13.11.2009 - 16.11.2009
I slept in an airport, made it through security, got on a plane, and even made it to my hostel in Amsterdam – all on my own.
For many people this would not be significant, but for the girl who redefines Murphy’s Law time and time again, this is something to be proud of.
Our hostel wasn’t anything special, but I made it and that’s all that mattered. It was clear by the familiar oversized backpacks that propped open the wooden locker doors that my friend Kevin and his roommate had already checked in.
Kevin met up with me around an hour later. His roommate had invited a few other people, and they were off exploring the Anne Frank House. After a rough night with about two hours of sleep in a shuttle bus, an airport, and an airplane, Kevin and I were on the same page.
We decided to get lost together in the streets of Amsterdam with its canals, bridges, and brilliantly tall and colourful buildings. We did this of course after enjoying our first Amsterdam “coffee” at Dampkring. It is perfectly legal there,
so I feel no need to conceal this fact about my Amsterdam experience.
There were photos of Brad Pitt and George Clooney with the guy who was selling us our “coffee” on the walls in Dampkring. Apparently Oceans 12 had filmed a scene at that exact coffee shop, and the cast had frequented it during filming. After finding our hostel again, which seemed more difficult than it should have, we took a three hour powernap and were refreshed when we woke up that evening.
After meeting the rest of our Amsterdam crew, we connected at a coffee shop called The Dolphin. There was a fishbowl molded into the wall there, and I studied it in attempts of discovering how the fish were fed. No such luck in that department. This coffee was clearly getting to me.
We ventured to the Van Gogh Museum and were fixated on the art of a genius. The storyline ran with the art in sequential order, and we really connected with it. It was interesting to see the work of one artist in a museum, as opposed to several pieces highlighted by multiple artists in one museum. I really felt like I got to know Van Gogh a little. I was sad to learn that he committed suicide before he became famous. Then again, this seems to be a pattern among crazy creative people. Maybe not the cutting off the ear bit though.
The next day we went to the Heineken Museum. This was quite interesting in the fact that we went from learning to appreciate a beer, to “being a beer” in a virtual reality ride setting, to drinking beer. Many people didn’t want their beer tokens, as it was at the end of the tour, so we drank for a while and enjoyed the main event after being teased all afternoon by the foreplay that was our beer tour.
I want to add a tip of my hat to Heineken for their strategic placement of the bar next to the merchandise shop. You literally enjoy two or more beers before walking straight through the shop to exit. I bet this tactic has worked on plenty of tourists, but I can proudly say that I did not buy one thing. (Nah nah nah nah nahhhhhh nah)
We hoped to bike around Amsterdam, but we were out of luck because it closed by the time we had finished drinking our Heinekens. We pressed on to The Rocker coffee shop.
People bizarrely seemed to be on dates here. I wondered what it would be like if a guy took me there on a date. I was also captivated by how slow the fans moved in this place and lured in my friends. How easy it must have been to feed those hippies the Kool-Aid. We all played the part.
We went to a hookah bar after this and relaxed in a voyeuristic windowed room. Apple flavoured tobacco was dirt cheap, and it went down so smoothly. It made my stomach feel pretty queasy after a while though. It had been a long two days already.
Next we found out that the red light district is nothing glamorous -it was actually scary. We went there for a bit to explore after leaving the hookah bar. The main streets were covered in shops like the pollution of McDonalds and a Condomeria, but the side streets are what are infamous.
The alleys are so narrow that you can nearly touch from side to side with your arms reached wide. You look down the alley and see a glow of red, and there are glass doors adorned with red spotlights above them. It’s like a bad dream when you walk past each one waiting to see what is in store for you. From extreme outfits to plastic surgeries to poses, one is sure to lose their innocence with one walk down an alley in Amsterdam’s red light district.
After seeing single men knocking on the doors and asking how much services cost, I will never again walk down one of those streets. It’s no wonder you’re not allowed to take photos in this area – who would want to?
We took refuge in our faithful hookah bar before heading back to the hostel for some shut eye. I was happy to be thinking of unicorns, princesses, and shiny things before bed, and NOT of the red light district.
On our way to renting bicycles the following day, we stumbled into a parade- a Christmas parade. The only thing was that the elves had their faces painted black with red lipstick, and Santa looked more like a wise humble wizard than the jolly old fat man we’ve all come to love.
I later found out at the bike rental shop that Amsterdam celebrates two Christmas’. The first is a two week celebration with presents, and then they get regular Christmas. So basically, you’re telling me that they get Hanukkah AND Christmas? I think it’s time to bring this home to Canada.
The bike ride was the best idea we had all weekend. I enjoyed the crisp, cool air in the afternoon. We biked around for two hours getting a different perspective of the city and enjoying autumn in Vondel Park. Initially I didn’t feel that up for biking. The lazy feelings that come from drinking coffee in Amsterdam did not spark feelings of “I want to exercise!” I am so glad that we went though– it was one of the highlights of the trip for me.
That day I also tried pea soup and “space cakes”. When in Rome! The whole group was about to try them for the first time, until my friend realized they had nuts on them. Being dangerously allergic to nuts, he wasn’t able to take them with us. As for me, I followed the advice from a close wise man, and I only took half of mine.
We went skating and enjoyed a unique experience. I remember being a lot better at skating though! I guess I just haven’t done it in years.
Kevin skated circles around me, and I enjoyed a more scenic atmosphere of twinkly lights and Dutch ballads echoing through the manmade arena. The skating rink was located in the center of the city, and being that it was outside, the artificial snow twinkled beneath the street lights. The whole experience made me crave Starbucks in a way that it felt like Christmas -they really have purchased that holiday haven’t they?
When we said our goodbyes, we were all a little unappreciative of the rarity of the experience that we had just had. Eight people who didn’t all know each other, all from Canada, and meeting up in Amsterdam and having an unforgettable experience. The chances are pretty slim that we would all end up hanging out again let alone all be in Amsterdam together again. What a weekend!
As much fun as I had in Amsterdam, I want to point out that I would never have wanted to travel there alone. It is more dangerous than I let on. The traffic is without rhyme or reason. If you’re not looking out for high pedestrians, you’re watching for crazy bikers and trams that run straight through any given street. As well, the streets all look so similar that it is unfairly easy to get lost among the bridges, canals, tall pastel buildings, and incomprehensible street names. This doesn’t even factor in how sketchy the red light district is. I would not recommend this for solo travels.
To end on a more positive note – I ate Amsterdam pancakes! For those of you that aren’t aware, I worked at the Amsterdam Pancake House in Valleyview for eight months in grade twelve. They were delicious, and I was disappointed to leave breakfast behind once again. Oh Italy, how I resent your teeny tiny coffees and pastries..
This weekend I am taking it easy. It will be one of the rare weekends I have spent in Milan. I will be alone for the majority of it working on my thirty minute oral presentation due Monday on Muslim communities in Italy vs Canada. See I DO go to school.
I will likely write again this weekend in lieu of doing that project.