of the city. ()ne of the best is the Ramayana just oll the red light district in Binnen Bartammerstraat.
Wandering around the ()udc Kerke on the north-east side you will find yoursell lace to lace with very substantial women in very unsubstan'tial clothing. waving and smiling at you in a lriendly way lrom behind their picture windows. The canal on the east side of the church is one ol the prettiest in Amsterdam — and the site ol most of the sex shops. 'l‘he prostitutes large-windowed rooms are round the church and in the side streets. 'l‘here are neon lights and bright colours in plenty. but the atmosphere is not sleazv. and
easiest. although the ticket
system isfairly complex. hiredfrom the Central StedeliikMuseum
You can buy day-tickets ora Station.
card which you stamp on What To see Addresses & boardingthe bus ortram. Contact Numbers
thereby cancelling one of the allottedjoumeys. Weekly season tickets are also available. Forthelirm
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é’éﬁhp‘vﬁstar 1. ﬁt: 4 : . ‘
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ollimb. bicycles can be
The Rijksmuseum. Anne Frank House. the Van Gooh Museum. theJewish Historical Museum. the
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certainly not threatening. Neither is the notorious drug scene anv more apparent than in Edinburgh.
Freedom to do your own thing whatever it may be. is the key to Amsterdam. a people-watchers' paradise. ()ur lirst sighting was a spaceman resplendent in white and silver (with close-cropped silver hair). loping along in his lighter-than-air boots. .\'o. he wasn't advertising anything and when he stopped on a corner to talk into his ‘communicator' we almost expected him to beam tip.
ll you’re not watching the people then your neck is craning to admire the gabled root‘solthe lbth and 17th century canalside houses. veiled by the fresh new leaves of the lime trees. 'l'he best examples are seen along the llerrengracht. Prinsengracht. and Singel: some have been made into charming hotels. A particularly inviting example. the New York. its lacade draped with luxuriant vines. each window a cascade ol llowers is listed in the ollicial Tourist Board brochure as ‘gay‘: given A msterdam's general air ol acceptance. presumably straight couples would be w elcome too.
'l‘he details ol Amsterdam lile can best be savoured on lrequent walks in the delightlul canalscape. As you stroll. you are almost bound to see someone lowering a kitchen cabinet or cooker lrom a lourth lloor window. 'l‘he staircases are so narrow that no large items can be carried up them. so since the lbth century. beams l'or pulleys have been built into the ltottses at attic level.
ll your lcet get tired you can (as an alternative to sitting and drinking?) hop on a tram. The public transport
Amstelkring church. the
The Netherlands Board at Tourism office in the UKis at25—28 Buckingham Gate. London SW1E6LD(01630 0451 ). The main branch of WV. the national tourist organisation in the Netherlands. is outside i Centraal Station (26 64 44). 3 Otherwise. WV at i Leidsestraal 106 will also provide inlormation or book accommodation. Gay Switchboard (23 65 65) providesa 24-hour English-speaking information service. CDC. RozenstraalB & 14 (26 30 87) isthe principal gay . centre with an inlormation g service. a coffee shop etc. f
The Rough Guide To Amsterdam gives allthe necessaries. Published by Harrap Columbus at£4.95. Berlitz's Travel Guide To Amsterdam is a handy-sized round-up ol sights. history
etal. ltcosts £3.25.
‘l'he 3 l5 .lunc l‘lis") 63