Amsterdam in summer 2020: Time to travel again
Slowly, slowly, I am dipping my toes back in the travel pool. I am going to travel to Amsterdam in summer 2020! But will it be safe and enjoyable?
Hotels opened to tourists at the end of May here in Germany, the EU and Schengen internal borders were opened on 15th June, and travel to and from Germany is even possible for some non-EU states right now. I have taken a few trips in Germany for work, but now I am ready for a little city trip: Amsterdam in summer 2020!
The Robert-Koch-Institute has gone back to publishing international risk areas, which don’t always seem understandable, seeing many countries report far fewer cases, but it is what it is. At present, the list is updated roughly once a week. I am not sure how strict immigration controls and what information is given are because when I counselled some international patients about the registration and quarantine rules, they looked at me with big eyes and said they did not know. But well. That is something I can only say hearing other peoples reports, as I have not been abroad since January.
But I am going to go on a small trip while I can. We are okay here in terms of new infections (very few) but with many countries experiencing second waves, I do not expect to be able to travel for much longer. I think our planned autumn holiday isn’t going to happen, but I worry about that later. I have food, I have shelter, we have a functioning health system. For me, travel is the kind of luxury I can do without. Bring on Amsterdam in summer 2020.
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First thoughts: See Venice when visitor numbers are low
I really wanted to visit Venice at first. The Canale Grande is now allegedly clear like a mountain lake, there are no crowds and maybe I could finally get into the St Marks Cathedral crowd-free monuments and reasonably priced restaurants.
While accommodation in Venice is currently affordable, tickets to get to Venice are not. My cheapest option was by coach, changing bus in th Czech republic, 20 hours one way. Ok thank, I am not that much of a budget traveller.
Train costs the same as flight and takes between 13 and 15 hours, including a night journey without sleeper or couchette. Not interested in roughing it for close to 200 Euro either.
Last not least, a flight. No direct flights, but crazy connections using budget airlines, often changing in London Stansted. As the UK is currently rather infested by COVID, despite having a quarantine put in place for those pesky foreigners, I give that a miss. Also busting out near 500tonnes of CO2 for a flight via Budapest, Madrid or worse isn’t my thing. And I am still smarting from the deceitful refund policies of said two budget airlines – I am going to use my flight voucher but after that, flights have to be damn well cheap for me to forgo a refund in case they get cancelled. So I gave up on the Venice dream.
I thought what other places I would love to visit. Perhaps Coronavirus has killed overtourism, too? Then I thought of Amsterdam – a relatively modest 700km away, easily reachable by road, rail and air.
Is Amsterdam in Summer 2020 still a city blighted by overtourism?
I remembered my last trip to Amsterdam in 2016. It was a long stopover on the way home from the UK in the middle of July. There, I fell a bit out of love with Amsterdam. It was crowded, loud, totally filled with groups of loutish tourists. Only when I stepped away from the centre after eating at my favourite places, the Vleminckx Sausmeesters chip house and the Winkel 43 Cafe, did I find some peace and local flavour – mostly in the form of good coffee and cheese.
I took the airport bus to Central Station and slowly strolled to Noorderkerk and breakfast at Winkel 43 – basically, coffee and a piece of apple pie. Then on to the “9 Streets”, a small area between Prinsengracht and Herengracht, filled with small and unique shops. Even though it’s really small scale and lovely, it is very centrally located and gets full. Then on for Elevenses at Vleminckx Sausmeesters. The place is a bit of an institutions in chips and matching sauces. And it’s really popular but the quality is good.
Getting away from overtourism in Amsterdam
At this stage, walking along the Amstel, it had gotten hot and the tourist business was in full swing – cafes open, masses pushing along the sidewalks, people in full selfie mode and cyclists barely dodging them.
I walked along and even as I got to the Magere Brug, itself firmly in the touristy area, the crowds got lighter and the sidewalks wider. Walking along the Utrechtsestraat was a lot more fun – not as many sights, but great little shops and cafes and narrow Dutch houses.
