Monday, February 27, 2012

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

“Hullo! ETD Peeps”
Amsterdam in full swing
After such a lovely Brussels experience, we jumped on the early train heading to Amsterdam.  Filled with expectation we arrived, jumped on a tram and touched down at our Hostel.  This place was budget-budget.  I mean to say it was pretty lousy, but it fit our budget and had free breakfast.  The rooms all had a weird, pot-like odour even though there were numerous signs depicting non-smoking in the rooms.  The bunk beds were rickety to say but the least, without any bars…. Preying we wouldn’t roll over in our sleep we were both given top bunks – we shrugged our shoulders.  I was hoping that my 88kg wouldn’t topple the leaning tower of bed sheets and crush the weakly looking American guy sleeping below me…

“Ha Ha Ha!…Danger, we laugh in the face of Danger!”

That said, and the awful stench of weed behind us, we headed into town on foot.  Passed a few museums, of note, the Van Gogh, the Rijksmuseum and the Rendbrandt Museum (I would visit if I was stuck in Amsterdam or if my brain seized up due to the over inhalation of somebody else’s cannabis addiction).  Winnie would visit every museum if she had a chance…  Instead we chose the healthy option, walking around the city, fresh air with our trusty maps.


We approached a traditional Hotdog / Herring stand.  I was hungry and suggested a cheap hotdog, Winnie wanted to try the Herring.  We both got a hotdog and shared a single herring-dog (I guess it resembled that).  The Herring smelled (not good if you know fish), but willing to laugh “in the face of danger” I took a bite…. GGrrr yuck, cough splutter… It was cold and slimey too..not like sushi, like just caught from a canal and slapped in a bun…I nearly hurled on my hotdog.  I tried another small cautious bite…couldn’t face another.  I passed it to Winnie, nodding, and suggesting she try some.  She reacted in a similar way.  We dumped the herring-dog.  But for the rest of the day it repeated on us, and I had the smell of Herring to add to my senses… So that’s herring-weed smells making me retch.

Herring in bun...fresh from the nearest canal! Yuck!

We walked through the main drag, past the numerous “Coffee Shops” which sell weed, Cafés (which sell beers) and takeaway joints.  We then walked down some canals and headed to the flower market (with no flowers, just bulbs for sale) and found an awesome Cheese shop.  This place had nice ladies who never cut you off for trying too many samples – in fact one such lady encouraged me to try more samples after about an hour.  They also had some chocolate, those awesome caramel waffles (strompfwaffles?) and yummy mustards, sauces and dips.  I was in heaven.  I can always find my favourite foods, but this was goooood!

The forceful cheese lady - Awesome!
My reaction to being told to try more cheese

After this we headed to the House of Anne Frank.  This is the little Jewish girl who wrote a diary during the Second World War, whilst she and seven others went into hiding to avoid being taken off to German concentration camps etc.  They remained hidden for at least 2 years, in the smallest space – never allowed to venture outside for fear of being spotted.  The museum and the tour around Anne’s place of hiding reveals heaps about life in WW2 and I recommend this museum to any visitor of Amsterdam, plus it was raining again and we were looking for an alternative to a coffee shop, bar, café, restaurant or getting drenched by drizzle.

Frozen Canals

After a few hours in the Anne Frank House, we headed back to our hemp-drenched hostel to get ready to go out.  We decided to brave it and go to the famous Amsterdam Red Light District.  Not deterred by the torrent of rain that beset us as we stepped off of our tram, at the aptly named DAM monument place.  As we entered the RLD we were faced with two colours; Red or Blue (thankfully we never saw any blue lights – blue means transsexual prostitutes!), but as we passed the numerous sex shops, red lights and the various different attractions behind the glass the streets got narrower and the windows got more frequent.  We were in dead central RLD and there was no turning back.  We were both having way too much fun to turn back anyways!  The various ladies of the night come in all shapes, sizes, from the seemingly normal looking girl to the outrageous kinky girls who look completely off their heads on who knows what!  

On numerous occasions males would get a tap on the glass, and a beckoning from within…most would get embarrassed and disappear into the dark of the alley, some stopped for a chat and others were goaded by their mates.  On one occasion just as we were heading back a lady dressed up as what can only be described as your “normal looking blonde office chick” tapped the glass and beckoned for both Winnie and Me!! This time it was our turn to head for the hills, laughing all the way to tram stop.  The Amsterdam RLD is the underworld, from weird and fetish to those dark streets filled with red glowing windows and the ever present Security guards lurking in every corner, just outside of plain sight.  Like Winnie and I, there were many couples walking through this area, trying to fathom out the various sex toys and kinky underwear blushing almost as red as the lights that guide you.


An enjoyable evening had, we headed home to rest for our next day in Amsterdam.  We were going to hire a bicycle!  Next morning we went out a little later than our normal early starts, at around 10am.  Perhaps the passive inhalation of the weed-hotel had an effect on us?  Perhaps it was that we were woken in the early hours by members of our room who had returned after drinking at an Ice Bar followed by illicit hash-brownies.  From giggles, to groans and the dash to the toilet I don’t think they were having as high a time as they had expected. Laugh out loud ;-)


So we rented a bicycle each for 3 hours.  These were the basic Dutch bikes with no brakes, well not handle bar brake levers.  These had lever-less handle bars, but instead the brake was that of a pedal brake – “pedal forwards to go, backwards to stop” we were told.  After a brief practice run around the forecourt we headed off and covered the three main parks that covered the west side of Amsterdam.  In total, over our 3 hour period we clocked our ride to be around 10km.  It was a very peaceful and relaxing way to see Amsterdam.  Although still underwhelmed by the “Dam”, we returned our bikes and walked like cowboys into town.


We sat and did some “Fika” at Starbucks, Winnie wrote some blog posts and I messed about doing some crosswords.  People watching for a couple of hours, nursing the aches in our butts with big mugs of Hot Chocolate, yummy cakes and the general hustle bustle of the centre of the city made for a relaxing afternoon.

An early night needed to happen, we were both pretty tired and the early start to head to Berlin was gonna be ugly (5am Tram!!)

Just a quick note on Amsterdam Trams: if you wanna zip around the town (to save your legs), use a Number 5.  There is nobody checking the tickets (or lack of) and you can usually get a free ride between town and the central station.  Nobody ever seems to use a ticket, or scan their travel cards (only the regulars I guess) so it’s a bit too easy to get one up on the system.  Otherwise you can buy singles, returns, 1 hour and 24 hours (and many more) tickets if you really want to!

Look out for our next post from Berlin – home of Check Point Charlie, The Berlin Wall and some nice architecture…not to mention Currywurst!

See Ya’ll Soon J

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