Happy Tulip Day on Nationale Tulpendag 2016!

As one of my Dutch friends says, the most important Dutch word is: ‘Gratis‘ which means ‘Free‘. I know everyone loves free stuff, but for Dutch people gratis holds an extra special spot in their hearts. This is why, when you also add to the equation the most famous Dutch flower, the tulip, you start an amazingly colorful event, loved by everyone.

Nationale Tulpendag is a celebration taking place every year, on the third Saturday of January, dedicated to tulips and color, when everyone is invited to pick their own tulips, from Amsterdam’s Dam Square.

National Tulip Day Jan 16 2016 - Dam Square Amsterdam

Dam Square is turned into a temporary garden, for one day, filled with over 200,000 tulips, waiting to find a good home. Even if still winter, this event marks the opening of the tulip season.

More than 10,000 people, in only 4 hours, go pick their favorite flower, every year, and obviously this year it was no different. And the best part is that it’s free!

In case you want to join the event, remember that the even if the opening hour is 1 o’clock, is better to arrive there one hour early, because you’ll have to wait in line to get in. Later in the day, the waiting becomes only longer, as more and more people want to enter the temporary garden.

As tulips are my favorite flowers, I just had to go pick a few. What can be better than spending some time between so many gorgeous tulips, in the middle of winter? Even better, coming home with the bike’s basket full of colorful flowers is a perfect way to brighten your day! If that doesn’t make you feel fabulous, I don’t know what does 🙂

National Tulip Day Jan 16 2016 Picking flowers and Bike basket

Even if there’s a long way to go until spring arrives, I’m extremely happy to be in garden full of flowers, even if only for a short while. Tulips definitely bring their own sunshine, and put a smile on everyone’s face.

Happy Tulip Day everyone!

National Tulip Day Jan 16 2016 Tulips


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Sail Amsterdam 2015 – Sea Tradition in the Heart of the City

With the rich Dutch history of sailing and exploring the mysteries of sea, Amsterdam Sail is a nautical event which continues the tradition of bringing the love for sea in the heart of Amsterdam. The successful event attracts thousands of sailing ships, from all around the world, together with 2 millions sail passionate spectators.

amsterdam sail 1

Taking place for the first time in 1975, on the occasion of the 700 anniversary of Amsterdam city, Amsterdam Sail was organized every 5 years, ever since. 2015 is no exception when it comes to keeping the tradition alive.

Becoming the largest public event in the world, with over 2 million people visiting the ships in only a few days, the area is not accessible by car, so the entire vicinity of the event is closed to vehicles, in order to facilitate the access of visitors.

The main attractions are definitely the tall sailing ships, both replicas and heritage ships, which gently make their way to the Ij Lake, located behind Amsterdam Centraal Station. The ships parade is probably the most beautiful sight, as you can see the ships in action, and not only stopped in the harbor.

You can board the ships taking part in the event and visit them. With the large number of curious visitors, the lines are enormous and making it on the ships takes a very long time. However, in the end, it’s worth it! Meeting the crew is obviously the best part, as they can proudly give you more information on the well kept secrets of their amazing ships. I felt honored to have such a unique opportunity!

amsterdam sail 2

Part of the attraction also becomes the traffic on the water canals of Amsterdam, which slowly get packed with smaller boats, full of enthusiastic people, visiting the tall ships by water. Amazingly enough, it works perfectly, and between large ferries, tall ships and small ships, the smaller boats safely make their way to the destination.


Sail Amsterdam is definitely a beautiful way of celebrating Amsterdam’s anniversary, a wonderful tradition kept alive by the enthusiasm of amazingly passionate people. Looking forward to see the ships return, in 2020 🙂

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The Natura Artis Magistra Adventure

Artis is one of the oldest zoos in Europe (176 years old), located in the heart of Amsterdam. Founded in 1838 by three wealthy Dutch gentlemen, Gerard Westerman, J.W.H. Werlemann and J.J. Wijsmuller, the zoo is the home of an Aquarium, a Butterfly Pavilion, an Insectarium, and a Planetarium.

Starting with a small number of animals, a few monkeys, some parrots and other birds, and a Surinamese wildcat, Artis rapidly expanded, more land being purchased, some with existing structures on them. This is how 27 monumental buildings are still located in the zoo’s gardens, most being used as animal enclosures.

