Another reality.

Amsterdam Travel Blog

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A typical street canal corner.
This was my second trip to Amsterdam, this time with an somewhat experienced Amsterdam traveler mate of mine and his fiancé.

London to Amsterdam is a very brief flight of less than 1 hour. But in that 1 hour, what an enormous cultural contrast. Centraal station is 30 minutes from the airport on the train. A word of advice - do NOT buy train tickets from the ticket machines. The machine was charging €20 for 3 single tickets yet we paid at the service counter just  €12!

On exiting Centraal station we headed towards our hostel The Flying Pig (downtown). It is very close proximity to the station, about 7 minutes walk.
This hostel surprised me.
My mate's fiance and I
I came in expecting at best a stoner hangout, but it has far more character and style than any old grimy bong cabin. Furthermore the staff were very efficient and friendly. The lounge has a fantastic bar with a pool table, wifi, superb sound system, adjacent indoor and outdoors smoking areas. Good social atmosphere. Age group was early to late 20s. Whoever programs the music there has a diversely exceptional taste in music. I've never heard such interesting, tasteful and often engaging tunes in any common area of a hostel, ever. Occasionally there was a DJ spinning tunes on CDDJs.
Last time I stayed in the uptown Flying Pig. It's a decent choice, but I highly recommend the downtown location instead. It's far more convenient ta boot.

The lights of canals and city squares illuminate at night to create a charming backdrop for a night stroll.
7 bridges seen from the canal boat cruise.
Careful of the cyclists buzzing past.

First stop was the Dampkring Coffee Shop to pick up some gear. OK as a shop this is said to be one of the best in the 'dam. Fantastic menu and knowledgeable staff. It has 3 levels with modern interiors, lots of brushed aluminium shopfittings and blue lighting. A bit robo-clinical in my opinion. We purchased White Chocolate bud and some hash of which the name eludes me. Both were fruity and mild in taste and smell.
Ventilation in here is not so great and they were not serving drinks (it was about 11.30pm) so we headed around the corner to Rokerij, which has a outdoor frontage for smoking and an groovy interior furnished with Eastern artifacts and art.

Note that despite that smoking cannabis in coffee shops is legal, smoking tobacco is banned like in many parts of the "developed" world.
Heineken Brewery
If you light up a cigarette, you will probably be asked to take it outside. Use of tobacco "spin" in joints is widely tolerated (only because once it's mixed it's basically undetectable).
The smoke we consumed was true to the word of the Dampkring attendant; clean, clear, warm and uplifting.

Saturday was a beautiful and warm day. We took a canal boat cruise (no name sorry) which cost €8.50 each. It lasts a bit under an hour. On a nice day this is a must, it takes you through various canals out onto the Amstel River. Many beautiful and impressive sights are passed by.
Next was the Heineken Brewery Museum, which is 5 minutes from the Leidesplein. For any fan of beer this is a must. The price was €15 but in that you get 3 half pints of Heineken, so at Amsterdam rates that's probably about €9 of beer.
The 4 immaculate elements
There is an option at the end to purchase a bottle of Heineken customised with your name on it, which would make a good souvenir but alas we couldn't have taken it aboard our flights (carry on luggage only) so we declined.

Saturday night dined at one of the many Argentine Grill restaurants. We're huge fans of Argentine beef and for whatever reason this city is absolutely full of them. However, I did note the staff were often not Latino after a quick word of Spanish. Turkish and Albanian it seemed. Ditto to an Italian restaurant we visited. The cut of bife de chorizo was good but not exceptional. As for the chimichurri, well it wasn't even chimichurri. Overall a bit average, but to be fair even an average Argentine steak meal is still very satisfying.

That night we headed to a coffee shop called The Greenhouse, which is about as good as coffee shops get.
And on the fourth day, God made beer.
Modern but suave interiors and an incredible Hieroglyphic mural that stretched across the entire wall. Not only that but an aquarium underneath the floor that was about 4 metres long that you can walk over. Later in the evening we headed to another coffee shop called Barney's (uptown). Again, stylish, modern and cosy but this place actually serves meals and draught beer (surprisingly rare in Amsterdam coffee shops).

Sunday morning, we inquired what was happening at the Melkweg. This is one of Amsterdam's longest running live music venues. Pot luck had it that one of our favourite rock bands of the 90s whom split some 15 years ago, Kyuss, were to be playing. Albeit under the guise of "Garcia plays Kyuss", just Jerry Garcia with a backing band. Nonetheless, seeing the creators of "Stoner Rock" recreated live in the city of Mary-Jane itself, only discovered through sheer luck of being in exactly the right time and place, was nothing short of a holy gift from the God of Rock.
Oops forgot to pump up the tyres.


