Normally I wait a few days to let the dust settle from one of our adventures, but I needed to start this post at 11pm on a sunday just so that I can begin to describe the place that is… Amsterdam.
View from our jet
Colin, Jordan, Emily, Dawn, and I set off from Dublin airport on Ryanair. This was the first time I was leaving Ireland in the last two months so needless to say I was pretty excited. Plus it was Amsterdam… what 20 year old guy wouldn’t be excited about it? We flew into Eindhoven and took a train into central station where we looked at the signs in Dutch and realized “oh… there is no english here….” After finally figuring out what direction our hostel was we hopped on a tram that run in the middle of the street.
It was not until the next morning we grasped the craziness that is Amsterdams roads. I got off a stop early so I could meet my Mom’s “Dutch Brother,” Arjan for dinner at a mexican restaurant. After being a confused, lost American for about a half hour i finally found the restaurant.
Arjan and I had dinner for about an hour, it was great to see him again and tell him all that I had been doing in Ireland for the last two months. We talked about our families and what we had plans for in the future, and of course my Moms time in ‘dam. He was so helpful and had printed off about 10 pages of things to do with directions and times for concerts and places for lunch, as well as a whole deck of different walking tours in the city. I can not thank him enough for this it was so helpful.
After dinner Arjan walked me to my hostel so I wouldn’t be lost in Amsterdam until morning. We wanted to try to do brunch on Sunday before I left but unfortunately the timing did not work out. After we met at the hostel we walked around the “Light square” and went to a bar called “the Watering Hole.” This was a very cool rocker bar, with a live band playing and pool hall. The atmosphere was great and we were able to meet a few locals who pointed us in the direction of a few clubs that we could go to for the night. The guys went to a club called Parideso for the night. This was an enormous church that had been converted into a club, with a laser light show, live techno band and several bars. It was a crazy place where we met lots of locals. We didn’t meet one person not from Amsterdam the whole time, so the Americans stood out and attracted attention.
The next day we walked around the city and to Dam Square, which is an enormous open area in the city center. There were a few street performers but for the most part it was pretty quiet. That was one thing that struck me about the city was that it seemed to be a very quiet city. Not a lot of noise and the people who were talking seemed to use their inside voices. Or who knows maybe im just an obnoxious loud American. We walked through the Red Light District in the day light and were not impressed with the “talent” that was out during the day. The streets there were lined with sex shops, upscale and otherwise, as well as smoke shops and advertisements for mushrooms.
Red Light District
After the trip through the Red Light district we decided to take a canal tour through the city. This was great to see the house boats, and the different monuments and churches. It also gave a very good overview of the city’s history. After the canal tour the guys again split off and we headed to the Heineken Brewery. This being the 4th brewery tour I have taken in Europe I fancy myself the expert on brewery tours. The tour was self guided and very interesting, the inside was all modern with green lights everywhere, you were given 3 glasses of Heineken throughout the tour.
The bar wasn’t as cool as the Jameson or Guinness but the TV screens playing different movie clips where the beer was featured was awesome. The brewery ranks a 7 out of 10 on the Drew Brewery Tour Scale.
After that we managed to get ourselves lost on the way home to our hostel. Amsterdam so far is the only city where I have been completely clueless about where I am or even what direction to go in. We were lost in the pouring rain with no jackets for about an hour before we found the right tram to take us to our stop. Amsterdam owned us, it took us wherever it wanted. We had no control over where we ended up.
The next day we got up and went to the Amsterdam library to eat lunch (a suggestion from Arjan). The whole building is modern with white lights and straight clean lines. It basically looks like Apple designed the inside of this library. At the top there is a cafeteria style restaurant but the food was incredible. Cheap good sandwiches and an amazing view of the whole city. After lunch we went to Dam Square and took a 3 hour walking tour of the city. The tour is run my students who work on a tips, so you pay what you think the tour is worth. While our guide was a little corny she knew her stuff and we got to see much more of the city than we would have without her. Many good picture opportunities and places we wanted to go back to check out.
On Saturday night we decided instead of going out we would go to “Museum Night.” This was a special night that for 17 euro from 6pm to 2am you could go into any museum in Amsterdam, with free transportation. In the museums there were drinks served and DJs playing music. So it was a lot like a party inside these museums.
Outside of Red Light District
We went to the Van Gough museum, the iFlim institute, and the Amsterdam aquarium. All were very cool and the atmosphere was very casual and fun for us. After 2am the girls wanted to go back to the hostel because we had to check out at 10am the next morning. The guys of course wanted to go to a club. Amsterdam had different plans for us however. We ended up getting lost and finally when we thought we found the bus to go back to the hostel, we were informed that we were going the wrong way on the right line, taking us miles away from where we needed to be. We ended up taking a cab back and arriving at the hostel at 4:30 am, only after getting something to eat.
The next morning we got up early and checked out of the Hostel. We still had not seen the “I AMSTERDAM” sign, so we headed off into this crazy city of bikes, trams, and confusing road structures to find the sign. When we found it I was surprised at how small it was, in all the pictures I had seen it looks a lot bigger. But we had fun posing for pictures and climbing over the sign. After that we headed to the Anne Frank house for a final museum before we departed.
The museum was packed and we had to wait a half hour in line before even entering the house. It was very moving and well done, there was different quotes from her diary as well as other witnesses accounts. The attic they stayed in for 3 years was kept much the same as it was when they lived there. I could not imagine the hardship that those people had endured, it was a very different side of Amsterdam. All of us were moved at the end of the tour and when we head to Germany in a few weeks we are going to make it a point to go to one of the concentration camps. What a period in time, hopefully one that will never be repeated.
As we sat at our gate getting ready for our plane to board I couldn’t believe that the weekend had gone so quickly. This city is unreal. Literally you have to see it to understand. It is like every sin or desire you have could be fulfilled in this place, yet it has a charm and history that is beyond all the stereotypes. The people are friendly and always quick to point out that Amsterdam is not like all the stereotypes. Bottom line; an amazing city, with amazing entertainment, and people, so much history, and defiantly a culture shock to the system.