Wow, what a great city to end my trip on! This city is great, so exciting but also so relaxed. I got a train into the city and decided to take the metro to near my hostel. Kind of wasted my money, it was only one metro stop away and I could have easily walked. The metro trains were really trippy though, I bet the high people riding them have a blast. The inside was this huge black and white cartoon mural of all these animals smiling at you. There were bears playing drums and mushrooms with big smiles on. It was a trip. The city is made up of all these interconnecting canals that have a bunch of houseboats and canal boats on them, which is incredible. There are so many bikes riding around, way more than cars, which makes the city a little quieter and much more peaceful. There are also a lot of trams that follow the same streets as the cars, but are much quieter. You have to be very careful crossing the street though, I would hate to get hit by a tram and wouldn’t like getting hit by a bike much either. The buildings are all skinny canal houses (they had to pay by the width of the house, so people built skinny houses that go further back), as well as some awesome Dutch buildings with cool roofs.
I got to my hostel and checked in, then went down the road to grab some food. I asked the guy at the desk where there was some authentic food around, and he said the Dutch aren’t really known for their food. First I stopped by a tobacco store and grabbed a couple disposable cameras for my next couple days. They said “Wedding Memories” on them, but I just took off the outside cardboard label and had a blank black camera. Then I went to this little restaurant got a really interesting dish. It was linguini with these sort of sweet nuts and squid (with the little tentacles and everything) It was really tasty, I love eating strange food too! I wandered down to the Leidseplein, a square that had street performers, this strange grassy area with bronze iguanas all over it, and an arch with the words “Homo sapiens non urinat in ventum”, which means “Wise men do not urinate into the wind”. This city is so kooky, but so cool.
I then walked over to the Red Light District and took a walk down some of the streets. On the way I walked by several coffee shops with the smell of weed wafting out into the streets. It was a Sunday night, so they weren’t that packed (some of them only had like 2 people in them and had the lights on and no music). Getting down into the Red Light District, things got much more interesting. Walking down the street, you walked past glass doors with red lights along the side and prostitutes posing and summoning you over to their window. Some of the doors had a shade pulled over them, so I guess they got their business. There were also some live sex shows, where you could pay 35 euro and watch a show with all sorts of crazy sex acts. I thought about going in just to say I did it, but 35 euro was a little too much for me (it’s like $45). I walked up and down the street once to check everything out, it was a very interesting time. Only in Amsterdam haha.
I then continued my trip of things I could only do in Amsterdam by going down to this coffee shop in Rembrandtplein, this square with all sorts of restaurants around it. I had seen this place called Smokeys earlier and decided to go check it out. They checked your ID at the door like any bar or club (you have to be over 18) and you go inside and it’s just like any bar. They had a counter with drinks and a counter with weed. In the display case there were about 8 different choices of pre rolled joints and like 25 different types of weed with descriptions of its type of high that you could buy by the gram, as well as free rolling papers. I chose a pre-rolled joint of White Widow mixed with tobacco, which was only 5 euro. The thing was massive though, much bigger than the joints I see rolled in the States. I sat down and lit up and watched some music videos from the 90s and 2000s (including the video for In The End by Linkin Park, which I downloaded back when I was like 9) and chilled. After a little while, I walked over to this restaurant called Wok to Walk where I got a big order of egg noodles and teriyaki sauce, then headed home to the hostel.
As a disclaimer, I went to this coffee shop to enjoy the culture and legal things I could do in Amsterdam. I could legally drink in Europe, so I drank. I got steak tartar because I was in Paris (and it was sort of an accident too), but it was authentic and part of the culture. I could legally smoke in Amsterdam, so I smoked. This might be looked down upon by people reading this, but unless you open your mind to the cultural acts and identity of an area, you’ll stay right where you are, grounded in your comfort zone of home. I hope no one ever tries to make me answer for doing this in Amsterdam, because I won’t apologize. Just putting that out there.
The next morning I got up and got some breakfast, which was amazing. All the other breakfasts I had gotten in Europe had been maybe a croissant or a few pieces of baguette and some butter or jam. I was not very impressed by most breakfasts, but this one was a little better. They had several types of sliced bread, some delicious raisin bread, and meats and cheeses to put on your bread, which made my breakfast!
I then walked down to the Van Gogh museum, which was only about a 20 minute walk. I got tickets across the street at this tourist office so I got to skip the line and get right in. The exhibit was awesome! They had the story of Van Gogh’s life and his art separated chronologically. I never knew he just started art 10 years before his death. You could see the transformation he had from the Dutch style of art (with more browns and blacks, much more cold) like the Potato Eaters piece to his brighter impressionist style that he picked up after he moved to Paris and met Monet and Gauguin and got influenced by their work. There were so many pieces of his, along with other pieces his friends. There was also a really cool temporary exhibit on symbolist painting where I found some cool work by Paul Signac and Charles Guilloux. I really enjoyed my time there.
