Friday, June 05, 2009

Amsterdam (Day 6-7)

Alright... so our journey to Amsterdam was not the easiest one, but of course France had to send us off with a good kick in the pants. We got back into Paris to catch the train to Brussels (for lunch) and then on to Amsterdam, and since the Paris trains have no ticket checker for the most part, our ride was free :) We were entertained the whole way by a lovely homeless man across from us who gave us a spirited running commentary of the ride... I couldn't understand what he was saying, but he would laugh to himself and swing his arms around.
We also discovered a little shop in one of the stations were I bought a shirt and pair of jeans for really cheap!!! I didn't get to try them on, but was excited to have them!!
We got the station and got our Eurail passes activated and then ran to our train... come to find out we couldn't get on the train because we needed a reservation (how kind of the person at the booth to not notify us of this)... change of plans, we had to skip Brussels (we later would window shop the city as we passed through - it's beautiful I hope to go there someday). We paided an ungodly reservation fee (the most expensive of our trip turns out) and then we were FINALLY off to Amsterdam. We took the opportunity to schedule our future trips to make sure we could make the trains... later in future cities we would discover Paris has no idea what its talking about. I did get to speak to the ticket lady in Paris rather firmly and I am impressed with myself that I got the job done... the lady wasn't very helpful and had to keep getting up to ask her manager questions, etc.
Finally on the train I got to relax for several blissful hours! I got to even catch up on ODF messages! Good job Bill, Henry, Stewart, Travis, and John... AWESOME STUFF!!!
I also realized on the train that it was May 22nd and therefore one month till I returned home.

We arrived in Amsterdam!!! YAY!!! We immediately wandered the streets towards our hostel to put our stuff down. We were still riding the frustrations of the train station and trying to relax a little bit from our journey and I decided to try on my pants... they fit well enough (not perfect), but when I went to sit down the zipper snagged and broke!!! AH! It was a very sad moment, not for the jeans, but in the realization of how tired, frustrated, and disappointed I was at this trip being less than smooth - the pictures don't convey the sad moments, but there were plenty... so the jeans breaking was the last straw that made me really really sad!!! What did we do to cheer me up??? We had pancakes for dinner!! Phoebe and I are learning that we are grown ups and therefore if we want to have sweets for dinner, we are entitled!
The Pancake place was so precious,

but apparently didn't have drinkable tap water... we got water... IN A CAN!!! Amsterdam is truly magical!

I got pancakes with bananas and sugar on them

We wandered the city a little bit more after dinner... some sights of Amsterdam

We then got back to our hostel. We had an unexpected blessing in Amsterdam, although we were booked for a 4 bedroom mixed gender dorm (which was the only thing left available) we arrived and discovered they'd given us a 6 bedroom FEMALE dorm! Thanks God!! The other girls were in bed early, which was nice for us, so we stayed quiet and got ready for bed. Unfortunately it was after 10pm and STILL LIGHT OUT! I finally did however get to sleep, and it was lovely.

Our next day there, I was determined to look for the blessings of the day rather than the frustrations... it was easier, but not without it's moments. It was however a BEAUTIFUL day weather wise!!!

Our first place of destination was the Anne Frank House! It is in Amsterdam that she hid from the Nazis... I was really excited to see it!! Unfortunately the actual building on the outside doesn't look how it use to, but the inside is still the same... unfortunate for you, I took no pictures because I was not allowed.
We queued for almost 2 hours to get in... if you plan on going, get your tickets online prior to arrival... it will save on the queuing. Phoebe and I however are excellent queuers and Bejeweled was there to keep us company!
The inside was awesome to see... I remember reading the book in elementary school or Jr. High, but only vaguely... as I crawled through the passage way hidden behind the bookshelf, it came flooding back... POWERFUL STUFF to see.
We watched some video of people being interviewed, like one of Anne's best friends who was also in the concentation camp with her. She said that Anne died just 3 weeks shy of liberation and that Anne thought she was the only one in her family left. Turns out her father survived and the thought that if she would have known that, she may have lived made me sad. Her diary however gave a face to the Holocaust and WWII and is a powerful account of life in that time.
After we finished the house, or next stop was the Van Gogh museum!! In museum square we found this sign!

