2014 Holland (Amsterdam - Utrecht)

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If I knew how nice the Dutch cities are I'd have visited Holland much earlier than this but "better late than never" right? The consequences of booking a flight to Amsterdam find me just before midnight early November flying over Holland's capital:

As the plane makes one of its final turns over Schulpvaart river, the moon looks like a UFO in the night sky:

As I step out of the airport I am pleasantly surprised by the weather. I mean, 17C at midnight in Amsterdam? Seriously? That's what I had back in Athens! I unzip my jacket and catch one of the last busses to my host's house. A lovely stewardess working for Transavia staying at a house built a century ago. As I arrive this two floor cute place of hers attracts our conversation and she tells me that they'll bring down all the old ones in the block including hers pretty soon to build new ones. This and the fact that I am among the last ones to stay there makes the occasion even more special.

Next morning we go out together for some breakfast and later we split - she leaves Amsterdam for work, I take the train to Utrecht.

I must say that Holland's trains are pretty decent. You get a table, wifi, and the seats are rather comfy:

I also find them quite accurate though I heard locals not exactly as happy about it as me.

During this short ride up to Utrecht I can't say I have much to tell as the Dutch countryside is flat and boring, a heaven for cows but not much of an eye candy at all. Consider it the exact opposite of Greece and you got it.

Something like this:

I make it to Utrecht and walk up to my next host's place. She stays at the North West part of the city which is also among the least attractive areas. We soon get on her bicycle heading to the center and feels like the trip starts now. I haven't ridden a bicycle ever in such dense bicycle traffic and now I do it with her behind me. I laugh at my own self surfing in this cycling crowd.

As we reach the center I'm instantly impressed by Utrecht. On one hand you have contemporary buildings like this:

And on the other hand you have the sweetness of the canals running through the city:

On top of it, the weather is beyond fantastic at 20C surprising (except myself of course) even old locals. We leave the bike at Bakkerburg where I can't resist picturing those lovely old buildings:

Just one bridge away walking East, the entrance of "Winkel van Sinkel" restaurant is here to remind me that I might leave Hellas but Hellas doesn't leave me:

If you walk one more bridge to the East you find your feet over Stadhuisbrug and this is your view:

Noticed that tower on the left? That's Domtoren. Let's have a closer look:

Very tall and impressive. Behind it is St Martin's Cathedral:

And right beside it is Utrecht's University Hall:

So lovely it almost feels unreal.

Of course Utrecht has also some necessary green parenthesis in its urban web:

Time for beer under this rare intense Dutch sun:

My host asks for tea though and the waitress brings her 12 to choose from:

Definitely feels like...

Before we leave this place a friend of mine calls me on the phone. As I talk to him he can hardly hear me with all this crowd around me talking loud so it all sounds like Greece to him. Seriously he couldn't believe I was in Holland but neither locals could believe their weather.

Later at night I have an appointment with a German friend who stays in Utrecht for the last years. As I walk by the train station I am impressed by the huge mass of bicycles locked there:

Business as usual for Holland though. Later I find some lovely drawings at a local store:

You may notice that they picture parts of the city I've pictured above. The city is so sweet at night. The city lights reflect on the canals as I watch beer drunk Dutches touring on an older than stones boat with en engine revving slower than a slow turtle. My friend takes me to his favourite Indian restaurant and boy the food is nice. A nice day ends just the way it should.

Next day finds me on the train back to Amsterdam. I leave my luggage at the room I rented in a BnB far from the center and start walking the city. I like how the autumn leaves colour the view:

I am missing details about this thing at Apollobuurt but I like it and if you know anything please leave it in the comments at the end of the page:

I keep walking by the canal enjoying the contrast between the grass, the golden brown leaves, the water and the urban environment:

It's less warm today and the clouds gather to say hello above "Zuider Amstelkanaal":

Quite different to the view that's right behind me:

As you can see above, I often find residential places on ground floor with transparent glasses without even curtains pulled. Kinda tells me that locals must be quite discreet. What I know for sure is that I can't stop picturing the canal:

As I walk behind the Olympic Amsterdam stadium I try a panoramic to fit it all in one shot:

"Na Druk Geluk" bridge and the cloudy sky compose the following one:

In front of the Olympic Stadium some ducks enjoy the water of Stadiongracht:

At the same time I enjoy the autumn colours:

And the rest beauties of Schinkeleilanden Park:

I start feeling that I behave in the view of canals in the same way Dutches do when they see the Aegean sea - can't have enough of them:

Rembrandt park is hard to miss in Amsterdam. And hard to regret as well:

Quite a figure I find in there:

I sit on a bench for some rest and enjoy a family making huge soap bubbles:

Do you miss a canal view? Maybe not but I do:

I must admit that the Amsterdam Police headquarters have an interesting entrance:

A bunch of statues at Johnny Jordaanplein (including Johnny Jordaan's of course):

Well, it's maybe time for some more canal shots isn't it?

At the ground floor of the following building they sell "magic mushrooms". I don't know how they taste or feel but I'm sure the shutters of the building are too cute to pass:

I think I've spoiled you with all this beauty. Time for something gross downtown:

OK OK, won't do it again. Let's go to Dam square - it's much better:

The building of the central station impresses from miles away:

"Basiliek van de Heilige Nicolaas" definitely stands out:

And now that I am closer to the central station have some more:

Yes, inside there's a piano challenging you to "share your talent":

There's no Amsterdam without a sea of bicycles and here's the parking lot of the station:

Amsterdam has plenty of impressive buildings. Here's "Nieuwe Kerk" semi hiding behind a coffee center:

Yes, I know you still want some more canal dose:

Here is the "Westkerk", tall, neat and proud:

After all this beauty from Amsterdam's center in my eyes I started making my long way back to my room. There I have to struggle getting the black twin cats out of my bedroom - you know how cats like to sneak into things right? Here's both of them sitting on the dinning table:

Next day is my last one around there and I aim to make it up to Utrechtstrasse as they are supposed to have some of the best deals on vinyl records. On my way I find an interesting way that the owner of this shop chose to expose the purpose of his business:

Of course, surprise surprise, despite the non photo friendly cloudy weather I didn't skip those canal shots:

And then the dilemma: picture the buildings or the canal while walking at Koningsplein? Both I guess:

Wanna know what time it is? Munttoren is here to help:

As I said I was on my way for some vinyl records and at some point I see a beautiful neighbourhood with a cute canal (yeah, surprise surprise) so I decide to walk that road when I see a beyond stunning girl in her underwear inviting me behind a glass. OK, now I know where I am. To my surprise, the red light district is way too neat and nice in general compared to what I imagined. And also blends nicely with the city, housewives pass through, school girls, not a ghetto thing like in other cities at all. Plus the fact that each brothel has its own concept - it's not just a female meat market. Well done Amsterdam! I do find those vinyl stores and boy the deals they have...I got myself a double live of Duke Ellington for a single digit amount of euros (yes!), so cheap that I didn't have the nerve to try it out in any of the numerous turntables they had there. Even if it sucked I'd just hang it on my wall. (Spoiler: it actually plays perfect!) Before spending a fortune there and since I don't have enough space in my flight back to put all the stuff I wanted to buy I leave that place drooling.

I've never seen a bicycle before that could have more cyclists than wheels:

I am not sure if this guy is joking to be honest:

This feels like Venice of the North:

Some cruise ships are longer than others:

And some buildings are bigger than others. "De Bazel":

I have my last night to spend in Amsterdam so I go to the local cafe-bar-restaurant thingy where I enjoy some white wine and a few edible bits served by a nice girl:

The next day I have my breakfast, this time not served by a nice girl but by the Italian guys who own the BnB:

In a few days they'd be closing their business to go back to Italy and I can see that they can't wait.

On my way to the bus I wave goodbye a horse I find alone at Rembrandt park:

The weather is already colder, kinda hazy and moody:

As the plane takes off I take my last view of Holland from above:

Most of the trip back home is done above a thick layer of clouds:

See you on the next one!