On the plane.
After a very speedy taxi ride from the airport to our hostel (the guy was doing 140km/h at some stages), so began our four day weekend in Amsterdam. Our hostel was amazing. It had just been converted from a school, and was very modern and clean, with buffet breakfast, huge open areas, its own bar with nightly happy hour, great security and friendly staff. After enjoying the abovementioned happy hour we decided to walk the 10 or 15 minutes in to town to get something to eat and check out the infamous red light district that we had heard so much about. Half an hour of walking in the freezing cold later, we thought we’d better ask for directions and find out where we were on our map. Well, lucky we asked when we did, because we were only a couple of streets from wondering completely off our map of the city, and had unfortunately taken a wrong turn and were walking in the complete wrong direction.
A maxi taxi ride later we had arrived in the red light district. We got some deliciously seedy Turkish food, and then walked around the area. The red light district is so named because of the distinct red light that accompanies the prostitutes that stand in the windows, tempting passers-by. In July, these ‘windows’, the many live-sex shows, and the infamous coffee shops of Amsterdam, are being shut down, so we thought it was best to experience these things now, before they became part of Dutch history. Over the course of the weekend we were tempted into two live ‘theatre’ shows. I won’t go into much detail, but they were certainly an experience. As seedy as they were, they were quite fun, and very entertaining, especially when two girls I was travelling with were pulled up on stage.
The Infamous Red Light District.
The next day after breakfast, we walked in to town (the right way this time), and enjoyed a canal tour around Amsterdam.
Being the idiot that I am, I didn’t even know that Amsterdam was laced with canals, so I was pleasantly surprised by how beautiful they were. After the tour we went and hired some bikes, as our transport for the next few days. Because Amsterdam is so flat everyone there seems to ride bikes. There are special bike lanes and finding a bike parking space can also be very difficult. Hundreds of bikes line the side of the streets and canals, and no one wears helmets. It was freezing cold, but riding around the streets of Amsterdam was so much fun. We definitely didn’t look like locals though.. we were constantly riding on the wrong side of the street, going down one-way bike lanes the wrong way and getting in people’s way.
After hiring our bikes we went to Anne Frank’s house which has been turned into a museum detailing the lives and events of Anne Frank and those who were with her in hiding during the holocaust.
It was really interesting, but also quite a confronting experience, as it has lots of videos and photos of the families, and also of the atrocities that occurred in some of the concentration camps.
On our bikes at the bike hire shop.
After, while Jess, Tink and I were sitting on our bikes waiting for the others at our designated meeting place in a busy part of Amsterdam outside the main train station, I was approached by a girl from a group walking along the street. She was holding her arms out to me and I had no idea what she was going to do.. Anyway, she put her arms around me, grabbed my sunglasses off my face and walked off laughing. Being totally shocked and surprised by it, I didn’t have time to think of the best course of action.. but started after her and her friends, not quite sure what I was going to do what I got to them.
Going after them proved even more difficult, as in the spur of the moment I had neglected to get off my bike, so was uncoordinatedly trying to push off the ground and keep my balance. Once I got to them I smartly cut them off, before demanding that she ‘give back my bike!’. As I was clearly sitting on my stupid bike, and she was holding my sunglasses, this was even more hilarious for her and her friends. Quickly recovering from this embarrassing detail, and comforted by Tink’s presence (who had demanded that a totally oblivious Jess, HOLD MY BIKE HOLD MY BIKE!), The 5 of us, engaged in a short scuffle, in which I managed to grab my glasses back. Clearly amused the girls walked off laughing, leaving Tink and me to wonder what the hell had just happened. Was actually a hilarious experience.. Strange, but so funny!
Tink and I with my precious sunglasses..
The rest of the day was spent in various coffee shops, reminiscing about the sunglasses incident, riding around the city, and getting to know Ali’s friend who surprisingly enough went to the same University as Tink and I and was good friends with my cousin Alex.
.. Small world!
The next day we visited the Reijksmuseum, which was a huge beautiful building, and contained a number of famous artworks by Rembrandt, Karel Du Jardin and Vemeer. I had never thought I would have enjoyed such cultural experiences as art galleries and museums, but surprisingly enough I have found them quite interesting. After the Reijksmuseum we decided to spend some more time in a coffeeshop, this time deciding to dabble in some delicious triple chocolate ‘space cakes’. Feeling as though it would not be entirely safe for ourselves, or anyone else on the roads, if we rode our bikes home, we walked them back to the hire shop, and caught taxis home. After a deliciously enormous dinner at an Italian restaurant, we called it a night and headed to bed.
The next morning, Tink and I awoke to an empty room, as the other 6 had had to fly back to London on an 8am flight.It was a really nice weekend full of culture, fun and good times! I would love to go back to The Netherlands some time to explore some other places like Den Haag which we were told was even more beautiful than Amsterdam.
As we had a later flight, we spent the day walking around the city, enjoying the famous sex museum, and also went to the Van Gough Museum. We also had pofertjes (tiny little pancakes with icing sugar and cream) at a restaurant overlooking an outdoor ice-skating rink in the park outside the Van Gough Museum. Even though it was cold, it was a beautiful sunny day, and after walking around all day we then sat and enjoyed some tea as the sun went down, in Amsterdam Square, which was lovely. Was a really nice way to end our little trip.
Sitting in the sun in the Dam Square enjoying my Earl Grey tea. Doesn't get much better..
Sun setting on Amsterdam.