The Van Gogh museum was definitely something to be excited about, but when I was researching it before we arrived I realized we wouldn't be seeing my favorite Van Gogh - Starry Night... that one is in New York. Well low and behold, to my infinite delight the museum was having an exhibition where Starry Night was on loan from New York and so I got to see it!!!! I tried to capture it discretely on my camera... sorry for the blurriness

It was a highlight of Amsterdam for me!!
After the museum we realized that anything else of note would require us to queue for god knows how long, and non of it was worth the queue, so we went shopping! I found a pair of jeans!!!
And we came upon there human statues in town square

We went by the Bloemenmarkt which sells every variance of tulips you can imagine! Laura, I thought of you!
We then found these in one of the gift shops! HAHA!!

We also went to the train station because we were wondering if there was a way to get our passport stamped. They don't stamp your passport with train travel around Europe... sadly we would have had to go to the embassy to do it... and we didn't want to do that... so I have no stamps in my passport from all the places I went to on this trip!!
After a dinner a McDonalds (okay don't judge me... I'm poor and American fast food is the cheapest thing to eat in any city!) we decided to brave a guided walking tour of the red light district. I was super nervous about what it would be like, but after seeing older couples and normal people taking the tour with us, I felt more at ease. Our tour guide was names John and he was from Ireland. When Phoebe and I saw him we both had this thought that we'd seen him somewhere before... we came up to us and was wondering the same thing... turns out we had NEVER seen him before and it was just a weird thing... odd.
So the Red Light tour - started out awesome... and then went not so awesome. Everything we saw was fine... but John decided to make the tour his personal anecdote time and believe me, I DID NOT want to know that stuff about him AT ALL!!! Phoebe and I clung to each other's arm the WHOLE time and after the 2 hours, we were anxious to leave... The stuff we saw was AWESOME, but John was odd and an oversharer.
Some cool Red Light District info
- Chet Baker, famed jazz musician, died here... he was addicted to heroine and fell out of his window onto the sidewalk... to his death.

- this was a church and then became the world's first stock exchange... the skeleton above the door was cool and in latin the sign reads "There is hope on the other side" or something to that effect

- this is the oldest street in Amsterdam and is named (the english translation) Vegetable Street... but is now home to anything having to do with homosexuality... and is affectionately called "fruit street" by the people of the Red Light District

We also of course saw the prostitutes in their windows with the red lights above trying to find "clients" and we had the occasional boat of drunked frat boys sail by on the canal and of course there was the distinct smell of weed in the air... it is Amsterdam after all. But somethings surprised me about the Red Light District... for one, it is an actual neighborhood in Amsterdam so there are families who live there... there is a kindergarten RIGHT NEXT TO 3 windows of prostitutes... when a news crew went to the school and asked the kids what they thought the ladies in the windows were doing one little boy responded - "selling kisses" - that about broke my heart. But, the BIG thing that surprised me was the fact that the Red Light District will not exist in 2 years. The shops are slowly being bought out by boutiques and fashion shops... Amsterdam is trying to adopt a more reputable tourist demographic. I will say that I didn't even know Amsterdam had the Anne Frank House or the Van Gogh museum or any of the other museums until I researched coming here... all anyone knows about is the Red Light District and legal prostitution... so I think Amsterdam is making a good move trying to clean themselves up. HOWEVER it worries me that now all the other stuff will now move underground and become MUCH LESS SAFE. Conflicted... I am glad I went on the tour though... the history and stories of the place were fascinating... like the one about the sailor who paid off his bar tab with a monkey - which is where the saying "in the monkey" came from to refer to being high in debt. I will be able to tell my kids that I went to Amsterdam when there was still a Red Light District.

After the tour we went back to the hostel and Phoebe and I were met with more nudity in the dorm room from the other girls than we had seen in the Red Light District... we laughed about that.

But that finishes up Amsterdam for you. Looking back, Phoebe and I realized we should have traded a day in Berlin for another day in Amsterdam... we liked roaming around the city and we didn't get to go outside the city to any of the windmills and fields of tulips... but next time I guess.

Some things about Amsterdam -
- seems like there are a lot of bachelor parties and frat boys wandering the city - surprise surprise!
- lots of sex shops and sex museums
- the smell of pot is almost everywhere, Phoebe and I had a joke that all our food, even the McDonald's food is laced with weed.
- Everyone here speaks English... just normally... no phrase book necessary!

next is Berlin!!


NanAZ said...

Interesting place...have you taken any pictures of the hostels? I'd like to see what they look like.

Laura said...

Oh my goodness FIELDS of tulips? I can only imagine what that looks like! SO beautiful I'm sure! I love that you thought of me when you saw tulips - so sweet :)