Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Amsterdam

Hello everyone!  Two weekends ago I took my first venture outside of Spain to the lovely city of Amsterdam.  We took our travel packs to school with us on Thursday and after work we ran to the bus stop to catch a bus to Madrid.  After an hour long metro ride from the bus station to the airport, we finally boarded our flight to Amsterdam at 5:30pm.  In true American fashion, I knew next to nothing about The Netherlands or Amsterdam other than what I had seen on International House Hunters and what I had heard from a couple well traveled stoners in college.  "Dude, smoking pot is totally legal in Amsterdam, brahhh", etc...
However, once I stepped outside of the airport and saw the city, I knew immediately that it is a shame that people only associate Amsterdam with drugs and prostitution.  The main streets were lined with sparkling Christmas lights, there was a crisp winter bite in the air, cyclists whizzed around every corner and occasionally the scent of some whacky tobaccy wafted past you on the street.  If I closed my eyes I could almost pretend that I never left Hippie Hill in Boone!!  I love Spain, but it was sooo nice to be in a country with other rubios where I don't stick out like a sore thumb because of my light coloring.  And did I mention that everyone in Holland speaks perfect English?!  I was nervous about traveling to a country where I don't speak the language at all.  But apparently the bilingual program in Holland is on steroids because these people don't even have an accent when they speak English.  We got lost on our way to the hostel and it was great to stop and ask someone directions on the street and afterwards not have to say, "Well, I THINK this is what they said, but I can't be sure." (Story of my Spanish life).

Our hostel was nestled in the back streets of the city and we had to cross over several beautiful canals to get there.  With fog settled over the canals, bicycles parked haphazardly everywhere, twinkling Christmas lights and sounds of revelry floating onto the street, it was hard not to fall in love with the city.



Once we arrived at the hostel, we found out that it was actually a Christian hostel.  We thought it was a little strange at first because online it said nothing about being specifically Christian but then it made sense why the girls rooms and boys rooms were on different floors.  It turned out to be great because it was quiet, clean and our group had the room to ourselves.  In the morning we got free Dutch pancakes at the hostel.  A great way to start the day!  There was a flyer posted downstairs that said you could apply to work at the hostel for up to a month and recieve free meals and housing if you wanted to live in Amsterdam for a little while longer.  A tempting offer!

After breakfast, we made our way to the Anne Frank house.  This is the actual house in which Anne Frank hid for several years and penned her famous diary.  The line was about 40 minutes long, but it was definitely worth it.  When I was in middle school I was weirdly obsessed with all things relating to WWII and the holocaust.  I just thought it was so interesting and terribly mindblowing.  If you have any interest at all in history then I highly recommend this tourist stop.  You get to walk through the house and the secret annex.  There is audio and video throughout explaining the plight of the Frank family and you really are able to feel a fraction of the fear and anxiety they must have gone through.  It is a really sobering experience, but it is also a testament to the triumph of the human spirit.  You see firsthand the conditions under which this little girl had to live but then you read her diary which is filled with humor, matter of factness and hope for the future.  Very powerful stuff.



After the Anne Frank house we met up with the rest of our group.  It included 3 Spanish girls and one Japanese girl.  With most of the group having English as their second language, communication was sometimes pretty interesting.  We ate lunch at an Asian restaurant and I got a curry dish.  The whole meal I had a huge smile on my face because I have missed curry SO MUCH.  Not even curry, but anything spicy.  Spanish peeps don't cook with anything spicy and to taste something with a kick was awesome!

After lunch we made our way to the Red Light District.  Now that I have said all that about Amsterdam being a great city apart from the vices that occur there, it certainly would not be the same city without this legal debauchery.  The Red Light District is unlike anything I have ever seen.  It is like some sinful fairy tale.  It gives off a fluorescent red glow, there are pastry shops with dutch waffles and donuts too decadent to actually eat, "coffee shops" on every corner and store windows with women selling, well, themselves!  The store windows are actually doors and a man can just walk up, negotiate a price and then the woman closes the curtain. There are tours of the Red Light District available led by former prostitutes and the proceeds go to helping the women find new work. Unfortunately, we didn't get a chance to take one.  Maybe next time.  Only in Amsterdam!



In the Red Light District!

The next day we walked around a really beautiful park called Vondelpark. Not too much to say about that but here is a picture of Annie in it.




Later we found a lovely Christmas market filled with foot long bratwurst, freshly fried dutch donuts, ice skating and other cute things.


Can you spot America in this picture?



Amsterdam is so far north that it gets dark at like 4pm during the winter.  I thought Amsterdam was an amazing city and I loved the things that I saw, but I think it would definitely be worth it to go back during the spring.  They are famous for their tulips and flowers as was apparent with the huge flower market that was still going strong despite it being late November.  One thing that I was not able to do because it was so cold and got dark so early was go on a canal cruise.  Oh well, guess I'll just have to go back and do that another time!  Amsterdam is called the Venice of the north and not to take a canal cruise if the weather is nice would be a sin!  Just look at these beautiful canals!





Here are some other pictures taken during our stay!




Every culture has their version of fried dough.  America has Krispy Kreme, Spain has churros...and Amsterdam has DUTCH DONUTS.  I must say, these Dutch know how to fry some delicious dough!

AMERICA STREET! Multiple McDonalds and Burger Kings.  Except this stingy McDonalds charged 50 cents for a packet of ketchup! Unacceptable! America would never stand for this.  I think they would probably start an occupy McDonalds movement!

Booths and booths of tulip bulbs at the flower market!

Got this delicious berry smoothie at an outdoor market.  Apparently it made my hands grow freakishly large!

A cool American girl eating some Cool American flavored Doritos! Haha in The Netherlands this is what they call Cool Ranch.

I sought out all foods that were non Spanish..this led us to an Italian-ish restaurant.

Standing in the main plaza with the Homomonument in the background. (lolz commence middle school giggles...)

According to our friendly neighborhood Dutch family, The Wilsons, Sinterklaas is usually wearing more clothes.



There is also a Vincent Van Gough museum here which I didn't have enough time to see.  Needless to say, I have to go back.  It is kind of a "Lost" situation.  WE HAVE TO GO BACK!!!!!!!!  Who's comin' with me?!!?

2 comments:

  1. Need to put Amsterdam on my bucket list! Would LOVE to be there in the spring!!

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  2. Ooh ooh, PICK ME. I wanna go! I would love to go to the Anne Frank house and go on a tour of the red light district, and fyi--they've closed (or are in the process of closing) all of the pot coffeeshops they have there due to unwanted drug tourists, so next time we go (yes we) there should be a lot less people there!

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