I Amsterdam


I think it was in March when I said Darling, I signed up for the Amsterdam Marathon.

Exactly two weeks ago, on a sunny Sunday on October 15th was the day of the big race. The day when all those countless training hours and certain moments of positive stress were measured.

But, this is not a marathon report, though I might write one next. This is my compact tip guide to Amsterdam. So, hop onboard and let the canal tour begin.

There are cities I like (Reykjavik for example), cities I love for their intense beat (New York, Tokyo, Hong Kong) and cities where I can picture myself living one day (Berlin, Copenhagen and, as the latest discovery: Amsterdam). The atmospheric waterways, numerous flower shops and flower markets, the leaning old narrow buildings, broad biking lanes and the fact that everyone bikes everywhere. Amsterdam is a verdant city which exudes art and interesting vibes.



My favourite thing was strolling along the canals, both in the soft and peaceful afternoon light and in the evening time, before and after dinner. The many canals have had the task of keeping the city above water. Also, the windows in the gorgeous apartments right by the canals are so huge that one gets a little glimpse of the local décor trends.


After a long walk what would better hit the spot than some gin? Let’s head toward the gin distillery Wynand Fockink (Pijlsteeg 31). It is a small tasting house established in 1679, serving jenever and liqueurs. There are guided tours with tastings during the weekends: a strong recommendation. We booked the tour online a few hours before it started and it was a fascinating experience. The host was superb, and we got to learn the stories behind many of the bottles: for example, there are drinks for all the phases of a love affair, from courtship to celebrating a new born baby.  In Dutch, by the way, pregnancy is referred to as Hansje in de Kelder. It is interesting to compare idioms in different languages.

The foodie in me rejoiced of the wide selection of Indonesian restaurants. A special recommendation goes to the rice table, Rijsttafel, at MAX Amsterdam (Herenstraat 14): the menu includes several Indonesian specialties, such as a spicy aubergine salad, a vegetable curry and seasoned seabass filet on a banana leaf. Yummy food in a warm atmosphere.

If you have time: visit De Hallen (Hannie Dankbaarpassage 47), a cultural concentration with a cinema, bike rental and repair store, fashion shops and a food market. The food hall offers flavours from dim sum to Lebanese and Vietnamese delicacies. The food was tasty and fresh but how the logistics were organized there could afford to be improved.

The last tip: the TSC Amsterdam Marathon. The route was scenic, the cheering was energetic and the weather in Mid-October was gorgeous with sunshine and around 25 degrees Celsius. There were even some families who had set up their own refuelling stands for the runners with bananas and water. And if you are not running and have a good three hours to yourself, head to the Van Gogh Museum. The doorman was arrogant, the masterpieces are purely impressive.


The Green Dream: An Idyllic Hike in Merano 2000


A green so strong and bright it almost hurts your eyes. The hike I wrote about last time was a proper climb and a sweaty workout. This one is more about idyllic meadows, birds singing, cows grazing on the green hills and alpine huts with domestic animals: a family hiking route, one could say. The Dolomites on the background make the hike spectacular, so rest assured, this is no regular Sunday stroll (unless you live up there of course, you lucky one).


So, we started the hike at the parking area of the Hafling Dorf, in Avelengo Paese, in South Tyrol (in Northern Italy). We did the route number 2 (which then changed to 2A): it is a loop trail and marked with a red line signifying an easy trail (leicht). And that it was: pleasant, beautiful, green and panoramic.



The time estimate for the hike given in the signposts was four and a half hours. It took us six hours to finish it. I don’t want to believe it was the two delicious apple strudels that weighed us down; we stopped many times for pictures and had two refreshing breaks at the huts. We were in absolutely no hurry but it’s good to reserve enough time for the trek before the sun starts to set. The huts on this route are Wurzeralm, Vöraner Alm and Leadner Alm. Once again, I cannot but help to wonder at the wide selection they have, from a wide selection of sausages and other local delicacies to homemade bread and sweet pastries.


This map will be of use to you if you decide to head up there. As you can see from the map, there are so many trails ranging from easy and short walks to more demanding summit treks. To me this place is a hiker’s paradise. A strong recommendation to all you travel, nature and outdoor activities enthusiasts out there!


Reaching New Altitudes: Discovering Merano 2000


I’ve had this dream of hiking in the Alps for quite some time: something of a mixture of the magnificent views  from the Sound of Music and an active and sweaty sports holiday. The dream came true in August. We spent our holiday in Northern Italy, in Trento, and did day trips in different directions. One destination was the summit Merano 2000. My highlights and tips, here you go:


So what is it about?
Merano 2000 is a hiking and recreational area with numerous panoramic hiking trails. A cable car (Via Val di Nova) will take you up to the summit in seven minutes. Quite a quick ride from the ground level to the mountains. There is a wide range of routes (altogether 19 of them) from a brisk stroll along a gravel path to more demanding vertical rises towards the mountain peaks. The place also has tens of kilometers of mountain biking trails.


Why go?
Because: the views, the workout and the views. And the bonus reason: the delicious apple strudel bigger than your head. The views to the Dolomites (which is an UNESCO World Heritage site) are stunning.

 


How?
The trekking trails are clearly signposted all the way. We did the hike from Piffing to the Kuhleiten hut. It consisted of the following parts: first an easy trail along a gravel path (trail number 3). Then a more demanding ascent marked as only for experts (oops): we did some improvising here and took a little shortcut – we ended up almost crawling on all fours up the hill. The rest of the way we then decided to follow the marked path, which was a moderately heavy trail. I’d say that the more arduous paths require a good physique and that the given time estimates in the wooden signs are  mostly accurate.


For whom?
For so many: for those who enjoy the outdoors, gorgeous scenery, being active and summer adventures. For couples, entire families with children, for all ages really. All in all, it is an excellent outdoor holiday option for those, who relax best by staying in motion.

Timewise
Note, that during the high season the last cable car heads back down at 6 o’clock pm, which is relatively early as there would be daylight still for a few more hours. On Fridays, the ropeway operates until 9 o’clock pm.


The biggest surprise?
What surprised me was the big number of (a total of 19) Hütten (mountain huts) and the wide selection they had: you can try the traditional treats of the local gastronomy, for example a Gulaschsuppe, Käseknödel or then my favourite, Südtiroler Apfelstrudel. A piece of warm apple pie with whipped cream (how else) tastes close to heavenly in the refreshing mountain air. The language used is German and the prices are very reasonable. A strong recommendation to these refreshing and tasty oases. Some of the huts even have an Übernachtungsmöglichkeit (gotta love German), that is, the possibility for overnight accommodation.


How much?
The cable car ride cost 27 Euros for two people (round trip): this was the happy hour price (valid from 2 o’clock onwards), the normal price being 20 euros per person. The snacks in the huts were affordable.


What to remember?
First, sunscreen. Take it from someone whose lips were peeling for several days after the holiday: remember to put sunblock on your lips as well. Other necessities: comfortable and sturdy shoes, a hat, a water bottle and a camera to capture all that beauty. And also a sweater with long sleeves: it is quite chilly and windy high up there (says someone who insisted on enjoying her espresso in a sports tank top, and in goose bumps).



I am a girl who loves to be by the water (sea, lakes, ponds, waterfalls, any water source really) but now the mountains definitely have a strong hold of me. When and where to next, those are the questions once again.

Have fun, viel Spaß, up there!