Day 1: Eindhoven - Amsterdam

Amsterdam Travel Blog

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Waiting for our train from Eindhoven to Amsterdam
Luckily RyanAir is a crap airline, so you don't get those nice little extendable hallway things to take you from the comforting warmth of the airplane into the nicely-heated airport.  So the icy blast of air that met me as we climbed down the stairs definitely woke me up.

Made it through immigration with no questions asked, grabbed my bag, met some lovely British gents in the ladies room, and we hopped on a local bus to take us to the train station in town.  And it wasn't even 9.00am yet.  *yawns*

We got to Eindhoven Centraal, and thanks to Jena's Dutch fluency, had no trouble buying tickets and hopping on the train that was leaving in 7 minutes for Amsterdam.
Right off the train in Amsterdam

The train ride was relaxing, and I got to experience my first taste of the endless endless flatness that is The Netherlands.  It was gorgeous though... the entire countryside and small towns all covered in snow.  The sun even eventually came out, and there were bright blue skies and big white clouds... we were looking ahead to a perfect day in Amsterdam.  :]


Literally, the stop before ours, all of a sudden the sun just disappeared, the sky went dark, and a blizzard just erupted out of nowhere

Jena was translating for me as we left the train station and walked to our hostel, and she said that all people in the streets were saying was "What is with all this snow!?!?"  Apparently, The Netherlands usually never gets snow.
  It's a wet climate, but it's "wet" like London, or Ireland... not snowy.  So the fact that we were in the middle of a snowstorm, and that there was already a significant covering on the ground was...well... shocking.

Anyway... off to find our hostel.  It's a special talent of mine to always book hostels in the sketchiest areas of town, and Amsterdam was no expception.  Smack dab in the middle of the Red Light District and the border with Chinatown.  *nods*  Even better: because I'm so cheap, I just book hostels based on price rather than actually reading up on them first.  As such, Jena and I found ourselves approaching the only Christian Youth Hostel in all of Amsterdam; "youth group" types behind the desk, postings of Scripture covering every wall, and a giant "God Loves You" motif painted in the lounge.
  But we were freezing, and were already dripping puddles of melted snow all over their lobby, so we took what we could get.  And what we could get were two beds in what can only be described as a "converted bathroom."  It was seriously the strangest hostel room I'd ever seen, and they somehow managed to squeeze 16 people in there.  All girls, of course.  None of that coed stuff at The Shelter.  :p

After dropping off our stuff, drying off, changing our socks, brushing our hair, stealing a free bible, yada yada yada... we bundled up again and headed out to enjoy Amsterdam.

I had spent hours pre-trip slaving through guidebook after guidebook to make a list of things I wanted to see and do in Amsterdam.  In the end, my list was well-researched, well-planned, and extensive.
Trying some oliebollen
  It would have put Frommer's to shame.  To shame, I say!  And now I shall repost it here for you, my loyal readers:
- Canals
- Hookers
- "Dutch Bakery"*
- Anne Frank House

(* See movie EuroTrip)

Luckily we could accomplish 3 of my 4 things just by standing in our hostel doorway.  The Anne Frank House, however, was across town (and over many canals), so that became our mission for the day.

Jena had been to the city before, so she acted as something of my tour guide.  And the only thing I can say about that is Thank God I wasn't paying for her services.  Let's just say we took a lot of "scenic routes" to places.  ;)

Our first stop was the Royal Palace, where.
Anne Frank House
.. well, where the Royal Family lives.  It's kind of an impressive building, and there is a big bustling square in front of it... but it was still just kind of meh.  They had all sorts of things set up in front, so you couldn't even look at the whole building properly, and it was kinda .... well, it wasn't Buckingham Palace.  Let's just leave it at that.

