Europe | Netherlands | Amsterdam – everyone say cheese
So in case you haven’t noticed, I’ve found a nice, inexpensive net cafe hidden (sort of) on a street nearish my current hostel. My current hostel, by the way, has 83 beds in one room, rows and rows of triple-bunk beds. I am on the top bunk in my section of the barracks. I have to practically do an Olympic vault to get up there. But I digress!
Okay, so first off, I have another digression to make. One reason I miss home is this one: smoking isn’t allowed indoors. At the moment I am suffocating under a thick cloud of smoke being provided by this nice gentleman on my left, here.
I will now stop complaining and get on with it!
Noordwijk treated me well, but I was afraid that if I stayed too long I would become one with the boards in the raised lounging platform. This hostel was a vortex, as evidenced by Matt, the jaded English guy who’d been there since February, and whose name, incidentally, everyone mispronouces as ‘Mark’ upon meeting him. The really good news about this hostel, however, is that it guarantees a bed at one of its sister hostels in Amsterdam, a city notorious among travellers as providing a giant headache to those who want to book a bed. I had a bed! Hoorah! And so without further ado, I was off in the shuttle between the Flying Pig Beach Hostel and the Flying Pig Downtown.
Upon entering the new place, I was taken aback a bit. It was HUGE. And crowded. And noisy. I had a bed in a room of 20, which was right off a room of 6, which was right off a room of 8. But it wasn’t so bad. I don’t know why I keep describing the places I stayed instead of the actual *cities*. Anyway, my first full day there, I decided to do a Mike’s Bikes tour of the city. I’ve taken this 5-hour-long bike tour in other cities…Munich and Paris both…and have really loved it. They provide so much: information…orientation…interesting tidbits…and a refreshing bit o’ exercise.
Our guide Lucy was from New Zealand and had been in Amsterdam for four years. She took us to several points in the city before having us head out into the ‘countryside’ (which suspiciously resembled suburbs), where we biked along a canal in which the water was higher than the land around it. Lucy reminded us that most of this area of Holland is below sea level…Amsterdam began after the ‘Amstel’ river was ‘dammed’.
We cycled up a road to a farm that was situated right next to other houses. Cows were kept in a barn back there. We were at a cheese factory! We all piled inside, where a girl (wearing her wooden shoes, of course) gave us a brief lesson on how to make gouda cheese, followed by another bit of instruction on clogmaking. Though she’d probably given this talk about a million times to goofy tourists like ourselves, she was refreshingly open and obviously enjoyed what she was doing. Everyone was in a good mood and danced around in wooden shoes in the gift shop after sampling 4 different flavors of gouda. I bought a little round of the natural flavor (I turned down the garlic herb, thank you very much) and then we all left again on our bikes. Another stop at a windmill, which doesn’t mill anything anymore and is a residence, instead. We cycled around a bit more in the city before turning in our bikes. I parted ways with my bike Crazy Horse and joined a couple of other girls heading back to our hostel. An Aussie named Jess and I got along really well and decided to get some ‘real food’ for a change. A sit-down dinner…hooray!! After that, we headed down the red-light district to see what the big deal is all about. This place is a little sketchy, with the (legal) prostitutes bathed in red light behind their windows, and strange men who whisper ‘crack cocaine crack cocaine’ as you walk by. And yet, I didn’t feel unsafe at all. Jess and I had each other, plus the other nine million tourists who were down there. So, no worries. It was an interesting place, to say the least.
Jess and I ended up hanging out the rest of my time in Amsterdam. We went to the modern art museum (both of us had already seen the Van Gogh museum), and we did a lot of sitting in cafes, having coffee and talking. It was really a great time, except for one thing. Apparently, I am not destined to own a camera. It was taken from my bag somewhere between a croissantarie and a pharmacy, probably lifted as I walked from one to another through the busy street. So my camera, two rolls of film I’d already used, and my glasses case were stolen. Luckily, my glasses themselves were in use. I was so incredibly sad!! I didn’t even notice until we’d gotten all the way down to the Anne Frank House. Back we dashed, but it was no use. I didn’t freak out, exactly, but I had to sit on a stool awhile outside the croissantarie for a few minutes to process my disappointment. I suck at owning cameras. My last camera was lost in the catacombs of Rome. And now this. But I bought a disposable, and so things turned out all right. There wasn’t time to actually visit the Anne Frank House (at least my neurotic mind didn’t think so) before my night train to Copenhagen left…which means there is still something for me to see the next time I return to Amsterdam!
Well, guys, once again, time is up. It’s so strange how I’ve tried to write everything down in the past couple days! I’m nearly caught up, now, so that’s a relief. 🙂 I hope you’re all doing great. Pining for familiar faces and queso (the dippable kind),