Amsterdam and other pretty cities of The Netherlands

My eight days long adventure in The Netherlands started with landing at 8 am in the capital city of Amsterdam, greeted by a beyond gorgeous sunrise that I witnessed from my window seat on the plane. It was worth it waking up at 4:20 am in Zurich to catch this early flight.

Sunrise over Amsterdam

From Schipol airport I took a train to Amsterdam Central Station, the journey took me around 30 minutes and costed around 10 euros.

The building of the station is quite impressive and my accommodation was a 10 minutes walk from it, right in the city center, so I headed towards it, passing beautiful canal views and observing how the city comes to life.

Amsterdam Central Station

Once I dropped my luggage I was headed to Dom Square, where my free walking tour started. I definitely recommend booking in advance a free walking tour of the city, the guide was extremely knowledgeable and I found out a lot about the history of the city and discovered sights that maybe otherwise I wouldn’t have discovered.

The tour took around two hours and a half. I made a new friend on the tour and we decided to spend the rest of the day exploring together. He made quite a good city explorer buddy. We walked along the beautiful canals, took pictures and even hang out in the red light distract, which is quite dead during the day.

One of the beautiful canals in Amsterdam

We discovered the impressive flower market and also some kinky places, such as a condomeria.

Amsterdam flower market
Condoms shop in central Amsterdam

Amsterdam is the city of freedom, sexual diversity and acceptance. The city is very vibrant, full of bikers and very open minded and excellent English speaking, tall Dutch men and women.

With my new travel companion we walked around a lot on my first day, reaching also the museums quartier, where especially the famous Rijksmuseum stands out.

Rijksmuseum

On this occasion we didn’t go into any of the museums, but on the other hand was stunned to discover that the I AmSterdam sign disappeared from the museum plaza. Nine years ago was still there, then apparently it has been removed due to some political dispute over it. I wanted to recreate my picture from nine years ago, but that couldn’t happen. Regardless, we had a nice time around there, many buildings are beautiful.

No trip to Amsterdam would be complete without mentioning the coffee shops, which here reffers to the shops that sell weed and other drugs that are legal in The Netherlands. There are plenty of them and basically any adult can try them either in form of a joint or brownie and probably in other forms as well, I wouldn’t know because I wasn’t interested in these stuff. What I do know though is that the best of them seems to be the Bulldog chain, that has a gift shop and museum too. I purchased myself some Bulldog thongs ( = flip flops ) as a memory from Amsterdam.

The most good looking Bulldog coffee shop
A random coffee shop

Apart from admiring the canals, passing by coffee shops and chilling in nice cafes, on another day I visited some museums too.

The most interesting I found to be the Moco Museum, where apart from Bansky’s art work, there’s a very beautiful and interactive light installation too.

I checked out also the Allard Pierson museum, where I learned about the Egyptian era.

In Amsterdam there’s a museum for every taste, from modern art to even the art and pleasure of sexual intercourses, hences there’s an erotic museum and also a museum of prostitution. I guess the name says it all, no need from my side to discuss what can you see in each of them.

Checking out some museums has been definitely fun and interesting, but probably even more interesting than that has been all the breakfast and brunch places that I got to eat from.

Eating places in Amsterdam are amazing and my favorite of all probably has been Mr Stacks, where you can eat the most delicious pancake stacks, which look like a tower of pancakes and are filled with fresh and delicious fruits and of course lots of chocolate. I licked all my ten fingers after eating there.

Eating at Mr Stacks

Another amazing breakfast place I’ve discovered it’s called Jacob’s Juice , where I tried the delicious avocado toast and drank a very healthy ginger,lemon,spinach,fennel juice. It’s located a short 10 min walk from Rinksmuseum. It’s small and cozy and everything on the menu sounded amazing, so the choice was quite hard.

My brekky at Jacob’s Juice

A more central brekky place, by Dom Square, is Corner House, where the salmon bagel is absolutely delicious and the hot chocolate equally amazing.

Brekky at Corner House

Too many amazing eating places in Amsterdam for sure and the list of great restaurants is just about to start.

The best dinner I had in Amsterdam was certainly at Sea Palace restaurant, which is located just by central station, it’s a massive building right on the water, impossible to miss.

Sea Palace restaurant

It’s a Chinese restaurant, where we were lucky to get a table without booking in advance. The food is amazing and deserts are wonderful too. If I ever visit again, I’ll make sure I’ll check it out again.

My dessert at Sea Palace

T’Stuiverte has good food in a stylish ambiance, you have the feeling that you are in art gallery. Amazing food, very delicious desert.

Fish with veggies at T’Stuviertje

The Yeti – for finger licking Nepalese and Indian cuisine, go with confidence to this little restaurant, located in the red light district, it’s wonderful and service is very good too.

