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Amazing alleys of Amsterdam

Varsha Pillai, Dec 14 2017, 21:24 IST

When in Amsterdam, there is nothing more 'Dutch' that one can do than to opt for the few free things one can participate in the city! And the Sandeman free walking tours are truly worth the two and half hours of sheer cardio that you are made to indulge in as you tread down the different alleys and experience the heady mix that is Amsterdam in a whole new way.

Bas, our tour guide who is a proud Dutch, provided the right mix of the old and the new, of the political and the archaic, of food and history, of people and traits. From the 17th century canals to the unravelling of the tolerant Dutch demeanour with their cannabis coffee shops to the bylanes of the Red Light District, the walking tour sure helps the onlooker experience the vibe of the city in a really short time.

Our walking group consisted of a mixed group of people from across the world! The first stop was at the Dam Square, the Royal Palace which is now undergoing some renovation followed by the New Church and the national monument that honours the victims of World War II. We briefly looked at the small reminders of World War II and spotted the names of the victims of Auschwitz. The brisk pace soon settled into a nice stroll and soon we were on the most picturesque part of Amsterdam's Singel Canal and gazed upon the bust of Eduard Douwes Dekker aka Multatuli, one of Holland's great writers. We were soon given a brief bio of the writer who famously denounced the exploitative nature of Dutch rule in Indonesia in the early 19th century.

The group came with all kinds of answers to Bas' question on why the administration has to have an annual clearing system for the canal and Bas' reply surprised us, the canal supposedly is the biggest dumping ground of the city's most loved mode of transport "the humble bicycle".

It seems one may not drown in the canal, if one accidentally falls in but can be grievously injured because of the hundreds of cycles that lie in the canal depths! We were also cautioned that we had more chances of being run down by a cyclist in Amsterdam than a motorcar because the city is literally taken over by cyclists. That of course came as no surprise to all of us because the city's elaborate network of dedicated cycle paths are testimony to the pains the administration has gone to make it a cycle-friendly space and obviously the citizens love the ride!

At an innocuous turn during the walk, we ventured upon the Begijnhof Chapel that surfaces in one of the city alleys and soon transports you to the good old days. We also chanced upon the house where the great artist Rembrandt lived and worked for 20 years. Further down, we spot the serpentine queue that announces the path to the Anne Frank House, the place where the young girl went into hiding and penned her thoughts into the now world famous diary.

A short pit stop at a cheese store and we tasted the different varieties of cheese and sat by the canal belt at a cafe and looked around enjoying the sights and sounds of the bustling touristy city that is Amsterdam.

As the walking tour came to an end, we were requested to tip our tour guide and given the beautiful tour we all experienced, Bas was rewarded quite well by the group. So if you are in Amsterdam and you love to tread the different route, I'd definitely recommend the free walking tour!

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