About two weeks ago, I received an email from Charles, the owner of Strawberry Tours: “Strawberry Tours would like to cordially invite you to our official press tour for our Amsterdam Branch!” This got me kinda excited since I had never been invited to a Press Tour before. So on Saturday the 13th of October I headed to Amsterdam with Dustmountains to find Niek waiting for us.
Niek told us a little bit about himself. He had been a tour guide for about four years, starting out with Bachelor Partytours and is currently the owner or the licenced partnership Strawberry Tours Amsterdam. After he had told us about himself, he told us about the company, how it had started out in London, – where I actually took a Street Art tour last year – that every tour has it’s own theme, like the Red Light Tour, the Live Music tour and the Amsterdam Undiscovered tour.
He also told us about the way they compensate for the footprint they cause by organising these tour. Strawberry Tours Amsterdam is a sponsor of Plastic Whale an organisation that cleans the waters and oceans from all the plastic pollution that is a big problem these days. They make plastic boats with them for example and Niek told us that he hopes to one day have a customized Strawberry Tours boat made by Plastic Whale. I was really glad to hear that they compensate for the footprint since I am a Tourism Management Student and sustainable tourism is my main interest.
After some serious chatting, we finally took off and started the Amsterdam Undiscovered Tour. According to Niek and the other guides, this is the most fun one since it is really active, shows you a different side of Amsterdam and not just the high lights and can be done at a relaxed pace with no rush at all. Sounds good!
We started out at Amsterdam Central Station which, if I remember correctly, was build with 9.000 poles underneath it and a couple of bodies … yeah, we were not gonna just look at the bright side of Amsterdam’s history. We continued to the bicycle flat where Niek told us that a lot of the tourists are massively impressed by the flat, boat and actually believe it when he jokes about a bicycle aircraft.
After a good laugh, we headed to ‘Amsterdam Noord’ or the North of Amsterdam. This part of town used to be called ‘gestoort’ or crazy because it used to be the crime dump of The Netherlands. It was mainly built because they were in need of more homes and therefore used to be kinda cheap … it is not now. They spruced the place up with the Amsterdam Tour for example which has a light shop in the lift and a swing on top of the building!
– Fun fact: You can take the ferry to this side of town which is 100% free! –
We continued onto the Haarlemmerstraat which is THE place where tourist meets local. On every corner, there is something iconic for Holland, and no not just the coffee shop, I’m talking about cheese shops or haring stands. Haring is served with onion and pickle, this is actually because, back in the day, once the haring was starting to rot it would really smell bad and not taste so good either, but in a way to still sell these fish they covered up the smell and taste with the onion and pickle. Thank god that is not the case anymore.
Next up was the coffee shop, for us dutchies … not too exciting. We all know that it is not actually legal – like many tourists think – and that the law behind it is actually pretty messed up, but Niek can explain that better than I can. We stopped by the WIC house which belonged – as the name already inclines – to the West Indian Trading Company. This house shows the welfare from Dutch history but also has a dark side to it, just like the Central Station. The WIC was an incredibly rich company, as big as the top 10 wealthiest companies today combined, but they were also a huge partaker in the slavery business. It’s important to remember that it was not just ‘happy go lucky’ back in the day, there were some pretty dark times too.
We continued our walk toward the Linnenmarket and the Northernmarket. The places were really crowded, probably because the weather was just gorgeous that day, but it was also cute and cosy in a way. We had kinda hoped to find a record stand but there wasn’t any. Better luck next time! We did not spend much time at the markets because it was pretty intense with all those people on such a small surface so we took a little detour and headed towards the Widowsplace. This was just the cutest little square surrounded by lots of flowers and green and beautiful homes that were originally meant for widows and unmarried women.
It was built by the rich as a way of giving something back to society, but this mainly served as a way to improve their own status and image.
After this incredible cute intermezzo we headed towards the Anne Frank house – which is one of the high lights from Amsterdam so you might have heard of it – and on our way there we passed this shop called ‘Winkel’, this literally means shop. Kinda punny 😉
What this shop is known for is … Apple Pie! It is supposedly the best apple pie in Amsterdam and the line outside of the shop proved this rumour.
Time to Eat
We were starting to get a bit hungry at this point so after passing the Anne Frank house, where Niek told a little bit about her and the second world war, we started to head towards the ‘Gebed zonder End’ where we were gonna meet up with a fellow guide and have lunch. We stopped by the Gay Monument – which is built right in from of the larges church of Amsterdam. Yeah … That’s Amsterdam for ya – and visited an exhibit about the massive growth Amsterdam has gone through in the last 40 years or so.
It was all really interesting and a great end to a great tour. We had lunch altogether, discussed how we had experienced the tour and, after saying our goodbyes, went our separate ways.
For me, it had been an educational and fun day. I will definitely go on another Strawberry Tour sometime soon.
Enjoy your travels!
Some fun facts about Amsterdam and Strawberry Tours
- Did you know that Jenever is the original Gin? During the war the Dutch would drink Jenever before every fight – this is where Dutch courage comes from. After the war the English still had an old Jenever recipe, but the found it too boring. So they spiced it up a bit and came up with the Gin we know today.
- Did you know that Strawberry Tours NEVER cancels? Even if only one person shows up for the tour, they still head out.
- Did you know that Strawberry Tours is based on a ‘pay what you feel like’ system? At the end of the tour, you can give the guide whatever you can miss or what you think the tour was worth. This was the tour is accessible for anyone and poor students on a budget – like me – can still enjoy tours like this.
- Did you know that there are over twelve theories on what the three crosses on the flag of Amsterdam stand for?
- Did you know that every year about five people down because they fell into the canals? Be careful!