There have been a few other restaurants that I checked out, but I didn’t find them so amazing to mention them.

On the other hand, there’s a few bars with a view that I’d mention.

Skylounge

Luckily we got there right in time for the sunset.

Sunset view of Amsterdam

A’dam lookout bar

This one is great for the views, especially after swinging above Amsterdam.

Cocktail with a view
Swinging above Amsterdam

Apart from swinging above the city, I can proudly say that I also biked around Amsterdam, with a local, like a local and the only incident that happened was that I nearly took off the mirror of a truck that drove too close to me. It was a fun, but little stressful experience , however I don’t regret any second of it.

Although Amsterdam is a wonderful city, I also traveled a bit further and checked out some other places in The Netherlands.

Bergen Aan Zee

For a daytrip I ventured out to the see and to my amazement I witnessed a gorgeous sunset, walked four kilometers on the beach to catch a bus and ate a delicious onion soup and drank a refreshing smoothie while listening to the waves. It was a fun day!

Bergen Aan Zee sunset
My smoothie and I

Oh, and also saw very cute and friendly cats along the way.

Cat love ❤️

Rotterdam

Just around 30 min by train from Amsterdam, there’s the modern, also vibrant city of Rotterdam, where I spent threee days, out of which two were rainy and gloomy, but still enjoyable.

Rotterdam is beautiful, very different from Amsterdam. We took a canal tour that took us around the port and could see huge ships there.

Checked out also the Maritime Museum, where we could learn about ships, boats and the importance of Rotterdam port.

A trip to Rotterdam would g be complete without visiting the iconic cube houses, that look like they would be out of a fairytale. Apparently people also live in them and one of them can even be rented out on Airbnb.

Posing at Rotterdam Cube Houses

Due to the rain we kept most of our exploring indoors, which was just fine when it came to eating .

Markthalle, the food court of Rotterdam was just a short tram ride from the accommodation and was the perfect place to start the day. A massive location full of all kind of specialities. My favorite of course was the waffle and the Brazilian juice.

Eating a waffle at Markthalle
My delicious

At Markthalle apart from food, one can buy different spices, cheese and so on.

Also in Rotterdam I’ve discovered some good restaurants, one of them is Ayla, an afghani restaurant where the oysters and frog legs where absolutely delicious, but also the cocktails are remarkable.

Frog legs at Ayla
Cocktail at Ayla

Speaking of cocktails, there’s one bar in Rotterdam that I liked in particular, it’s called Spikizi, it’s cozy, little and the cocktails were very good.

Spikizi bar from outside
Spikizi bar from inside
Cocktail at Spikizi

I love views, hences I dragged my friend, Jay, who joined me for the Rotterdam part of my Netherlands trip, to Euromast and we ,also him, were impressed of the views. Rotterdam is truly magnificent at night. I let the pictures speak for themselves.

Euromast tower
Rotterdam at night from Euromast

The Hague

Another place that I dragged my friend , Jay was The Hague, which I heard about a lot, everybody saying how beautiful it is. Well, it’s quite nice, true, but on a rainy day it was just so and so.

We checked out the Peace Palace, but with the Covid restrictions in place, we were not allowed to visit the actual palace, just did an audio tour in a separate building and saw the palace from distance.

Peace Palace

Although it was raining, we still went to the beach and saw even people bungee jumping there.

The beach in The Hague

We wondered around the city a bit and eventually ended up at another drinks with a view place.

Skybar – beautiful views of The Hague at night and delicious mocktailes in a romantic ambiance.

The Hague at night from Skybar

Our day in The Hague could have been nicer if there was sun and no Covid restrictions, but I guess nowadays that’s the new normal…

After spending those few days in Rotterdam, by I said goodbye to Jay and continued my trip solo to another beautiful town.

Utrecht

Utrecht has been recommended to me by many Dutch people I met and I was excited to check it out. Everybody was saying that it’s the smaller version of Amsterdam, but maybe slightly more pretty. I must say I found it in a way even nicer and definitely more calm than Amsterdam. I was also very lucky with a sunny day in Utrecht. I walked around the canals, visited some parks and admired the beautiful autumn colors.

Autumn in Utrecht

Also in Utrecht, of course I went to eat yummy food and ended up at this cozy, little cafe in the center and had my pancake fix.

Sadly, I can’t remember the name of the cafe, but in case I’ll ever visit Utrecht again I know where I need to go.

On the other hand with the restaurant I dined at I have more memory, it was called Springhaver and it’s right next to the cinema with the same name.

Dinner at Springhaver
Dessert at Springhaver

I had so many waffles, pancakes and desserts every day of my trip that now, as a conclusion I can say The Netherlands is awesome for anyone who has a sweet tooth.

But, it’s not only food and desserts that made me enjoy it so much, it’s also the diversity and the kindness of people.

