SB2K12 Part 3: Amsterdam- It’s cool, I know you speak English.

Amsterdam. Yikes.
DSCF2607
I’m only joking. Amsterdam was brilliant. And not for the sex and drugs (get your mind out of the gutter). We arrived into Amsterdam Central Station around 1:30pm on Thursday and then caught the Number 2 tram that would take us to our hotel (which was inconveniently out of city center, but conveniently only $30 for two nights). About midway through the ride, we spot Meghan, Sam, and Gio at a tram stop. There was an awkward moment of lip reading and waving through glass before the tram pulled away and we never saw them again…well until the airport two days later. Anyways, a couple of stops after that the driver comes on the intercom and starts rambling something in Dutch. Luckily I had asked her a question earlier so she knew there were some English speakers on this tram. She clarified a few minutes later that there was an accident ahead and was unsure when we’d be moving again. Yikes. We decided to just get off there and eat somewhere instead of sitting on a tram for an hour and starve.

We picked this Italian Pizza/Pasta/Steakhouse that was close and seemed reasonably priced. We should have taken the lurking waiter and Wild West décor as a forewarning as to what was to come.  First, the waiter makes being seated incredibly awkward by allowing us to pick, but then forces us to sit in his section. Then, he mumbles something, points out that Julie is a brown, I’m a blonde, and Nora is a redhead and proceeds to ask us which one of us is “more passionate.” After a few moments of awkward silence, Nora responds with “I don’t know how to answer that.” Next, he comes back over mumbles some sort of apology about “knowing how men are” before we just change the topic to ordering food. I luckily ordered spaghetti, but for Julie he comes around the table and says that he’ll cut her pizza for her, grabs her dork ad knife and slices up her pizza while talking about how this reminds him of his 12 year daughter with his ex wife. Throughout the meal he keeps coming over and mumbling and smiling creepily. After we ask for the bill, we hear him order “three espressos on the house for these three girls.” When he comes over with them, he shockingly mumbles something incoherent and then says that they are from the heart. I’m not a coffee drinker but the three of us downed our drinks as fast as we could before running out the door, not without him telling us he’ll see us soon. Yikes.

IMG_1849With the tram back working, we finally check into our hotel, make ourselves slightly more presentable, and then head back into city center to visit the Anne Frank House. Unfortunately no pictures were allowed, but the museum built in the house where she and her family lived was fascinating. For all the history of WWII I’ve learned in school, seen in films, or even visited in London, nothing is quite as devastating as actually being in the house of the most famous and tragic Holocaust victim in the world. While it may have been Debbie Downer, I think that among the weird adventures and fun, it’s important to be completely humbled while studying abroad. Suddenly it did seem all that important (albeit still hilarious) that an Italian man accosted us a few hours earlier. The museum reminds us all about human rights and dignity. This just got heavy, huh? Yikes.

That evening, we were supposed to meet up with Sam, Gio, and Meghan but after a series of miscommunications through Facebook message (obviously always seen once we connected to WiFi which was always too late) we were led to a Chinese Restaurant and then an Irish pub (surprise surprise) called Dan Murphy’s. Like my jumping pictures, I’ve decided that it’s totally endearing that I go to an Irish pub in every city I visit (get ready for me in August, Beef O’Brady’s…). Anyways, we did a mini pub crawl in the Leidseplien area, but us being tired and lame decided to take the tram back to hem hotel before the lines stop running.

