Look at me, finally getting all caught up on this blog! I hope you aren’t suffering from Kirstie overload, because I’m back to write about my trip to Amsterdam in April.
The trip started off a bit rocky: we spent the night at the airport (to avoid paying for a taxi since the metro wasn’t open early enough for our flight), which left us all exhausted because it’s not exactly easy to sleep on cold tile floors in noisy public places, Ariel had problems getting to the airport the night before and ended up lost in the middle of nowhere until he finally stumbled upon the airport a few hours later, the next day Ariel realized he had left his passport at home, so he had to catch a later flight, and I was dealing with some personal drama. So when Connie and I arrived in Amsterdam, I was initially in a horrible mood, but we found an American/British store down the street from our hostel where they sold Cherry Coke, my favorite drink, and my mood did a complete 180 as soon as I drank it. And I later found out that Cherry Coke, which isn’t sold in Spain or most European countries I’ve visited, is sold throughout the Netherlands! Most people in Amsterdam have marijuana; I have Cherry Coke. I think there must be drugs in it, because it made me insanely happy. Or maybe I’m just weird.
Anyway, our plans got changed around a bit because Ariel wouldn’t be arriving until the next day, but Connie and I started by taking a train to the nearby town Haarlem. There wasn’t a lot to see, especially because it was Sunday so everything was closed, but it was very cute, and we got to see a windmill. Connie went from there to some big flower garden in another city and I returned to Amsterdam where I napped for a short time (thank goodness) and then visited the Anne Frank house because Ariel and I had bought tickets for that day ahead of time. Seeing the house was incredibly powerful, moving, and thought-provoking (and I was in just the mood for something powerful, moving, and thought-provoking). Being in the house makes her story seem all the more real, and it’s horrifying that innocent 15-year-old girls like her were victims of such tragedy. I mean, that’s kind of a “duh” thing to say, but, like I said, it’s all the more real when you actually see her house. I really love this quote by her:
“It’s really a wonder that I haven’t dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.”
On the way back from the Anne Frank house, I had a conversation with some random, sort of wacky but really nice, Dutch guy who stopped me and talked to me about life in Amsterdam. I know you’re always told as a kid to not talk to strangers, but one of my favorite things in Europe is the wild conversations you have with strangers on the street. That’s kind of fun anywhere, but it’s especially great when you get to talk to people from foreign countries and learn about their country and culture (and sometimes practice languages, too, like the time I had a conversation with an eccentric drunk Italian guy in Madrid).
The next day, Ariel arrived, and the three of us walked around Amsterdam together, seeing things like the flower market, the Sex Museum (a bit too much for Connie and I to handle), Cannabis College (a tiny museum-like place with scientific information about marijuana), and the Red Light District (by day, it’s a lot tamer, of course).
The following day, Ariel and Connie took a train to The Hague to see the painting Girl with a Pearl Earring, but since that didn’t interest me, I stayed behind and had a relaxing day, visiting a few cute shops I had seen on the way to the Anne Frank house and walking through a really nice park called Vondelpark. I also experienced Febo, a chain of, well, I guess you could call them restaurants, where you put money into a slot and get meals out of a machine. Definitely an experience.
Connie and Ariel returned from The Hague, and Connie rented a bike for about an hour before having to catch her flight back to Madrid, and then Ariel and I revisited the Red Light District by night. It’s fascinating, because sex work is legal, so sex workers rent out booths (that literally have red lights). Most sex workers I’ve seen elsewhere are kind of unappealing and trashy, but sex workers in Amsterdam are surprisingly attractive. Maybe because there’s more competition because it’s legal? Who knows. But it’s definitely interesting to visit a place where there’s a lot less stigma surrounding sex and drugs. People think of Amsterdam as some wild, sinful city, but, in my opinion, it’s to the contrary. There are still lots of tourists looking for Vegas-like wild times, but making marijuana and prostitution legal seems to lead to a healthier attitude about the two. It’s like how some teenagers like to drink just because it makes them feel cool and rebellious, and once they hit 21, they calm down because it’s no longer exciting and dangerous. I’m a very tame person, but Amsterdam, to me, seemed lovely and tranquil, not wild and sinful.
Anyway, the next day, our last day in Amsterdam, Ariel and I rented bikes, the true way to see Amsterdam since that’s how most locals get around, and we rode around the town and through parks. We stopped for lunch at the Pancake Bakery because pancakes are a specialty of Amsterdam (or maybe all of Holland? I don’t know), though their pancakes are more like crepes that can come with meats, vegetables, etc. They were huge and delicious. We continued biking for a few more hours, which was really nice, I had my last Cherry Coke of the trip, and then we returned to Madrid.
I really liked Amsterdam. I loved that English is spoken everywhere (it’s nice to have a break from constantly having to speak a foreign language), it’s a small town that’s easy to get around on foot or bike, I saw more cute guys in my four days there than I have in my life, everything’s very laid-back (and I don’t mean because of all the marijuana), and people seem really friendly. Most of my trips are short, so we spend a day in each city and rush from sight to sight, and I actually like this form of travel because it keeps things interesting and forces you to take advantage of all the time you have, but we were in one small city for four days on this trip, which meant we had a lot of downtime to leisurely explore the city and get to know it. Ariel and I both commented on the end of the trip that it almost felt like the place had become our home because we knew the area around our hostel so well. Amsterdam was one of my favorite trips of the year (which is saying a lot), and I’d love to go back again. See the rest of my photos here.