In Utrecht I had a Turkish – German fellow travelled that joined me in exploring. We walked around the town the whole day, doing also a little shopping along the way, but mainly just checking out various landmarks, a beautiful church and a little bar too.

In beautiful Utrecht

For my last day I returned to Amsterdam and with the same travel companion that I had in Utrecht we went to Upside down Amsterdam, a fun place, where you can’t be upset or side. This place for sure will cheer you up.

Upside down Amsterdam
Chilling at Upside down Amsterdam

Determined to find waffle places back home, I left the country satisfied and happy with how I spent the last 8 days. Dutch people and their country impressed me and left me with great memories that I’ll carry around for long. I might even bike more often from now on…

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Another scenic Swiss hike: Trübsee in Engelberg region

With no doubt hiking is the best way of discovering Switzerland’s natures beauty and Engelberg region is a beautiful hiking area, so a friend and me put on our hiking shoes and off we went. The train from Zurich to Engelberg takes roughly two hours, with a change in Luzern.

The small town of Engelberg is quite nice, surrounded by massive mountains and there’s also a stream that has crystal clear water.

Engelberg

We started the hike, that was quite steep most of the way and it took us roughly three hours to reach Trübsee, our destination.

The views along the way were gorgeous, big mountain peaks with snow on top and lush green valleys and of course some friendly cows too.

After three hours of serious hiking, we reached Trübsee and it definitely was worth the steep hike. We were very lucky with the weather, the beautiful blue sky reflecting in the water making it appear clear blue. It was the perfect place for a well deserved lunch and a few moments of just silence and enjoying the views.

As we were admiring Trübsee and the peak of Titlis mountain, we agreed that if we came all this way, we can’t miss going up to Titlis. Although not prepared for the cold up there, at 3020 m altitude, we still hopped into the cable car and started ascending to the top of Switzerland’s most visited mountains.

Once we reached the top, we found ourself surrounded by the serene beauty of the mountain, lots of snow and quite chilly temperatures, especially in the ice cave.

Excited about the snow on Titlis
Ice cave

Going from autumn straight to winter was fun for a bit, but then it was a good idea to leave it all behind and return to Engelberg, this time by cable car. I was expecting to have muscle pain the next days in my legs, but surprisingly I escaped without any major pain.

Mesmerizing views of Istanbul

As in any city that I visit, once explored the streets, I have a great wish to see the place from above. Nothing feels better than being above the crowd, the busy streets and just enjoying the view. For me it’s the ultimate relaxation method while on the road. Luckily many cities have at least one fairly good viewing point which I make sure I never miss. In Istanbul I discovered quite a few, thanks to the popular roof top terraces, but I’ll point out two dear ones. 

Number one is Pierre Loti. It’s my personal favorite mainly because it’s in a natural setting, not a building or a comercialised roof top terrace. Yea, I know I did mention earlier those rooftop terraces too, they are great for a chill out evening and a glass of wine, but Pierre Loti was more than that for me. Let me start first of all with the way I got there. It’s located on a hill in the district called Eyüp, in my eyes the real side of Istanbul, where people hang their washed clothes out on the windows, kids run around barefoot and the place where I spotted more Muslims in one place than anywhere else in the city. However, it’s a cultural discovery to walk towards the viewing spot and it was a real interesting experience to observ the differences between Eyüp and the rest of the city, while walking by a nice square and also a market. 

   

   Further it will get even more exciting cause you gonna pass through a cemetery in case you decide walking all the way. For those that find this too spooky , there’s also a cable car, which will make life easier if you are not in the mood for a walk between the graves. 

Once reached the viewing point the view speaks for itself, or maybe rather leaves you speechless. 

  
  
At the conveniently located cafe there’s a big variety of beverages and the everywhere present, most popular Turkish caffe. Who wouldn’t enjoy having a sip with such a view?

  
In front of my eyes the sun went down and the lights of the city turned on one by one in the darkness that fell on the busy and vibrant Istanbul.

  
I think I could have spent the entire night admiring this panorama. But as all the nice moments quickly come to an end, it’s time to walk down and go back to real life. Still, the view catches my eyes once in a while and looks great even if there’s a grave in the first plan of the photo.

  
My conclusion : Pierre Loti a must-see spot, perfect for watching the sunset.
My number two favorite viewing point is the more touristy, but yet unique Galata Tower. As I’ve already seen Istanbul from above in the evening, my visit to Galata Tower on purpose happened around midday on a sunny day, when the water of Bosphorus is reflecting the lovely blue sky and the view is refreshing and mood boosting.

  
  
  
  
That being said, if you made it by here I’m assuming you liked watching Istanbul from above together with me. Also, if you know about another great viewing point in this city or any other, I would be happy to hear about it.

