It's really too bad that Amsterdam only gets noticed for its liberal behavior and has the "Las Vegas of Europe" nickname because Amsterdam has quickly moved up the list on my all-time favorite cities because of the entire city itself, not just the relaxed rules/laws.
It might be because it's June and all the trees and flowers are blooming but this has to be the prettiest city I've ever been to. Yes, I think it even beats out Venice although Venice has a different kind of beauty. http://www.flickr.com/photos/30796964@N02/
Madrid, Segovia, Toledo and Paris don't hold a candle to the language intelligence of the people here. The saying, "Everyone speaks English in Europe" seems to be the most true in Amsterdam. The people here seem to all be at least trilingual; Dutch, English and either German or French and a lot more Spanish than they like to admit. When I say they speak these languages I mean they speak them fluently. I haven't had to repeat myself to anyone, even when I just randomly walk to someone and start talking. It's amazing. It REALLY makes me want to buy the Rosetta Stone language program when I get home...anyone else?
Today, we all kind of just soaked up the surrounding areas going in and out of all the shops and markets and walking down all the beautiful canal sidewalks and over the many bridges. One major difference here than anywhere else I've been is the amount of bikes. They are everywhere!! Everyone seems to be on a bike and now when I cross the street I have to be on the lookout for San-Francisco-stylestreetcars, regular cars and also bikes...all three of those going both directions. It's not all that tough considering none of them are traveling more than 15 MPH but it's still an extra thing not to get hit by.
Yes, we did walk down the Red Light District. Yes, all the stories are true...ummm, just look it up. Yes, we ONLY walked the street. :) This place is crazy.
Also, if you come to Amsterdam, don't walk into a "Coffee Shop" because they don't serve coffee, they'll give you a laminated menu with many other "herbs" and prices which is sure to make you blush and walk out of the store laughing at the realism in the history of Amsterdam.
Regardless, such a wonderfully beautilful city. The people are all soooo kind and helpful and don't ever give off the assumption that you're "just" a tourist and all take the time to go the extra mile in showing how to get somewhere or give you some history of Holland. I'm actually kind of sad I'm only staying 48 hours but Europe is big, ALMOST big enough for me. :)
Tomorrow - Anne Frank House Museum, Van Gogh Museum and the Heinekin brewery.