Amazing Amsterdam

Say what you will about the United States and our cities compared to the cities of Europe but at least we don’t make every metropolitan area into a proverbial maze of dead end and one way streets too narrow for most cars to pass through. With the exception of Boston and then selected neighborhoods of other east coast cities, cities in the US were mostly well organized and thought out – true models of the power of urban planning. By contrast, the cities or Europe – considerably older than anything in our fair nation – more or less just popped up over times as feudal countryside gave rise to villages and towns and then finally the cities we know today. As a result, these cities were clearly not built with the idea of making transportation to, from and around town easy and, especially in cities like Venice or Amsterdam, getting around can an absolute nightmare.

While Venice is most clearly famous for its reliance on waterways and canal taxis this is not to say the city is without paved streets, roads, and sidewalks. While you might assume these would be relatively easier to navigate the reality is that these are some of the more confusing streets in Europe. Every other corner brings a bride or a tunnel or an overpass over the canals and, after you’ve seen 16 different bridges they have a tendency to start to run together. During my stay in Venice it took me over three hours to find my way home one night – the combination of confusing streets and my inability to speak Italian really complicating matters and making things more difficult.

As I mentioned above, I found Amsterdam to be equally confusing but for different reasons. While not relying on its canals so much as the Venetians, Amsterdam’s canals and semi-grid layout make every single block look exactly like the previous one. While a grid would seemingly make the streets easy to navigate they are not numbered in any order like in New York for example, and as I said they all literally look exactly the same. Despite these flaws in design, however, Europe’s cities are amazing places to visit and I would encourage anyone to visit these cities at their leisure – particularly Venice and Amsterdam; just make sure you bring a compass or a GPS device as they are likely to save you time, energy, and frustration.

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