Across the street from the Palace, however, was some sort of strange little winter carnival thing, and they had an Oliebollen stand.  And let me tell you, Jena sniffed those suckers out from a mile away.
Oliebollen is a "very traditionally Dutch" (a phrase I would begin to come all too familiar with over the coming days) treat that only comes out during the holiday seasons.
  And man, do the Dutch take their Oliebollen seriously!  At one point we were watching the news, and everyone was eagerly awaiting the results of the "Oliebollen Challenge", where Oliebollen stands across the country were tried, tested, and rated to find the best Oliebollen in all of the Netherlands.  (For you information, the one we happened upon in Amsterdam rated amongst the worst.)

I believe the direct translation of Oliebollen from Dutch is Heart Attack Ball.  Or more literally, Oil Ball.  Basically, it's a funnel cake in ball shape.  Fried dough, powdered sugar, all that jazz.  I think every country in the world has their own variation, and we all think ours is unique and special.
The Royal Palace
.. but hey, I learned years ago from Myke (old roomate in Ireland) not to "mess with the Dutch," so I kept my Funnel Cake Pride to myself and enjoyed the little piece of death I was ingesting.

Moving on, we wandered up and down some of the main shopping streets of Amsterdam.  To describe the cold outside as "bitter" would be an understatement, so just try and imagine something colder than cold.  You couldn't even bear to step outside without gloves on and something over your ears, or you probably would have risked losing an appendage.  Or at the very least, very irritated, dry skin.  And I honestly don't know which is worse.  :/

So eventually we ducked into a cafe next to the Royal Palace and grabbed some lunch (because hey, it's not every day that you get to eat next to the Queen herself).
The literature we recieved from the hostel. We couldn't figure out what this was trying to say about Museums....
  Unfortunately, the wait staff heard us speaking English to each other, so we did the whole meal in English, and I swore never to speak in public again.  It's not that I mind speaking English, but it just automatically identifies you as a tourist.  And an American on top of that.  So I let Jena begin every public encounter in Dutch, and I just played her dumb, mute visitor, and ultimately, it made me feel like less of a tool.  :)

By the time we finished eating, we were slightly defrosted from our first outing, so we set out for another round against the weather.  It became something of a game to see how far we could walk down the block before we had to duck into another store to warm up.  It actually worked to my advantage, as I was looking for a new pair of shoes anyway.  Nowhere in London carries my size, so I thought for sure in The Netherlands, where girls were towering over me, that I'd be able to find a decent pair.  Yeah, not so much.  But that's beside the point.

Anyway, despite the cold, and the snow, and the fact that my shoes and pants were soaked through up to my knees, Amsterdam was still really pretty.  Jena hates the city, but aside from the pungent aroma of marajuna everywhere you go, I found it to be really cute, and quaint.

Finally, around 4.00 or so, we stumbled upon the Anna Frankhuis.  The House has since been turned into a museum documenting the history of the Frank's, but the secret annex in the attic has remained completely intact as it was when Anne and her family were in hiding.  The line to get in wrapped around the building outside, so we did have a bit of a wait, but it was worth it in the end.  I will say, the "museum" part on the first few floors doesn't have much... some photos, old transcripts, a bit of history about the area during the war, excerpts from her diary...  But then you get up to the top floor where they actually lived, and it's the most incredible thing.  You don't expect to be moved by it because it's all just empty rooms, but once you come in through the secret door behind the bookcase, it's a whole different atmosphere.  You feel awkward and you're entering some place that shouldn't be entered, and it's just this eerie, contemplative silence.  Added to the weird sense that one shouldn't be there is the fact that the only things in most of the rooms were small pillars lit by single lights with excerpts from the diary about the room you're in, sometimes accompanied by a photograph.

Leaving the annex was just as strange, because you didn't know what to say... or even if it was ok to start talking again.  The museum then picks up again right away with information about what happened to each person after they were caught, and about the legacy of The Diary.

We ended up grabbing tea at the cafe and just talking about it all before leaving for the night.

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Waiting for our train from Eindhov…
Waiting for our train from Eindho…
Right off the train in Amsterdam
Right off the train in Amsterdam
Trying some oliebollen
Trying some oliebollen
Anne Frank House
Anne Frank House
The Royal Palace
The Royal Palace
The literature we recieved from th…
The literature we recieved from t…
photo by: pearcetoyou