Amsterdam, The Netherlands

The Netherlands provides many great photographic opportunities and a variety of subject matter that are easy to reach.  While many Americans refer to this country as Holland, Holland is only one province in the country of The Netherlands.  Much of the land of The Netherlands has been reclaimed from the sea over time by hard work and many ingenious techniques.  It is a flat land crisscrossed by a network of canals with picturesque drawbridges and dotted with windmills.  Many of the towns are fishing villages and have buildings that were built centuries ago.  Other areas are agricultural in nature with products including cheese and flowers shipped to all parts of the world.  Forts, castles, old villages and beautiful churches can all be found within its borders.  The economy of The Netherlands has been based on trade and entertaining visitors for centuries.

While Amsterdam is quite touristy, its architecture, grand canals and art museums make it an important stop for any visitor.  A few other interesting spots include:  Alkmaar (cheese market), Delft (beautiful old town), Enkhuizen (harbor town), Gouda (old market), Haarlem (churches, markets, art museums), The Hague (government center), and Leiden (one of the oldest towns).  This is just a subset of the places that should be seen.  In the Spring (late April to early May), the tulip fields in the area around Lisse make for breath taking beauty.  Outside of Lisse, the world famous Keukenhof Gardens is a must.  Further south, Kinderdijk is a small village that has 19 operational windmills dating from the 1500s within walking distance.  Similarly, located in the north is Zaanse Schans, a neighborhood of Zaandam, which has many well-preserved windmills and homes that can be visited and photographed.  Three older villages where natives continue to wear their colorful traditional dress, at least on Sundays, are Volendam (a Roman Catholic fishing village), Marken (a Protestant island village) and Spakenburg.

Most visitors from the US will fly into Schiphol, the airport just outside of Amsterdam.  While driving is not difficult in The Netherlands, the train and bus system provide easy access to all parts of the country.  The train system is excellent and is not expensive.  I personally would recommend that a visitor consider staying in a local hotel near Schiphol that has a shuttle to the airport.  Schiphol is a transportation hub for the country with complete train service that is located beneath the airport and a bus terminal just outside the airport.  A visitor’s information center can be found outside the Arrival Hall along with all types of shops and restaurants.  While many of the American hotel chains have hotels outside Schiphol, they are more expensive and do not give a full appreciation for visiting a different country and culture.

Because The Netherlands is located close to the North Sea, many days are overcast and the wind is often blowing.  The temperatures are more moderate than Chicago.  When the sun shines, you’ll find the local residents walking, riding bicycles, or sitting at outside tables at local establishments.  As usual, visitors should wear layers and be prepared for rain.

Language is not a significant problem as English will be understood everywhere.  People are friendly and helpful and tourists are a big part of the Dutch economy.  As in any major tourist area, the threat of pickpockets and purse-snatchers is real and tourists must be on guard.  All of the attractions that I have listed and many more can be found on the Internet as can hotel and travel information.

The photographer Ron Basinger provided the details and images for the Amsterdam destination.

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