From Ireland to Austria Series: Amsterdam, the City of Bicycles
This is from a series originally posted on my original blog: Seefahrer Thayer. While I don't recommend it, you can view the original posts here. Because the content had value and useful tips I've decided to repost them here, however, they've since been heavily edited and updated.
Apparently, Ireland is a singularly magical place where wifi is available most everywhere... for free.
I originally wrote this last Friday... and since then I have no had internet on my phone. The post I wrote with no internet has since disappeared. But, out of the kindness of my heart, I'm rewriting it, in its entirety, word for word, as follows: [you're welcome.] So, sorry if it seems rushed, but I'm slightly disappointed I have to rewrite such an already tedious post.
First, I have to write a bit of a retraction. My post about only having lost one thing... officially jinxing me. The day before yesterday I lost 4 things. When leaving the hotel in London I left my shampoo, my razor and my face wash. Then later I left my camera bag in Brussels- but more on that later.
The best part of the day was at the London station, St. Pancras (I've of course been calling it Pancreas Station). These two guys were playing piano and taking requests (Johnny Cash, please and thank you!) They were really engaging with the audience and it was a ton of fun. But I dunno, maybe I'm just a sucker for live music.
Okay, so that's the first part of my day. I take the ICE from London to Brussels... which is less fun than it sounds. The speed, in combination with the tunnels and going up and down enough to make my ears pop... nicht gut. Anyway, it made me sick to my stomach. So I get to Brussels, take a step outside, and what do I see? A public urinal. No, not a port-a-potty. An open stall where men can publicly pee. I'll definitely post the picture of that later. It reeks of urine, the people are rude... there's no ATM anywhere to be found (and not one that'll take my card for whatever reason.) I end up betraying my rule of eating locally, and get some Greek food from some friendly guys, but order a Stella Artois at the very least
So, I spend some time trying to find somewhere to sleep, but upon venturing through the city I realize that I really don't want to be there. After getting whistled at and unreasonable amount of times, and dealing with people that are less than welcoming, I head back to the station to check train times for Amsterdam.
People there speak French, in case anyone was wondering. But of course, the population doesn't just speak French... oh no. They speak English, German, Dutch and Spanish... making translation and communicating unbelievably difficult. To find a bank I had to speak to a French guy in German... which made for an interesting encounter, to say the least.
They also drive on the right side of the road (like America). Problem is, I had gotten used to it being on the left in London and Ireland, so needless to say, I almost got hit by a tram, and managed to piss off a surprising amount of bikers and cars. (One point for me).
Alright, so I get to the station. I'm discouraged, annoyed and tired. I get a timetable to get me to Amsterdam. I board a train. About this time I'm realizing it's Friday... Friday in Amsterdam. In the summer. Crap.
So I text my dad asking him for help finding a hostel, as no one outside of Ireland believes in internet apparently. But I quickly realize that it's totally futile.
I get to Rotterdam, walk around for a few minutes, see it's a beautiful city, but that it's unlikely I'll find anywhere to sleep. By now it's about midnight, and I've only gotten broken sleep on a tight, hot train that felt we were getting shuttled to get slaughtered. Irish trains definitely spoiled me. So, I board the train for Amsterdam. I get there around 12:45 and by now I've convinced I'm sleeping at the station. Buuuuut it's too cold. I start walking and I find a hotel for €50 (ouch) but it's a place to sleep. By this time it's 1:15, and I have enough time to let my dad know I survived and have an actual bed to sleep in, and then crash.
The next morning I woke up and left my bag (at the hovel of a hotel I picked) and took a hop on, hop off tour (which is definitely a waste in Amsterdam). On the route I found a hostel, booked a room, and just like that, stress was completely gone. For the rest of the day, I toured the city, which was absolutely beautiful. I saw the Anne Frank museum (which was totally worth the hour wait) and the torture museum (which wasn't worth the two-minute wait).
I got a great döner kebab, and stuffed my face with it after not having eaten all day, then moved my bag from the old hotel to the hostel, and decide to forego the bus tour, and take off on foot. It was at this point I reaffirmed the city was not meant for pedestrians. Once you've checked for cars, motorcycles and trams... there's the masses of bikes and vespas to contend with. Oh my goodness. I can't tell you how many times I almost got run over. There's literally so many bikes they have parking garages for them. Pictures later, I swear!
So as I wandered through the city, while on my way to the red light district, I stumbled upon the sex museum everyone talked about. I walk in, buy my ticket and quickly wonder if I should walk back out. The girl behind me had a similar reaction, so we both kind of chuckled with each other about what we're surrounded with. We start talking and I quickly realize how much I've missed having someone to talk to and be around, someone that speaks fluent English. We both agree that it's probably the most awkward place to meet someone for the first time, but we ignore the irregularity and start chatting and making plans for after. Thank God she opened up conversation, I had gotten so in the habit of keeping to myself in countries that are unfriendly or don't speak English, and wasn't going to bother making the effort to talk to her.
So anyway, that's how I met Esther from Minnesota- incredibly tall and pretty and apparently a talented violinist and opera singer. It was actually really fun walking through the museum with her, there was so many things that jump out at you, and we'd both freak out and jump at them all together. It got to the point we'd get suspicious or confused if the models were clothed *because it only meant they were about to flash us)... which is really only something you can say in a place like that. The only picture I took was of a man in an overcoat, an exhibitionist, who would come out and take off his coat (don't get too excited, this blog is still PG13). That being said, I have lots of great jokes about that place... that'll be saved for when I return.
So we left for the Red Light District when we got done at the museum- around 6:00, while we also searched for a restaurant her friend had told her about... to no avail. After experiencing that, we headed into town and went bar hopping so I could try all the local beers (as per my rule).
It was actually a really nice night, I had a lot of fun. I had already resigned myself to only staying out til about 9 to try the beers, then head back to the hotel to get ready for bed, where I had 20 other girls to contend with for a good night's rest.
I found Amsterdam surprisingly welcoming, friendly and a lot of fun, but I'm definitely looking forward to Germany. After talking to Esther and hearing about the places she went-- Berlin and visiting Theresa can't come soon enough!
A little side note... the trains in Belgium and the Netherlands have been absolute rubbish. Always some sort of problem or excuse, they're not nice or well kept either. Ireland you get wifi, and a nice clean seat that's always on time.
But actually, I literally just stepped onto my first German train, and wow. Everyone was right, they have the best. Spacious, luxurious, clean... comfortable seats, air conditioned. Am I on the right train?