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Amsterdam, Holland
Amsterdam is a bewitching capital that juxtaposes the provincial and the cosmopolitan with a liberal spirit that opens its arms to all. This mix is unique to the city, and disappears in favor of traditional, old-world Holland beyond the city limits. While many people are content simply to hang out in the city squares and pubs, cruising the canals, and people-watching in the greenest European capital, others would be happy to spend their entire visit browsing the world-class museums filled with treasures by Van Gogh and other old masters. Since the 16th century, Amsterdam has played several important roles in Dutch society, but perhaps its most characteristic and pervasive has been that of lastige stad, a term that translates as being on the progressive, even radical, cutting edge of cultural and ethical evolution. Live and let live, laid-back, and liberal are terms that are frequently applied to the infinitely tolerant Amsterdam, a place that for centuries has served as a refuge for oppressed and marginalized people.

In the 1960s, Amsterdam became the counter-culture capital of Europe, and in the 1990s the city has taken a leading role in the on-going liberalization of society. Its citizens enjoy their multi-racial melting pot and one of the highest standards of living in the world. At night, more than 1,200 bridges spanning nearly 200 canals are illuminated with countless tiny lights that give them a fairy-tale appearance. In the morning, the gingerbread house cityscape slowly unfolds through the mist to reveal its Dutch characteristics. The streets are lined with narrow brick houses topped with ornamental or plain gables, and the amiable populace mostly walks or bicycles from place to place, having the right-of-way over cars. Grab a bike for yourself and by the time you finish up a morning ride and chain it to a bridge for a respite in a braun café, you'll feel right at home!
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