I made it as far as Albert Cuypstraat, which is basically a street market lined by some down-to-earth shops. Sewists usually like to come heere for its selection of fabric shops. But also food, fruit, bicycle accessories – you get it here. It’s a really long street but definitely worth a walk.
After loading up on fabrics, I picked up a few pieces of organic cheese and chocolate, took a tram to The Concertgebouw, had another coffee and, my feet well blistered, caught a bus back to the airport. It was a great day, eating- and shopping-wise but I had not seen any of the “famous” sights. And I was really exhausted from the crowds. It was a trio that could well be bettered…
So, another time, another try!
Good reasons for Amsterdam in summer 2020
The Deutsche Bahn had some very reasonably priced tickets, allowing cancellation and changes, for the direct train from Berlin to Amsterdam
Accommodation prices were very reasonable. Amsterdam has excellent public transport. I toyed with a Four-Star Hotel in the Suburbs but eventually settled for a three-star by Vondelpark, a nice area I know a bit and that is central yet not tourist central.So, all in all, it will be a very cheap trip. Three days, 80Euro for a Second Class return and 85Euro (including about 10 Euro Citysurcharge per night) for a three-star hotel in central Amsterdam.
I have never been to the Rijksmuseum. It has a Caravaggio-Bernini Exhibition on right now, too! I might pop into another museum. I am thinking of FOAM – one of the Photography Museums. It currently has an exhibition on Vivian Maier on.
I have taken up sewing again (Coronacrafts indeed) and Amsterdam has some really, really nice fabric shops. Okay, I tend to just end up at the Albert Cuypmarket and its fabric shops. I’m not around here on a Monday for the Noordermarket fabrik market – I have been before ant it was okay but not outstanding – can’t beat the Albert Cuypmarket for goods and atmosphere. Also, teh Dappermarkt looks quite good.
When I visited before, I usually took tram and ferry trips well to the outskirts to look at some non-traditional architecture (He Schip and the Scheepvaarthuis), sitting in authentic pubs and going to the Ijhallen, also a more local fleamarket. Even these well-known places are not crowded compared to the city centre.
The Dutch Health Service is quite good and their reporting seemingly transparent and danger of infection probably as high as in any German city. And should I get sick, I would not be thousands of miles from home but travel back relatively easily.
The city is really picturesque and given the hoardes of tourists, the locals remain relatively friendly. Since I prefer early mornings to late nights, I look forward to lots of picturesque walks. Also, my hotels has bicycles for rent!
I can buy a crate of Lambic Beer and easily transport it back on the train.
Altogether, I am paying 160 Euro for a three-day trip. I am not sure if this is what the city of Amsterdam had in mind when they said they want to attract a more sustainable and responsible tourism. When I requested a non-smoking room at the hotel they already let me know they are non-smoking and no-alcohol – okay, good! That’ll keep the stag and hen dos out. Don’t really fancy loutish parties when trying to sleep.
So, I hope my first trip for tourism in over six months will be everything I have hoped for!
I’ve not yet met a single person whose travel plans haven’t fallen apart this year – most people I know have made their peace with the situation and either stay at home or spend their holiday in Germany. What happened to your holiday plans? Will you travel, either for pleasure or for business, and will you go abroad on your trips?
To be honest, I am not so much the type who’d like to spend an entire holiday in Germany. I am happy to live here, and I like to explore the local area, but an entire holiday? Nah. Too expensive, and it lacks the foreign flavour. Being able to travel is one of the greatest things to happen to me when Eastern Germany fell apart, and a holiday in Germany and I just don’t go together.
I am going to take it easy. Other than visiting my parents-in-law, we have not planned any other trip other than our annual holiday to Japan, and the latter is currently falling apart as the airlines that operate our flights are cancelling. Japan is not allowing non-Japanese visitors, so we are sceptical this trip will happen. In the view of second waves and rising infection rates worldwide, we have decided to watch and wait and monitor the situation, then just book a flight or train ticket a week or two before our holiday. As I mentioned, Venice is still waiting…