Belgium in 6 days

Belgian beer and chocolate attract for sure many tourists from all around the world. Most of them land in the capital and unfortunately many don’t make their way out of it to the less well know towns. Belgium is not just about Brussels! Just a 20 minutes train ride from the airport and we are in:

Leuven
This cute university town is my first stop in my Belgian backpacking trip. On a Sunday it’s very quiet and relaxed,but I don’t mind as the weather is nice and I can soak up the sun in the Botanical Garden of Leuven next to a Belgian beer.

  
Leuven is a university town and you can notice this while walking around and seeing at every corner the bars and restaurants advertising their special student menus at low,student prices. Though no student on a Sunday! “The city is empty of students during weekend” – locals say – ” here,in Belgium students still like to go home for the weekend and spend time with their parents.” Nice of them I would say… I have to just imagine how crowded it gets during the week and the now almost empty Oude Markt probably is murmuring.

  
I can still notice some movement around the city hall: a huge group of elderly tourists posing with the beautiful landmark. Conclusion: Edit come back on a weekday if you want to see the other face of Leuven!

  
Brugge

Before going to Brugge I watched the movie In Brugge and the town is so small that I didn’t need any direction to find the places presented in the movie. It’s loaded with tourists facing their cameras in every direction, because in every direction there is something pretty. Brugge, although is very touristy, was my second favorite town in Belgium. With it’s canals and those eye catching medieval architecture, Brugge steals your heart in an instant. 

 Walking around Brugge is more than relaxing, it’s a real cuddle to the soul and also a perfect ambiance to endulge in the delicious variety of Belgian chocolates. You can find any shape and flavor you desire, just at a hand stretch towards the chocolate and of course your wallet.
 
Ghent

From the second favorite I made my way to the first favorite. Ghent has the perfect vibe, the friendliest Belgians, the funniest Monday night out and I bet that many other – est-s. I didn’t expect so much from this town, I’m sure that also the company made a difference, but man,I really liked this place! You actually have the impression that you are wandering around a big city ’cause it’s active and full of energy. If you ask me to describe Ghent in one word, I’ll just say: alive. Let me add also: divers. It has chill riverside, busy shopping street, medieval castle, artistic grafitti and my super awesome friend, Cindy. 
   
 

+ 10 for Ghent!

Antwerp

Biking in Belgium is a pretty popular way of getting around and Antwerp is a good place to do so. It’s a rather small town but with fairly enough to offer and a gorgeous train station.

   
  

 

You would think that the pics above are from a cathedral,right? Well, that’s the main station in Antwerp. It’s ranked as the worlds most beautiful train station and no doubts about that.  

Not only the train station is beautiful in Antwerp. The city hall and various buildings in the central area worth checking out too.

   
  

 

We are in the country of beer, so let’s pay a bit of attention to this detail and find out that Belgium has more than 375 types of beer. Basically you can treat yourself for a whole year every day with a different kind of beer and that still leaves  you for New Year’s Eve with at least another 10 different flavores to try out. Cool, no?

  
Brussels

Arriving to the capital might sound exciting, but in fact it isn’t. For me Brussels was rather disappointing and from far not the prettiest place in Belgium. Such a pity that many tourists visit Brussels only and miss so much by not checking out the others.

However, Brussels is a city as any other capital, with it’s multicultural mix and the best waffles in the world. 

Grand Place is not as grande ( = big) , but not too bad for hanging out , there are many shops, restaurants, bars and waffle vendors closeby. 

  
Mmmm, did I tell you that in Brussels you have the best waffles in the world? Right, I did, but it’s hard to focus when you remember that taste. Don’t – and I mean DON’T – skip that! Waffles are a must! 

Ok,getting back to Grand Place – which is still not as exciting as waffles – it’s nice to walk around and make your way to the famous Mannekin Pis.

 
Of course, Atomium is nice to see, there’s also a cute park next to it with lots of rabbits jumping around freely in the grass.

   

 And you can admire the beautiful flowers all over, but after that rush out of Brussels and discover the real beauty of Belgium. In less than an hour train ride you reach:

Liège

Laidback, small town, perfect for a daytrip from Brussels. Besides the center there’s not much to see or do, but it’s great for a day when the motto is : “take it easy “. 

 For church lovers there are a few to check out, as I had enough time I walked in a few and were quite nice, all just a few steps from each other.

The Liège Guillemins train station is another masterpiece Belgians are proud of, being also in the top 12 most beautiful train stations in the world.

 
  


In order to put an original print on the whole trip I ended it in a Romanian restaurant in Liège. No matter where I am, for me the best food still comes from home, so I’m sorry Belgium, you might have the best beer and waffles and fries, but my yummi ciorba de perisoare doesn’t have any comparison grade. Though it’s not much appreciated by locals, says the restaurant owner.