Bicycles everywhere in Amsterdam, the Netherlands – Great European tour part III

Amsterdam is one of those charming cities that you can’t help but fall in love with. Bicyclists surge past you on their old-school bikes, boats chug their way along the many canals cutting through the city, and you feel a sudden urge to ride a bike while wearing clogs and carrying tulips to your windmill. Amsterdam just has its own unique beauty that will ensnare you.

Getting to Amsterdam from Brussels was a bit rough, however. I seem to be having a lot of difficulties on this trip. I was supposed to take one train directly from Brussels to Amsterdam. It should have been easy. Heck, it shouldn’t have been any easier. I should have learned by now that whenever I think something will be easy, it always, always goes wrong.

Somewhere in the Netherlands the train experienced difficulties, so we were delayed on the track for half an hour. That was okay; I could handle being delayed. When we got into Rotterdam, the train was just supposed to stop quickly, then continue on to Amsterdam Centraal. It didn’t. We sat there for who knows how long before the conductor announced that the train was experiencing problems. Again, this wasn’t the biggest deal, since I just walked across the platform and jumped on another train going to Amsterdam Centraal.

At some point, one passenger sitting near me asked a man if the train was going to Amsterdam Centraal. He said no, that she would have to get off at Harlem and switch for another train. This was when complete confusion ensued for me. See, I was absolutely, 100% sure that the train I was on was bound for Amsterdam Centraal.

But apparently it wasn’t. Somewhere along the line, the train just decided to change its final destination. Luckily that woman asked or else I would have ended up in the middle of nowhere. As it was, I just got off at Harlem, switched to another train, and within twenty minutes I arrived in Amsterdam.

I spent the first part of the morning hunting for things I needed, ie. an adapter to charge my computer and contact lens solution. Afterwards I just wandered around Amsterdam, which even with all the canals, was far easier to navigate than Brussels. I spent quite a long time just strolling alongside the canals, soaking up the atmosphere while trying to not be run over by all the bicyclists.

There seriously are a ton of bicyclists in Amsterdam. You can’t walk five minutes in Amsterdam without seeing an entire pack of them, and crossing the street is a bit hazardous if you occasionally forget to watch for them (which I did a few times). All the hordes of people bicycling everywhere was exactly what I imagined, so I was quite pleased. I was even happier to see that the bicycles are the old-school bikes, which are so picturesque. Combine all these bikes with the canals and you get a very beautiful picture.

At one point while walking along the canals, I saw a man driving a tiny, obscenely decorated boat. He pulled over and chatted to some tourists on another boat, then he pulled out some kind of brass instrument and started to play while careening madly all over the canal. It was absolutely ridiculous but so funny.

I also walked over to Anne Frank’s house, which unfortunately I didn’t go in because the line for it was far out the door. Had my mom been here, she would have forced me to stand in the line and go in it with her. Sorry for skipping it, mom! I also didn’t go to the Van Gogh museum. I find Van Gogh a fascinating figure, but I’m not a massive art fan and museums always tend to blur together. I much prefer just walking around and getting the general feel of a city rather than spending all my time in museums.

Other than just wandering around, the only other thing of interest I did was buy a pack of stroopwaffles from a grocery store. An American I met in Bergen told me about stroopwaffles, since she has been to Holland a few times before. Stroopwaffles are basically two very thin waffles stuck together with a layer of caramel. Let me tell you, they are good.

Once I had finished wandering around and buying things for the day, I headed back over to my hostel (I had checked in when I arrived that morning). On the way over there, I smelled something familiar and thought to myself, “Hmm, what is that?” Then I realized… it was pot! About darn time! I had been waiting to smell/see somebody smoking pot since I had arrived in Amsterdam, and I would have been sorely disappointed had I left without it happening. So there we go, Amsterdam stereotype fulfilled.

Another Amsterdam stereotype was fulfilled just a few minutes later. I realized as I was walking along that I had yet to see any prostitutes standing in windows. Just as I thought this, I looked slightly to my left and saw exactly that. I was so startled that I jumped away from the window and nearly yelled out. I then booked it away from there, only to see the exact same thing about thirty seconds later. Again, it kind of freaked me out.

Oh, Amsterdam. Prostitutes, pot, bicycles, and canals. And stroopwaffles. Interesting city, but very beautiful.

And just for the record, Dutch staircases are deathtraps. They’re incredibly steep, spiral, and made of narrow little stairs. The stairs were too narrow even for my feet, and I have Asian-sized feet. Fortunately my room was on the top floor of the hostel, so I risked my life over and over again just to get to my room.

NOTE: I’m posting this on June 2nd, but I was in Amsterdam on May 29th. That means I’m a few days behind on my posts. I apologize for the delay but I’ve been fraught with travel difficulties as of late (my travel plans went completely to hell while I was in Paris), so I haven’t had time/the ability to update. Plus now my e-mail inbox is overflowing, I have about a billion facebook notifications and messages, and I still have to finalize travel plans and work on some stuff for back home. I’ll work on getting caught up as soon as possible!


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