My husband and I spent a week in Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands, last month. We loved it! We found it very easy to be there. In addition to Dutch, most of the people also speak English. Like most of Europe, the Netherlands has an excellent public transportation system. Our hotel was a short train ride from the airport and travel to the places we visited was very easy via train and tram. Bicycles are everywhere throughout Amsterdam! The transportation of choice, the Netherlands has more bicycles than citizens. Bicycles have the right of way and their own travel lane.
Amsterdam flourished during the 17th and 18th centuries due to the shipping trade. The Dutch East India Company led many of the commercial enterprises as the Dutch colonized Indonesia and fought for independence from Spain. As a result, Amsterdam is a very cosmopolitan city and the culture is a rich blend of European and Indonesian traditions.
Many of the most prosperous cities in the world are on water, a key aspect of feng shui. Amsterdam is among them. Built around a series of canals, parts of the city and surrounding area are actually below sea level, but you would never know it. The Dutch are master canal builders. They were able to expand their land mass by building canals, draining the land, and using wooden posts under buildings to provide support.
As a result of so much water, many of the older buildings (400 years) are tipping. They are also quite stable. The wet foundation that is supported by wooden logs that were laid deep in the ground when the buildings were constructed.
Visually the buildings are very interesting with a variety of gables and rooflines. Most buildings are also only three to six stories tall. This is quite nice because it keeps things at a human scale, vs. the skyscrapers that crowd the sky in many modern cities. Constructed mostly of brick (after several fires burned wooden structures), the older buildings are also very narrow. This is because people were taxed based on how much frontage they had on the street. So, narrow, deep buildings were built to minimize taxes. This also happened in Newport, RI and probably other locations.
There are also about 2,500 houseboats in Amsterdam. They answered a demand for more housing, particularly after World War II. They are quite picturesque and expensive. Many are old and have a combination of original features plus modern amenities such as running water, heating, plumbing and electric, along with a permanent address. They can also be elaborate with multiple stories as well as gardens. When you live in a floating home, you might need to take extra measures to ground your energy.
The Dutch are among the happiest people in the world. They have a wonderful quality of life. They are hard-working, but not too serious, good health and strong family bonds are important, prostitution and marijuana are legal (thus, they collect taxes from these businesses). They also spend time together outdoors. It’s common to see large groups of people bicycling together, even after dark and in the rain. Be sure to listen for the ringing bells and step out of the way.
Two things we did not see while visiting Amsterdam was a heavy police presence or a lot of medical facilities or pharmacies. In many cities we hear police sirens blaring regularly. Not in Amsterdam. We did notice police around from time to time, but they blended into the background vs. being front and center. We also noticed a few pharmacies (shops with green crosses), but we did not see any medical facilities or the number of pharmacies and walk-in clinics that we have in our communities.
We stayed busy for five days and are looking forward to a return visit to experience more.
Here are a few links about Amsterdam that might interest you:
Happiness: http://www.forastateofhappiness.com/tag/the-netherlands/ … Scroll down to read about happiness in the Netherlands