The full name of the zoo stands for: nature is the teacher of art and science. That being said, I present to you the cutest teachers around:

Amsterdam’s Madame Tussauds – Creepy or Genius?

Short History

Marie Tussaud was born in 1760 in Strasbourg, France. She learned the art of wax modeling in Bern, Switzerland, from Philippe Curtius, a physician for whom her mother used to work for, at that time.

DSC_2356In 1777 she decided to make her very first sculpture, picking Voltaire as the subject. During the French Revolution she sculpted some of the victims, searching through corpses to find severed heads of executed citizens, from which she would make masks. Creepy or what?

All in all, she spent 33 years travelling around Europe, exhibiting her collection in France, Great Britain and Ireland.

Some of the sculptures done by Madame Tussaud still exist, but most of them were damaged in a fire which took place in 1925. Also, the German bombs from 1941,destroyed a good part of them, but luckily, the casts themselves have survived, allowing the historical figures, which can still be seen in the museum, to be remade.

The making of … 

Before getting there, I made jokes about using the real movie stars and singers as a base for the wax figures displayed (I’m pretty sure I saw a horror movie on this theme), however, this is not the real procedure 🙂


After talking to the museum’s staff, I’ve found out how much work is put into the making of a sculpture. The whole process takes around 3 months, in which various specialists and professionals work together to make it all happen (between the specialists, a hairdresser also has to be mentioned – if allowed, she will cut off a piece of the person’s hair for later use). Creepy or what?

They start with measuring the subject and clicking photos, which will be used not only during the sculpting, but also later, when the painting is done. Then the sculptor makes a clay figure, as close to reality as possible, later used for a plaster mould, filled up with fiberglass, in which hot wax will be poured.


I’m not a fan of any movie star or singer in particular, nor a fan of wax figures, so I can’t say Madame Tussauds is my favorite museum. Not even close.


What made me even more reluctant, at first, were the stories of how Marie Tussaud worked with cadavers, and the way in which the specialists prepare for the making of the wax sculptures. The amount of work and dedication put into the making and maintaining the wax figures is impressive, though.

Even if I find it creepy, I suppose it takes a bit of madness to get really good at anything you are passionate about. On our way to success, we all take a different path, which is perfectly fine.

How do you feel about the whole process: creepy or genius?

Amsterdam – The Venice of the North

Starting as a small fishing village in the 12th century, Amsterdam became a very important port, during the 17th century, and it is even in the current days, one of the top financial centres in Europe. The city, situated 2 meters below sea level, was originally named Amstelredamm, being built as a dam of the river Amstel. At its lowest point, Amsterdam is situated 6.7 meters below sea level.


Why Venice of the North?

It’s simple. Amsterdam is the home of more than one hundred kilometers of canals, which divide the city into 90 islands, connected by more than 1,200 bridges (more bridges than Venice has). This gives tourists the almost unique opportunity of visiting the city by water and also by land. Pretty neat I would say, especially when both experiences give you a totally different feel of the vibe Amsterdam has. 


The most famous bridge in Amsterdam- The Skinny Bridge

The Water Canals 

Beautiful to see, since the early 14th century, and click pictures of, but the locals will tell you the canals are there for much more than the pretty sight.

What better way to describe them, than: city planning at its best?

The concentric half-circle canals were used for transportation, defense, and of course, water management, being built gradually, as the city grew larger and larger. During the Dutch Golden Age, the canals were used as open sewers, so the smell of success was to experience only from behind the windows. Fortunately, the smell improved in time, and the water is cleaner than ever.


The most popular canals in Amsterdam are: Herengracht (The Canal of the Lords),  Keizersgracht (The Emperor’s Canal), and Prinsengracht (The Prince’s Canal), best being seen from a boat.

Amsterdam looks spectacular from the water so, I definitely recommend a canal cruise, but keep in mind that the city transforms completely when it’s dark. Just to make sure I don’t miss a thing, I took both trips. Well worth it! 🙂


This place is called ‘Seven Bridges’ because it is the point from where you can see seven bridges of Amsterdam

The Buildings 

From all the cities I’ve been to, Amsterdam has the richest and most beautiful architecture, by far. Most buildings were constructed into the 16th, 17th and 18th century, and even in the present day, are still in great condition and used by locals. DSC_2423

At a closer look, you will notice some buildings are tilted, and are called the Dancing Houses. This is because many homes are converted warehouses built with a slight tilt to prevent the goods from damaging the building’s facade on the way up or down (dutch homes have very narrow stairs, so the only way to carry massive goods is on the outside of the house – that’s why the hoisting beams with a hook).


