Hallo! Hoe gaat het?
We took an over-night train to Amsterdam which was actually pretty cool. I tried to save money and get a reclining chair instead of a bed or ‘couchette’ as they call them. Instead of this kicking me in the ass, I actually slept a fairly decent amount. The chair ended up reclining much more than an airplane seat, which made for a better night’s sleep than on the plane ride over here. Thank god!
So we arrived in Amsterdam, after a ten hour train ride, around 9am. We were able to check-in to our hostel (which we found so easily! We’re much better at directions than at the start of this trip) but we weren’t allowed to put our stuff in the room yet since they were still cleaning. So we stored our luggage with the hostel, ate some free breakfast (aka toast and tea), then set off to explore!
Trying to beat the crowds and knowing this would probably be the earliest we would be up while in Amsterdam, I suggested we go to the Anne Frank house memorial. Once we walked there however I could see everyone else had the same idea so we ended up waiting about an hour before getting in. It was definitely worth the wait though. It was so crazy to me to walk through the exact house that the Franks’ and their friends were hiding in for two years. I cannot even imagine. It was a very somber experience quite like the concentration camp memorial we visited in Munich.
We then grabbed lunch at a cute little hole-in-the-wall bar that had great toasted sandwiches! We then walked back to our hostel where we met one of our roommates. Her name is Lise and she’s from Denmark. She’s really cool and traveling for the same reason we are: boredom and self-discovery. After talking and relaxing in our room we all decided to go eat at this Italian place Lise found on Trip Advisor. The food was actually pretty good although still incomparable to real Italian food. I’m afraid I will be having serious Italian food withdrawals once I’m back in the States.
After dinner we decided to walk through the red light district and go to some ‘cafes’. Now this was unlike anything I have ever experienced. I felt like I was dropped into a fantasy land (specifically made by men, hah) full of naked women, alcohol by the gallon, and weed by the pound. There were naked girls all along this street, dancing in the windows and motioning for you to come inside. I even was motioned over by a few girls which was hilarious.
We then started to walk back towards our hostel before stopping into a local cafe. And by cafe, I mean sure you can get coffee, but that’s not really what they’re used for whatsoever. This is where everyone buys their weed. You can buy it by the gram or just buy a joint. If you want to sit down and smoke however, you have to buy a drink. There were so many people sitting outside this cafe smoking weed while families and children walked by; it was definitely bizarre to witness.
The next day, since it was finally nice out, we rented bikes and rode out to the countryside of Holland. It was about a thirty minute ride out to the country but definitely worth it. It was absolutely beautiful! The houses were SO cool and surrounded by farm land. There were a ton of old-school windmills that were blowing in the wind. I think we biked past the entire population of Holland, there were so many people out riding bikes. They must have been happy about the first day of warmth in a long time as well.
The last full day, I decided to go exploring by myself since Mike was pretty tired. I went to the Van Gogh museum fairly early that morning to try and beat the crowds, but after being stopped by an unknown parade and getting a bit lost, I didn’t make it there until 10:30 or so.
I was worried about being stuck in line for an hour (like at the Anne Frank house) but when I walked around the side of the museum there was a line of about four people! I didn’t think I was at the right place at first until I saw a huge sign saying “Van Gogh museum tickets”. Score! So I bought my ticket and spent the next two and a half hours weaving in and out of other tourists and tour groups trying to get a close-up with every painting in the museum. Van Gogh was a crazy guy and painted A TON. It was also really cool to see how he grew as an artist after viewing his very first pieces to the dozen pieces he painted in his last few years of life. These were my absolute favorite paintings from the museum:
After being over-whelmed by all this beautiful art and having an epiphany about how I want to be crafty and paint more, I wandered back out the way I entered. I was a bit excited to see that there was now a long line waiting to buy tickets; I surpassed the crowd!
I then wandered around trying to find the famous Albert Cuyp street market. I took a picture of the map on my phone but for some reason was completely turned around. I thought I was on one side of the canal but really I was on the complete opposite side. After wandering aimlessly for thirty minutes I finally found Albert Cuyp street. I can see why this street market is so famous; it goes down the street for about ten blocks, it was huge! I passed by clothes, shoes, sunglasses, jewelry, grocery food, little trinkets, quick food places, dessert places, etc. Needless to say, I was getting extremely hungry passing by all this food and delicious smelling desserts so I had to stop on my way back to get little pancake bites covered in Nutella… holy deliciousness, I’ve found a new love for Nutella over in Europe.
Then the real adventure, trying to get back to the hostel without any directions. I did much better than I thought I would but it still took about thirty minutes to find my way back. That also included only turning around once! Some of my sights along the journey:
Yes, that last picture is of a bathroom in the middle of the sidewalk. Yes, it smelled disgusting.
That night we decided we wanted to switch it up a bit and eat some mexican food for our last night abroad. We found a good place on Yelp that I was pretty excited about, but when we showed up they had some huge event going on and no one even noticed us. We asked if we could get a table even though it looked like the place was just a bar and we were told there was an event so no food was being served… cool. So we wandered down the street and found another mexican restaurant that looked decent. I should have taken the girl begging us to come in as a sign but I didn’t think much about it, I was just starving at that point! So Mike ordered some ribs and I got two ‘tapas’ which here meant small appetizer-like meals that won’t fill you up whatsoever. Needless to say, the food wasn’t all that great, I mean what mexican restaurant serves ribs? But I am lucky enough to say that was the only crappy meal I had on this entire trip; I should get a medal for that right?
We then went to the grocery store to get some snacks for the long day ahead of us tomorrow. I forgot to mention Mike had been checking the loads for flying home the next day and all three flights to Atlanta were PACKED, and not to mention over-sold… great! We were flying stand-by since Mike’s dad is a Delta pilot and I got to use one of his buddy passes (I think I mentioned that in an earlier post). So we thought we were going to be stuck at the airport for at least six hours if not sleeping there that night. Yahoo!
That night we hung out with some people in the hostel, packed up all our stuff, and got to bed early. We then had to wake up at 6AM to head to the airport. The sun was just beginning to rise when we set off to the train station. It was beautiful.
Once we got to the airport, I went to get McDonald’s for breakfast since I expected to be waiting for a while. As I was finishing eating they called all the stand-bys up to the desk. “There’s no way we’re all going to be able to get on this flight.. they must be telling us none of us can get on and see if we want to be on the next flight to Atlanta,” I thought to myself. But as if by some small miracle, they gave us all seats on the plane because of a bunch of no-shows. Amsterdam must have gotten the best of some people the night before!
So here we are on the plane, flying back to the states! I’m excited to see Max and my mom but it’s bittersweet having to leave behind all my new friends and memories from these beautiful countries.
See everyone back in the good ol U.S.