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Amsterdam emerged from the sea a city created, literally, by its inhabitants. Today, the same beautiful terrain remains: small plots of land surrounded on all sides by canals, lined with elegant houses that lean over the streets as if trying to glimpse at their reflections in the water. The Golden Age of art flourished here, and here it remains---Rembrandt's shadowy portraiture and Vermeer's luminous women, the Modern swirls of Van Gogh's brush and the clean, sharp lines of Mondrian's squares sing an ęsthetic lullaby to the dignified sensibilities of the Protestant populace. Yet sleepy gabled houses and calm water combined with art in stately museums are not the soul of the city.

Amsterdam is the hot, bustling capital of northern Europe. It's open attitude towards sex, self-expression, and soft drugs make it a mecca and meeting point for the youth of the Continent and for ex-patriots from all over the world. Its liberal mindset extends back into history, so that now its population is as diverse as any city twice its size. Visit Amsterdam to experiment and party, to club and cruise. Or, begin by taking in the culture of years past and end with the city's bustling gallery scene. See the city from another angle: on bike like a local or on boat from the canals. Use Amsterdam as a starting point for exploring The Netherlands, a country as eclectic as its capital: scattered among beaches and international cities are tulip fields and windmills, and the odd clog can still be found in shops' windows and on natives' feet. As Amsterdam is a city where anything goes, there is no end to the possibilities.


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