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After two weeks in Paris, leaving the city was kind of surreal. It was the longest I’d stayed in any one place on a trip. We were just getting used to our new life of professional people-watching and picking up baguettes on our way home at the end of the day. Even when we arrived in Amsterdam, we were still in auto pilot saying oui and merci to everyone we interacted with. We found this to be a recurring theme throughout our journey. It’s surprising how quickly you can adapt to new cultures, and when it’s constantly being switched up you find yourself stumbling over what language to speak and what currency you should be using. For the record, our language skills do not exceed "yes," "no," "thank you," and "toilet."
After 15 minutes out the door, I was already blown away by our new destination. Over a quarter of Amsterdam’s surface is covered in waterways. It has over 60 miles of canals with three main canals that radiate out from the center in concentric rings. Go Google an aerial view of the city now and see what I mean. Pretty impressive. These canals are lined with trees, charming brick houses, and colorful houseboats. It felt like a quaint, friendly village more than a concrete metropolis.
The first thing you really notice about the city is the bikes. It seems like they’re covering every inch of it… And they rule the road. Unlike New York, the common jay walker in Amsterdam does not have some invisible force field around them. Boldly walking to the street or bike lane and assuming traffic will move around you is not advised. Bikes trump humans.
We quickly joined the crowd and rented bikes for the duration of our stay. If you want to look like a local go with the leisure bike — classic shape, slightly tattered, bell on the big U-shaped handlebars.
Right around this time of the year, people from all over the world start gathering together to watch this strange sport where men kick around a ball with their feet. I think they call it "football," but they obviously mean soccer. The 2014 World Cup had begun as we started our trip, and we felt its presence strongly in every country we visited. Although I know the U.S. has its fair share of soccer fans, there’s absolutely no comparing our passionate for this sport to the rest of the world. How did we get so out of the loop? Here, flags for the Holland football team line the downtown streets.
I’ve heard that there’s over 2,500 houseboats on the canals of Amsterdam. It was fascinating to see how people set up these floating little worlds. Some looked as if they had multiple stories, and many residents had figured out how to have terraces and gardens on their floating estates.