Souvenir Shopping in Amsterdam – Delft Blue, Tulips, Stroopwafels and Weed6 May, 2012
Souvenir-shopping in Amsterdam can be quite an adventure as there are so many things that are symbolic of the country – Holland/the Netherlands and the city – Amsterdam. A typical Dutch souvenir that you can find practically anywhere in the city could be a cheap trinket in Delft blue, hand-made clogs, a delicacy like cheese or waffles and even beautiful tulips. The best place for such cheap trinkets are along the Damrak – between Amsterdam Central Station and Dam Square.
One of the most common souvenir that you will find in almost all gift shops is the Dutch kissing couple figurine (as seen in the above picture). No one knows exactly how it came by but this is supposed to be that of a Dutch farmer kissing his wife in the fields – other variants of such figurines include the farmer holding a handful of tulips behind his back. If you like Precious Thots type of things, you would love these figurines and they come in all sizes but they are typically in the blue and white color which means that they are made of Delft Blue (or Delftware) – a Dutch version of Chinese porcelain. Other versions of this Dutch kissing couple figurine includes functional versions e.g. salt and pepper shaker.
The delicious Dutch stroopwafels is one of the hot favorite souvenir for tourists and it is well-liked by locals as well. It is a waffle made from two thin layers of baked batter with a caramel-like syrup filling in the middle. The Daelmans brand is one of the most recognizable brands for stroopwafels because of the Delft Blue design-inspired packaging with the Dutch kissing couple and windmills.
Once you get your stroopwafels, don’t just eat it! Prepare a hot cup of tea or coffee and put your stroopwafel over it and wait for a few minutes while the caramel filling between the 2 halves of the waffles melts and the stroopwafel softens and the sweet smell of caramel, cinnamon and sugar comes out from the waffle. There you have it – a warm piece of stroopwafel with soft caramel between it and it goes perfectly with a cup of hot drink – ideal for an afternoon snack or breakfast!
In Singapore, you will be able to find a different brand of stroopwafels at Candy Empire branches e.g. at Vivocity so if you are suffering from stroopwafel withdrawal syndromes – get your fill of stroopwafels over there.
Besides Dutch cookies e.g. stroopwafels, Amsterdam koekjes, there are also uniquely Dutch food e.g. the different variants of Dutch cheese, chocolates that you can find in Zaanse Schans as well as throughout Holland.
If you are in Amsterdam during the blooming tulip season, you might be tempted to bring back some tulip seeds to grow in your own backyard or just along the common corridor (if you are staying in a HDB flat). Do note that some tulip species do not grow well in Singapore’s climate so if you are shopping along the busy Flower Market and have decided to buy back some tulip bulbs and seeds, do let the shop assistants know you are bringing this back to Singapore so they can advise on the right species to buy. Alternatively, you can just buy back tulip decorative items or fake tulip flowers. They will last much longer than real tulips!
Windmills – what most tourists associate Holland/the Netherlands with so how can you leave the country without bringing back a windmill souvenir, especially visiting the spectacular windmills at Zaanse Schans. You will have a great selection of windmill knick-knacks in souvenir shops all over Amsterdam – most of which are made of Delft Blue so you kill 2 birds with 1 stone – bring back a piece of Dutch Delftware as well as a windmill souvenir!
Now that we are done with the more common souvenirs, let’s move on to the very uniquely Dutch and naughtier souvenirs. In Amsterdam’s souvenir shops, you will see a lot of souvenirs marked with XXX. XXX here does not necessarily refer to sex and porn here (though it depends on where your souvenir shop is located – if it is in the Amsterdam Red Light District, then it is a different story). The XXX symbol is Amsterdam City’s Coat of Arms – three St. Andrew’s Crosses in white on a black stripe on a red background. On the flag they appear horizontally, but most other places they appear vertically. St. Andrew was a fisherman who lived in the 1st Century AD and was said to have been crucified on an X-shaped cross. The Amsterdam XXX symbol dates back to the year 1505 when the city was a fisherman’s town, so the coat of arms was established as the symbol for the city itself and it also flew as a flag on all ships registered in Amsterdam.
However sometimes the XXX symbol is not used very appropriately in some souvenirs e.g. the phallus-shaped salt and pepper shaker in the picture below :-). Other sex-themed souvenirs you can find in Amsterdam include novelty condoms e.g. chainmail condoms (Ouch!) and others which I have no idea on how to describe (see picture below). You can find these interesting novelty condoms at Condomerie – the Condom Emporium along Warmoesstraat.
Another side of Amsterdam that most people are familiar with is the legalised marijuana industry where you can smoke weed or have weed cookies/cakes legally in “coffeeshops” Well these had spilled out of these coffeeshops into souvenir shops and markets. While these are most likely milder versions of the marijuana you find in coffeeshops, I strongly recommend against consuming them and definitely not bringing them back to Singapore (as you might get into trouble with the law here).