Ah… finally. I decide to post my Amsterdam-ian adventures. I found that a lot of my excitement in Amsterdam was found in wandering neighbourhoods, rather than the traditional “tourist sites” (though I did hit a couple of the especially interesting ones).
First off, my hostel – Flying Pig Downtown – was very neat. The bar attached was just for hostel-stayers, and had a big no-shoes area with pillows and lots of lamps. Very… Middle Eastern? I don’t know, it felt a bit like that to me. And downstairs where the breakfast was (a pretty decent breakfast I might add) was Grandma’s Basement, which was decorated like, you guessed it, a granny’s house (all tacky photos, lamps, wallpaper). My “28-bed room” was actually 3 attached rooms with no doors between them. My section of the room was cheese themed. (Um.. yeah.) Alas, the only roommates I met were 9 Austrian guys traveling together (and not really looking to make buddies). At least one of them was a bit smelly.
And then.. some sights. And sites.
I started my first night with a visit to the Red Light District. I found it… bizarre. I mean, I’ve seen prostitutes around Hamilton but to have them dancing in windows in their undies was definitely… different.
My first museum was the Van Gogh Museum, which I really liked. It had a few of my favourite pieces by Van Gogh – particularly a couple of his self-portraits, and “Wheatfield with Crows” which is a pretty dark piece emotionally, especially when you consider that he had only just finished this painting when he shot himself twice in this wheatfield or one much like it. There was also one of the Sunflowers, which is famous… but not one of my personal favourites. There were also some good pieces by Cezanne and Gauguin, and even one by (another of my favourites) Toulouse-Lautrec. What I didn’t like was the crowds. Especially on the first floor, the tourists were crazy. They were actually in a totally inappropriate line (um… yeah, this is still a big open square room) to shuffle along in front of the paintings, barely looking at them. They were like zombies! I pictured them droning on “we are great art lovers we love only van gogh we will not stop to look at cezanne…” and so on.
I decided against the Rijksmuseum, since I realize that I am not a very big fan of the Dutch masters, or Renaissance art in general.
I did go to the Anne Frank Huis (House), which I found really effective. In my theme of reading books set where I am going, I’ve been reading the Anne Frank Diary. I find her entirely relatable, and at times I feel like she thinks a lot like me. Seeing the house really made it all real for me, and despite the fact that it isn’t furnished, I could picture where things were. Seeing the pictures of celebrities and royalty that she had pasted to the walls in her room were very neat.
The two sketchier museum type things I visited….1) Cannabis College – in a city like Amsterdam, a neat educational place about marijuana is quite a cool idea! I popped in here with Diego & Heather (a Chicago couple I had met in London). The best part was the basement “garden” which showed the big pot plants in the different stages of growth. Just like an episode of Weeds. Marvellous. 2) The Damrak Sex Museum – apparently the classier of the 2 Amsterdam sex museums (according to Rick Steves’ guidebook), this one was full of… sexy things through the ages. The little Victorian snuff boxes and little items with graphic scenes on them really amused me. As did the really ancient things. I did have to skip past the graphic room full of 1970’s and 80’s porno shoots though. Ergh.
And that was pretty much the end of the sights. I visited the Dam Square (the tourist mecca, surrounded by souvenir shops… but also home to a lot of interesting buskers & street performers…), the Waterlooplein flea market (hippie and punky and just my style… I would have bought something if I had any room in my pack), the Leidseplein area (a nice wander), the Spui (pronounced “Spow”, and usually prefaced by “Het”, another shop-y and stroll-y area), and Jordaan which I probably liked the best – all cute shops and cafes.
I may have also visited a “coffeeshop” or 2. And it may have been with Diego & Heather. No comment 😉
And… what I ate. Well I had a nice full breakfast at the hostel every morning, which was much appreciated. Otherwise I don’t think I really ate in a sit down restaurant the whole time! I got a bunch of stuff from little deli’s and bakeries that are scattered everywhere (my favourite was a brie sandwich on a baguette. Brie!). I also ate at McDonald’s, as is my plan to collect information on McD’s all over Europe. Haha. In Amsterdam they have something called a “McKroket”, which is kind of brown and crusty looking (like a McChicken, but not, because they also have McChicken), with a white sauce and is apparently something that Dutch people like. A Kroket. I didn’t have any of the “toasties” that were sold in every bakery (kind of a pizza pocket, but not filled with pizza… filled with… I don’t even know), because the smell turned my stomach every time. I did eat at Wok to Walk, which is a neat little place where you head in and they make you a tasty stirfry to order, and you get it to go in a little Chinese takeout container. Mm. I wish I had my teriyaki tofu pineapple stirfry again right now.
Otherwise… I was surprised by how friendly the Dutch were. Even in a place entirely besieged by tourists like the Dam Square, I got offers of assistance if I pulled out a map.