All buildings are supported by 15 to 20 meter long wood poles, fixed into the soil. A typical house has 10 wooden poles, but the Centraal Station is supported by around 9,000 poles! You visit a city built entirely on poles. Impressive, or what?


Amsterdam’s Centraal Station

The Houseboats 

Amsterdam is the home of over 2,500 houseboats, varying from small, simple structures to converted commercial vessels, or custom built multi-level houses. The houses are not motorized, but fixed, built either on a floating pontoon made of concrete or on an old metal ship (woonschip).

The houseboats used to provide a cheap accommodation, after the second world war, when there was a housing shortage. Nowadays they are nothing but cheap, and are connected to the city sewage system, electricity and gas. Some are permanently inhabited by locals, while others are rented to the tourists.

The Flower Market

Amsterdam’s flower market is the only floating flower market in the world, the flower stalls being located on the houseboats. Here you can buy the famous dutch tulips, narcissus and other flowers and garden decorations.

If you like flowers, this is definitely the place for you!

The triple X

DSC_198If you walk around Amsterdam, you will definitely see it everywhere. It’s important to know that the XXX on the city’s coat of arms does not stand for pornography (sorry to disappoint 🙂 ), but they represent the crosses of Saint Andrew, a fisherman who was martyred on an X-shaped cross, in the 1st century. It is said they also represent the three kisses Dutch people give on the cheeks, when they great each other.

The Bicycles – local favorite transportation 

Amsterdam, as most cities in Netherlands, is not very car friendly, so the most popular transportation is … the bicycle! It’s estimated that the city is home of more bicycles than people (over 881,000 bicycles for under 800,000 people). Most dutch people have more than one bicycle, using each one, depending on the weather conditions, destination and number of passengers (mommy bicycles have up to 2-3 child seats).

Around 25,000 bicycles end up in Amsterdam’s canals each year, and around 100,000 get stolen. The locals claim pretty much every bicycle on the streets was stolen at least once!

The Cheese Stores

When you think about Netherlands a few things pop into your mind: tulips, windmills and … cheese! Cheese making industry extends all the way back to the time of Julius Caesar, so Dutch people really know their cheese. No trip to Amsterdam should be complete without a visit to a local Cheese Store.

DSC_2024Being a cheese fanatic ever since I can remember, I was very much looking forward to this. Before my first contact with Netherlands, I was sure I knew how cheese looks, smells and taste like, but this country looked up the term of ‘cheese’ in my dictionary, highlighted it, then ripped the whole page out, and rewrote Every Single Little Detail.

The variety goes from Gouda to Edam to Boerenkaas to Herb cheese to any other type you can think of. Plenty from which to choose, but for me, it was the hardest decision I had to make, in a cheese store 🙂

Other Landmarks

Munt Tower - Munttoren

Munt Tower – Munttoren

The Munt Tower (Munttoren), built in 1619-1620, is a southern tower of Amsterdam, located where the Amstel river and the Singel canal meet. It was originally part of the main gates of the city’s medieval wall. The name of the tower comes from the purpose of the building, in the 17th century, which was to mint coins.

The Royal Palace

The Royal Palace

The Dam Square is the center and heart of the city, home of the impressive Royal Palace, built in 1648, on 13,659 wooden poles. In the 17th Century it was used as the City Hall. Later it became the royal palace of King Louis Napoleon.

Nieuwe Kerk

Nieuwe Kerk

Nieuwe Kerk located in the Dam Square, next to the Royal Palace, is a 15th century church, currently used as an exhibition space. It was built after the Old Church became too small for the population of the city. The Dutch royal investiture ceremonies and weddings take place in this location. Inside it you will find a museum store and a burial space for the national naval heroes.



Rijksmuseum is the Dutch national museum, containing around 8,000 art objects, from as early as the 1200’s, and is, for me, one of the most beautiful and impressive buildings in Amsterdam. Located in the Museum Square, the building is close to the Van Gogh Museum and the Stedelijk Museum. Also, the famous I Amsterdam letters are located in the same spot.

From all the cities I’ve been to so far, Amsterdam is still my favorite, and is always a pleasure to go back. The unique architecture combined with the water canals and the history, takes it all the way to the number one city in my book.