My new favourite tourist discovery…
On a recent work trip to Amsterdam, my friend Andy and I decided to go on a running tour. Concept? Simple. 7.5km running around Amsterdam in a small group, visiting the sites. No buses, no cars, and no trams – “we go where we want”.
We met our tour guide, Hans-Peter (HP), who came to meet us at our hotel. We were the only two booked on so we didn’t have to meet anyone else, and off we went.
HP set a nice steady pace, jogging up alongside the Amstel (not just a beer!) for about 700m until we stopped at our first point, a nice town house with signs on the sides. HP explained that this was to identify who lived in the house back when there were no street names. I’ve been to Amsterdam once before and had never noticed these. After the run, they were everywhere!! From boats, to quills and even a modern-looking sign that had a Euro on it! We went over bridges, HP explaining their history (Amsterdam has a lot of canals and therefore a lot of interesting bridges!). We ran through secret archways which led us through the university. We saw statues made by unknown artists. A favourite of mine, near the Leidseplein, was a bronze statue made in the 80s of a man sawing a tree branch. In the 30 years since, the tree has now grown around it and it looks amazing. As we were coming through the red light district we stopped at the Old Church and HP told us a lovely story. When Saskia van Uylenburgh, Rembrant’s wife, died he had her buried in this church and once a year the sun shines through the window onto her grave – How lovely is that???
I could go on for ever, but I don’t want to ruin it for if you ever go to Amsterdam (do it! it’s brilliant!).
The main points I want to mention is how truly amazing I found it. I’m not the world’s quickest runner but HP kept a good pace, slowed down when he saw I was suffering a bit after the previous night’s beers, and was really a fascinating guy. I saw things I would never have spotted, or thought to look for, like tiny little courtyards in the Jordaan, gorgeous bakeries that smelled phenomenal, statues of musicians that I’d never heard about but I will now look up.
I fell in love with the city of Amsterdam not as a tourist but as a local.
The freedom of being led through a beautiful city when most tourists are still asleep, by a local who clearly loves where he lives and loves running is something truly special. Hands down would do it again!
Bits of interest to note:
- Stumbling upon the red light district comes as a bit of a shock, lots of naked ladies at 9:30 in the morning is not something you see every day!
- No matter how unfit you think you are, it is totally worth trying this out. You stop quite often and you go at the pace of the slowest runner, it’s not about the running – it’s about visiting a new city.
- Dam Square, at 9:45 is remarkably empty and looks very impressive
- 5km can turn into 9km, but that’s ok! If you’re interested in something, in this case Andy wanted to find out more about breweries, your tour guide might make a slight detour. I don’t know if this is the norm as it was essentially a private tour, but it felt really special.
- If all running was like this, I’d enjoy it a heck of a lot more
- As an avid “I hate running but it’s good for me” person, this was fantastic. Sometimes stopping and appreciating where you are and where you’re going is what you need and I am going to use this for my training.
You don’t know what you miss, if you never look!
I can’t wait to go on holiday to a new city and do it all over again! (Got my eyes on Barcelona!)
( http://www.touristrunamsterdam.com/ was the tour company we used. I wasn’t asked to write this by them, nor was I given any incentives to do so. My thoughts are my own. All that said, I highly recommend them if you’re ever in Amsterdam and fancy a run! )