The flights from Denver to Reykjavik and Reykjavik to Amsterdam were monotonous. Plane flights these days are things best done while not fully aware of the conditions you voluntary enter into. I listened to music, watched the free movies, and didn’t sleep much.
We arrived in the early afternoon at Schipol. We were being picked up by Helen, and whisked into the city in her car. She brought us straight to our hostel and then took us to a delicious bakery/cafe, De Bakkerswinkel. We walked around the city a bit. Emily and I were quite tired but I immediately found myself taking pictures of the rooflines. I was entranced by them, looking up. I don’t know how people in Amsterdam or other architecturally saturated cities don’t constantly run into each other- looking up in awe all the time made me prone to bumping into people, running into my sister, and just plain ignoring what was in front of me. (I did at one point step directly into the path of a speeding Vespa- oops.)
Amsterdam was chaotic. We stayed at Hotel Internationaal, right in the Red Light District. It was noisy 24/7- Emily and I were armed with ear plugs, thank goodness. (We mutually agreed that if we had known how chaotic it was we would have stayed elsewhere.) There were so many people, and so many bikes. We heard Dutch everywhere and I came to the conclusion that it was indeed akin to very very drunk German with more guttural noises.
I remember when we stopped at a bar and I attempted to order a beer. I was dead sober and struggled mightily to pronounce the phrases properly and in the end reverted to the most Neanderthal action ever: Point and grunt. Well, not quite grunt but gesticulate in the direction of the beer I wanted. That, sadly, was more successful than words. (I’d like to clarify here and point out that 95-100% of the Dutch speak excellent English and this was more me trying, stubbornly, to work in another language other than my own.)
Anyway, Amsterdam was magnificent to walk around. If you ever go bring sturdy shoes and explore. There are enough church towers and markets and squares that you can easily find yourself if you’re lost. There are lovely quiet pockets and louder more crowded areas, all scattered across the remarkably flat landscape. Do beware of the bikers though! I have to say that riding a bike in Amsterdam to me seemed akin to suicide or homicide- you would surely either kill yourself or slaughter others. The Dutch ride their bikes with a speed that borders on reckless- they use their bells ferociously and dodge humans, cars, and other bikes fiercely. If you’re a visitor and you’re up to speed on biking in cities, go for it, but if you’re like me and from a largely rural area don’t unless you’ve got organs lined with steel and a skull made of sheet metal- collisions are imminent.
Now to the important part: the food culture that exists in Amsterdam is one to take full advantage of. Thank god we walked everywhere or I would have come back quite a bit larger. We had incredible Indonesian, Thai, Vietnamese, Dutch, Italian, and Spanish food, among many others. For me, one of the best parts of traveling is eating and drinking the culture, which I believe can give you a lot of ideas about who the people are, what they think they are, and how they define themselves or want to be defined. There’s a lot of complexity in food and drink woven into cultural landscapes. Not that I’m delving into this sort of thought while I’m devouring a plate of food, but I have to justify my eating habits somehow. I will definitely be elaborating on all the food we ate, because eating is one of my favorite things to do.
More to come! Til then, tschüß!