DSCF2543Friday we got up early-ish to take a three hour walking tour (same company as in Dublin) around the city center. This tour has got to be immensely popular because there were 5 different guides and everyone going took up half of Dam Square. Our guide, Kate, was funny and energetic, unlike Angel, the monotone speaking guide with whom we almost got stuck. She took us to the most important sights including the Red Light District where I did see some prostitutes in the windows. She explained to us how the system works and honestly it doesn’t see that bad. These women are choosing this profession, they get to keep the profits (pimping is illegal), and the government gives them rights and protection. Kate also pointed out some famous coffee shops, which is a pseudonym for a place to buy marijuana. Again she clarified the system in that it is illegal to grow, sell, or use DSCF2586marijuana except with a special permit that these shops have. By allowing marijuana use to slide in the past, the police focused on fighting against hard drug use, an effort that worked in the long run. Also on the tour we saw the widest bridge and the narrowest house (left, can you see it?), tried some Dutch cheese, went to the original site of the East India Trading Company, and Amsterdam’s Chinatown! I love these walking tours because they’ll tell you all about a country or city you pretend like you know about but haven’t even bothered to Wikipedia before arriving. I just admitted to how ignorant and unprepared I was for this trip. Yikes.

After a bite to eat at Bagels and Beans (not to be confused with Bagels and Noodles), we ventured on to the Van Gogh Museum, which houses the largest collection of Vincent’s works. This was, again, fascinating because while I could pick out some of his paintings (as in ‘Starry Night’ and ‘Almond Blossom’), I didn’t know much about him, besides the ear thing. The museum, which didn’t allow pictures, displayed works in chronological order and broke them up into the different periods of time he lived in different cities. I now feel super pretentious to say that I favored Van Gogh in his Paris period while experimenting with pointillism in his landscapes…but really I do. The museum also had some exhibitions on people that influenced him, such as Henri Toulouse-Lautrec and his famous print of the Moulin Rouge poster. That particular poster holds great significance for me since the 10th grade scribblings of my best friend and I’s musical idea are written in a notebook with that poster on the cover. That’s slightly embarrassing to admit. Yikes.

DSCF2634That night we got delicious pizzas in Dam Square before venturing into the Red Light District. Naturally, we gravitated to Slaite, and Irish pub. I’m not sure if we consistently go to Irish pubs because they’re usually pretty chill or they remind us of London (aka safe), but either way we always end up being the only girls in the whole joint. Regardless, we say at the bar the whole night, pretended that the bartenders were our friends as we gave them nicknames, nervous ordered another pint because we felt awkward sitting there without a drink, and said hello to a man dressed in a banana costume for his birthday. The real kicker, however, was when one of Banana Man’s friends offered me 50€ an hour to prostitute myself for Banana Man. After kindly saying “No thank you, sir,” we decided it was just about time to go home. I’m still quite offended that his offer way so low. Yikes.

DSCF2666DSCF2640The next morning we went to the Diamond Museum (after awkwardly walking around the free exhibition of Coster diamonds where people buy jewelry) and saw some real and replica diamonds, jewelry, and crowns famous around the world. It was actually a really nice museum with some interactive games and TV screens playing diamond-related movie clips (as in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Gentlemen Prefer Blonds, and To Catch a Thief, three of my all time faves). DSCF2635After the museum, we went souvenir shopping where I bought some cheesy wooden shoes and postcards (which are my downfall in any tourist shop), and seriously contemplated getting tulip bulbs for my mom and aunt but I wasn’t sure if they would last the plane ride home nonetheless an entire season before being planted. Later we ventured to a brewery that allegedly was affiliated with the only still-in-operation windmill in Amsterdam. This naturally excited us but once we got there for the tour, we realized it just
DSCF2692happens to be next door to the windmill. Either way we went on the tour of the tiny local brewery were we tasted some barley, learned about sweaty men that would  be lowered into the beer during the early brewing stages (yum), saw the bottling machines, and received the dumb-downed version of how yeast works (ie tiny animals poop carbon dioxide an go to sleep). It was kind of boring actually, but it was also really weird so it’s a good story to tell about that time I went on the local Dutch brewery tour instead of the Heineken Experience. Yikes.

Getting to the airport involved taking the tram out to our hotel to get out luggage, and then back again to Central Station to take a train to the airport which is only slightly further out of town than our hotel. Complicated, yes; but, we made it and finally reunited with Sam, Gio, and Meghan on our luxurious British Airways flight back to London. Free checked bag and complimentary drink and snack were provided. Yes.

Until next time,

-Lindsay

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