Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Amsterdam v. New York City

I'm back! Last week was my first time in Amsterdam and it was awesome. Spent 5 days there and got to see lots of the city. There were quite a few differences between Amsterdam and New York as you would expect:

Amsterdam has a tram system similar to New York's bus system. The trams are cheap, easy to use and come frequently. Much more pleasant than our buses and they move a lot faster. The street names are impossibly long and many sound similar but the announcements are clear and they list the next 3 stops onboard. Some stops have electronic boards saying when the next tram is coming.

English- people in Amsterdam speak better English than New Yorkers. They don't seem to pick up on "this" and "that", you sort of need to really explain what you're referring to.

Bikes in Amsterdam=no traffic. Everyone rides bicycles. There are bike lanes on virtually every road in Amsterdam and bikes chained up everywhere. Crappy old bikes. Many streets have the bike lane separated between parked cars and the sidewalk. This leads to significantly less traffic and the streets are much quieter. Also everyone drives really small cars- no SUV's. A Cooper mini would be average sized there.

Food is good in Amsterdam. There is a wide variety of reasonably priced places to eat. Not as good as New York's (but is anyplace, really?). The restaurants are all smaller and offer much smaller menus than I am used to. You really have to search out for specific places, there's no diner types that have everything. There seems to be schwarma and doner kebob stores every 10 feet. Lots of pastry shops. Lots of bad looking pizza sitting in display windows. Excellent pomme frite stands. Their wine stores also sell cheese. Restaurants seem to operate with significantly less employees than in New York, service is slower but not really that bad. Many places don't take credit cards. No water on the tables. If you ask for tap water, you will either get a bottle (and get charged) or ignored. Not as much take-out as New York. Just as many Burger King & McDonald's.

Pedestrian streets- Amsterdam has lots of shopping streets that are closed off to traffic. It seems to work well, I could picture it working in New York in Chinatown, maybe Soho. Many of the streets remind me of St Marks Place in the EV.

ATM's- Amsterdam could use more. New York can use less. Almost every one in A'dam had a huge line, frequently because machines would be out of order. The Dutch word for ATM is similar to Chipwich. Made me hungry whenever we saw one. None of the machines are in vestibules- they are all right on the sidewalk.

Late night- Amsterdam closes early. The streets are dead after 1am. It's almost eerie- no stores, no people, no cars. Just an occasional taxi or messed up tourist. Also no drugstores in Amsterdam; at least not like our ubiquitous Duane Reade or CVS's. Then again, if they had combined 2 street names into a drug store name it would look like Goudsbloemstraat Bilderijkstraat.

Beer- very good Belgium beers in bottles. Heineken is everywhere. They like to just pour it from the tap until your glass completely overspills with foam and then use the back of a knife to clear off anything over the rim. You end up with a soaking wet glass of beer that's 1/5 foam. Limited selection in many spots. Limited to Heineken or nothing. However, they also have coffeeshops that sell legal weed and stores that sell mushrooms.

Architecture- Amsterdam is filled with 17th century houses. New York is filled with 19th century buildings. The newer buildings in Amsterdam are the oldest ones in New York. Both interesting; Amsterdam seems to integrate their modern buildings in with the old a lot better. Something like that Astor Place wavy glass tower would not be built in a similar area in A'dam.

category: nyc_ food_