One question I commonly get asked is how just exactly our family decides where our next “vacation” will be. As a family, we tend to do a lot of things together. Just as in the life we live and the days we spend, we travel not just to see the world, but to see it together. And on the trips we go on together, we decide where we go to together. So with each one of our parts completing the family trinity, our most recent trip was truly three in one. Three people, three countries; father, mother and daughter eagerly took off on a whirlwind excursion to Amsterdam, Venice and Croatia; nothing short of a true Roth vacation.
Starting with the ticket purchaser’s destination of choice, our first flight took us across the Atlantic to the dynamic and lively city of Amsterdam. We stayed at the Nova Hotel, located right in the heart of the old city, which was equally cozy as convenient in distance to all the main attractions for a nice, homey stay. To get around the city, the main form of transportation included biking, walking and for longer distances, taking the tram, the latter two of which we easily, accessibly took part in.
Known as Holland’s largest and most visited street market of over 100 years, natives and tourists alike can discover Amsterdam tradition at this laid-back and multicultural flea market. At the Albert Cuypmarkt, you can find stands of almost anything ranging from flowers and fresh fish to clothing and jewelry to spices and cheeses; catering to nearly every person or just those looking for the best bargain. Be sure to try some soused herring or a warm stroopwafel (syrup waffle) to take along as you walk around for a typical Dutch snack.
On the topic of food, a country’s cuisine plays a large role in creating both its culture and character. While my love of cheese was at no deficit, I think it is worth noting plenty I could have passed on as well. I was surprised to learn on this trip that most Amsterdam cuisine is comprised of two categories: traditional and Indonesian. Traditional Dutch food is very meat-heavy and potato fare, such as beef stew or mashed potatoes with squashed vegetables. If you like anything fried or sweet, the Dutch love for each translates to common eats such as Vlaamse friets (French fries) and mayo, bitterballen, liquorice, profiteroles (Dutch pancakes) and stroopwafels. On the other side of Dutch cuisine you will find that a large Indonesian influence is embraced due to the Netherland’s spice trading company supremacy and colonization of Indonesia in the 17th century. It is now customary to order Indonesian rijsttafel, translated as “rice table” and adapted by the Dutch, which is a large meal consisting of many small dishes of saté meats and spiced vegetables.
The second day, we dove into the Museumplein (Museum Square) of Amsterdam South where you can find a kaleidoscope of culture including three of Amsterdam’s most significant museums. The first museum we visited was the Rijksmuseum, a national museum dedicated solely to the history and art of the Netherlands. Among the likes of distinguished artists such as Breitner, Rembrandt, and Vermeer, this national gallery is overflowing with an array of magnificent and extensive works that truly showcase the beauty of the country’s history. Situated right next to the Rijksmuseum, our next tour took us through the Van Gogh museum, known for housing the largest collection of works by the infamous artist and his contemporaries. Consisting of paintings, drawings, and letters chronologically organized, we took a multimedia tour where an audio guide walked us through the transformation of the art and mind over the Post-Impressionist painter’s life.
After seeing a few museums, it would have been almost unorthodox to not take a canal tour of the beautifully and concentrically built Canal Ring so iconic of the capital. The canals were first dug in the 17th century for water management and defense, but have now become a source for local transportation of merchandise and also a very popular tourist attraction. Brimming with more than 1,200 historic bridges and over 1,000 kilometers of houseboat-filled waterways, I would definitely recommend taking a canal cruise to enjoy the city and its distinctive landscape.
With a mere 36 hours behind us, what would a successful vacation have been if not for shopping? The city of Amsterdam proved their worth and wear as there was surely no shortage of style. The main shopping streets we toured were the Kalverstraat and the Leidsestraat; crowded with big brand names and commercial shops that appealed to the millions of people passing by. My personal favorite was De Negen Straatjes, or “The Nine Streets”; a gridlock of nine little streets brimming with cute cafes, small boutiques and vintage stores that echoed the uniqueness and old town charm of the area they were located in.
Even just a weekend in Amsterdam gave me a small glimpse of the comfort and culture of such an incredible city. From the canals and museums to the neighborhoods and nightlife, its casualness completely eases you into the community and entices you into admiration. But like they say, there were places to be and things to see. Our hello soon turned into a goodbye as we hopped on a plane to our next stop: Venice and Croatia!