The weather on Sunday was rubbish, raining and windy. We visited the Rijksmuseum, which is predominently classic art and masterpieces by Rembrandt and other historical & colonial paintings and artifacts. Plenty to see and worth the visit. Renovations appear to have commenced with scaffolding and sheeting covering parts of the external facade. Due for completion in 2012/13. The Vondelpaark is close by, a gorgeous city park with a bike path running through the centre. But alas it wasn't the weather for a stroll.

On the subject of scaffolding, it is a pity to note that the Royal Palace in Dam Square is currently covered in construction materials, thus spoiling the glorious sight. This was the location of the infamous Dam Square shooting in 1945 when German soldiers opened fire on a festive crowd killing 20 people.
Hieroglyphic wall mural @ Greenhouse coffee shop.


So, Sunday night we hit the Melkweg ("Milky Way" in English). This venue reminded me slightly of the O2 Academy Islington in London in terms of it's layout. Rectangular with a second level that extends along the top sides. But this is one solidly built building, beautifully styled with decorative wood and subtle lighting. The capacity is about 1500 so it's the perfect size for a medium gig and that's exactly what it turned out to be. Slight catch was we had to buy a €3 membership which lasted a month, apparently not built into the ticket price. Hmm dubious but eh it's only €3. The gig was of course, absolutely dead set fantastic. The backing band was quite successful in recreating the original songs.
Afterwards we struggled to find anywhere still serving food (11.
Rijksmuseum
30pm on a Sunday night) but settled on an upmarket  Thai Restaurant (no name sorry).  Then came to mandatory after hours tour through the red light district. There were more "windows" then I remembered last time but everything else seemed the same. Well, that's from a window shopper's perspective anyway ;) I wasn't looking to buy.

Monday we headed to the House of Anne Frank. Excellently preserved and restored where necessary, this is a real trip into the world of girl forced into hiding with her family under Nazi Germany. Quite a sadly surreal experience, but by the end you realise the motivations of Otto Frank have given rise to a legacy of hope and struggle for a world without discrimination and fascism but rather tolerance and acceptance.

Our last meal was at one of the also many Indonesian restaurants (again, no name sorry) which proved exceptionally good value.
Garcia plays Kyuss @ Melkweg
I selected the Nasi Goreng, which given it wasn't an authentic omelet-wrapped style Nasi Goreng, was nonetheless delicious as was the accompanying spring roll and a fitting final taste of this truly cosmopolitan, liberal and wondrous city.

To top it off we indulged in the famous Dutch chip & mayo combo for a snack en route to the airport. The chippie is called Mannekan Pis - which literally translates as "little man pissing" (think of a statue with a pond below it).  I'm not the biggest fan of mayonnaise and after watching the staff drown a stack of chips in a sea of mayo and then watch munchie-mad punters gobble it down like it was ice cream kind of made me cringe. But after trying, I must say the Vlaamse mayo is milder, sweeter and vastly less fatty (25%) than standard mayo.
Nasi Goreng (Indonesian fried rice)
I requested a smaller serving of mayo and it fit the bill perfectly. The chips are delicious, apparently double fried to get that bit of extra crisp and flavour, so whatever saving gained on the low fat mayo was made up for. But let's face it, a holiday to Amsterdam isn't about healthy living. So job done.
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A typical street canal corner.
A typical street canal corner.
My mates fiance and I
My mate's fiance and I
7 bridges seen from the canal boat…
7 bridges seen from the canal boa…
Heineken Brewery
Heineken Brewery
The 4 immaculate elements
The 4 immaculate elements
And on the fourth day, God made be…
And on the fourth day, God made b…
Oops forgot to pump up the tyres.
Oops forgot to pump up the tyres.
Hieroglyphic wall mural @ Greenhou…
Hieroglyphic wall mural @ Greenho…
Rijksmuseum
Rijksmuseum
Garcia plays Kyuss @ Melkweg
Garcia plays Kyuss @ Melkweg
Nasi Goreng (Indonesian fried rice)
Nasi Goreng (Indonesian fried rice)
A vespa....no shortage of Italians…
A vespa....no shortage of Italian…
The famous dutch chippies!
The famous dutch chippies!
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Amsterdam
photo by: pearcetoyou