Next I went to the Heineken Experience and got to walk through there, which I liked a lot. They gave you a wristband with these two green buttons and a white button on it and you could trade in your green buttons for two Heinekens at the end of the tour. I got to taste wort (which is the roasted and soaked barley, as well as smell the hops. They had a moving seat movie and some interactive things throughout the tour, and then at the end you could decide if you wanted two 30 cL Heinekens, one 50 cL Heineken Extra Cold, or one 30 cL of Heineken that you learned how to pour from the tap yourself and a certificate that you are now a professional. I chose the bartending experience, which actually took a couple tries to get it right. I thought college taught me how to pour a beer, but I needed a little practice to get just the right amount of head (which is right at the star on the glass and is necessary to keep the beer fresh. People always ask for no foam at school, but it’s actually an important part of the beer). I actually met a girl who graduated from JMU there (I was wearing my hoodie) and we took the free canal boat shuttle from the Heineken Experience to the Heineken Brandstore to pick up our free gift (sunglasses). We then went to this pancake place that served huge Dutch pancakes with bacon and cheese in them.
I then walked down to the Amsterdam Sex Museum, which was another thing I had to do while in Amsterdam. It was a pretty wild museum, with so many pictures and sculptures of erotic acts and genitalia everywhere. It had a lot of the same type of stuff that the Barcelona one did, with things from the ancient Egyptians, Romans, and Chinese, as well as pictures from the 1800s and 1900s. There were a few animatronics that did some funny stuff, it was obvious that not only were they trying to show all these artifacts, they were trying to have a good time too. Definitely a fun experience.
Next I went down to Cannabis College, this free exhibit my travel guide had recommended. It was just this room with a bunch of display cases of different objects made from hemp and hemp oil, as well as a ton of literature and people to talk to. Basically is was just an organization looking to advocate for marijuana and hemp usage, pretty cool place.
I wrapped up my sort of off color time by going to a very respectable place, the Anne Frank House. It was an amazing experience, you could walk through the whole house where the Franks and other Jews hid during the war and watch videos of friends and coworkers of the family. At the end, they had a display of some of the papers that Anne copied her diary down on, but unfortunately the actual diary was off getting restored or something. I really enjoyed this experience, it painted the picture of how these families lived so well, it was a super powerful experience.
When I got out of the Anne Frank House, it was down pouring outside. Actually the first time there was any significant rain on my whole trip (besides a few times in Ireland and that one time in Nice). I was really blessed by good weather throughout this whole trip, I don’t know how I pulled it off. I walked back to the hostel, packed up my things for departing the next day, and went to get dinner. I went to this Indonesian restaurant in Rembrandtplein. The Dutch had control of Indonesian for some time, so the restaurant was very authentic. I got this special with beef in a slightly spicy sauce, a skewer of pork with a peanut butter sauce (VERY good), and a fried egg with a hot sauce on it, along with rice. I got an Amstel beer, another Dutch beer, but it ended up being 5.50, way more than I expected to pay for a beer. The meal was phenomenal.
To kill some time, I then walked down to the Amsel Hotel, a super nice hotel on the Amstel river. Our guide on the canal boat told us that’s where Snoop Dogg always stays when he come to Amsterdam to smoke weed. The lobby was absolutely amazing, but when I tried walking further into the hotel, I got stopped by a security guard. I told him my family was coming in a few weeks and I wanted to look around, but he said I could only get a tour by the manager. While walking back towards the center of town, I thought about how I could have taken this guy for a loop and told him my family was in the Tobacco business back in Virginia and my family needed me to check out the hotel before they decided to stay there. I would have introduced myself as Adam Marlboro and asked if he had heard of my family. If only… haha.
I then walked back to Rembrandtplein and went to Smokey’s again (never going to be able to do this anywhere else) and got a White Widow mixed with organic herbs joint (so basically organic herb mixed with organic herb haha). I chilled out and watched the Euro Cup soccer game between Ukraine and Sweden (Ukraine won. My people!). The Euro Cup is huge over here, everyone is watching it in all of the bars and restaurants. So many places are decked out in Holland orange and lions (even though I think I heard they lost). It’s so big over here. Afterwards, I walked back to my hostel and fell asleep.
This morning I woke up, got another delicious breakfast, then took the train to the airport. I luckily had just enough for the train ticket so I didn’t have to worry about having to worry about coins for the airport metal detectors and what not. I’m sitting here waiting for my 2 pm plane to Reykjavik, Iceland, then a transfer to Dulles. This past month has really been amazing for me. I’m so glad I decided to study abroad and travel Europe. It has really opened my eyes to so many different cultures and experiences, stuff you just don’t find in the States. I met a ton of amazing people, from JMU students on my study abroad trip in Ireland and those in Rome, to people in the hostels. I’ve now met people from Ireland, UK, France, Spain, Italy, Holland, Argentina, Canada (lots of Canadians), Brazil, Hong Kong, Sweden, Germany, and many more I just don’t remember. I’m glad this trip seemed like a long time. I was scared that it would fly by and it would be done in no time, but leaving Dulles a month ago feels like an eternity. I think changing and getting used to a new culture every two days really kept this trip from going too fast. I don’t know if I can believe I’m heading home, and when I get home I don’t know if I’ll believe I’m not in Europe. This trip has given me the travel bug, now I want to go to Germany and Prague and Austria and Hungary and so many more, I don’t think I’ll ever want to stop travelling. When I get home, I’m going to try and find a job to make back the tons of money I spent here. I don’t feel too bad about spending all this money though. I spent it on experiences that I’ll cherish for a lifetime. I hope I can travel to Europe again soon because I really love it here, but next time maybe with someone else along so I’m not alone much (they have to be able to put up with a lot of wrong turns in walking and going the wrong way, I’m sometimes a trial and error traveler). This has been the time of my life, and I’m glad I could document it on here for you to read. I’ll be back in the States at 7 pm EST and very glad to hug my family and Megan. Until my next trip, peace.