Guys, this week I literally saw a weed menu. Like a food menu, but weed. Talk about varying cultural norms. There are "coffee shops" around every corner, but you'll be hard pressed to find one that actually sells coffee, as Chrissy and I found out quickly and much to our chagrin (it actually resulted in Chrissy developing a bit of a Tourette's issue, but what can you do). Our hostel was situated smack in the middle of the Red Light District and as such, if we wanted a caffeine fix, we had to head away from the District and towards pretty much anywhere else. Between the "coffee shops" and the prostitutes in the windows with casual passers by stopping to ask how much, the culture shock was super real, but it was an eye opening experience nonetheless.
We arrived in Ams at 7.30am, grabbed Chrissy's massive duffel from baggage claim, and headed to buy our train tickets into the city. Because of how our lives work and who we are as people, the train into the city was under construction, but the very nice (English speaking) Dutchman got us bus tickets to take us to another train station to get into the city center. By 8am we were already lost, because despite the directions I downloaded beforehand, the are a whole bunch of unmarked streets in this lovely city. Luckily, I am no stranger to humility, and after a few points in the right direction, we arrived. We were too early to check in (by like 6 hours) but the staff took pity on us and let us keep our bags in the lobby while we wandered around. We got a map and asked a local to circle all the places we had looked up in advance that we wanted to go, changed in the bathroom at the bar downstairs, and we were on our way.
Let me just preface this bit with the fact that we really did look up the weather before we got here. We did. It was supposed to be anything other than overcast and 65*F during the day, but meteorologists are about as reliable as your grandma's old Ford Pinto that hasn't run since she took it to Woodstock and used the exhaust to get high. Unfortunately for us, we forgot to take into account this lack of reliability, and were soon scouring the city for a rain jacket to avoid that super hot wet dog look. We found them at Zara - for those of you who don't know me, I could shop here exclusively - and left with our wallets a little lighter and our clothes a little more dry. We snaked the streets of the old city and took about 800 pictures of the beautiful bridges and canals characteristic of the area. The day felt like it was passing astonishingly slowly because we had arrived so early but after a little more walking and a stop to eat poffertjes and bitterballen, it was time for us to check into the hostel.
The hostel was run by an incredibly friendly group of Irishmen (and women) and we soon found ourselves in our dorm room in the highest room in the tallest tower after several flights of the steepest stairs. You had to defy gravity to get up them on your own, let alone with several bags in tow. After a few would-be emergency room visits and lots of self deprecating laughter, we were in. We (especially me) took naps to compensate for our lack of sleep, and then headed out to grab dinner. We ended up getting kebabs because I refuse to leave a country without getting at least one, wandered a bit to enjoy the atmosphere. We eventually headed back and met Abby, an Alabama alum who just finished being an au pair for the summer in Italy - the jealousy is so real. The three of us decided to go to the hostel bar and grab a drink and attempt to socialize, although if you ask me, meeting her filled our friend-quota for our time in Ams. Two Germans with perfect English (naturally) asked to join us and we were soon enveloped in the usual cultural differences/personal history conversation that is customary when you meet someone new in a hostel. It was great conversation but the jet lag was real and we headed to bed.
The next day we pretty much hit every possible landmark in the city ever to exist. We grabbed breakfast free from the hostel and rented bikes for the day. I should probably mention that the driving laws in this country are questionable at best and as a pedestrian you are always in someone's way, whether it be some cyclist or a moped or a stray car, so when you yourself are on a bike, not only are you moving faster, you are now capable of running people over. It's like some sick power rush ringing that little bike bell that in your head screams "out of my way, peasants, I will run you over without a second thought" while you're actually biking with more trepidation then you ever have, thinking "I wonder how much my ER visit and legal bills will cost when I run someone over and am thrown into an oncoming train, health care is free here right?".
Anyway, as previously mentioned, we went all over Ams that day in those death trap bikes. We hit the flower market, grabbed coffee and an apple tart, stopped at the Rijksmuseum which is right next to the ridiculously overcrowded I Amsterdam sign, stopped in Vondelpark which is like the Ams version of Central Park and is absolutely stunning, and then headed to Albert Cuyp market where we found fresh squeezed orange juice, perfectly ripe strawberries, and stroopwaffles. We made our way home and stopped at Albert Hein grocery store for salad and lunch meat to serve as dinner. We then returned our bikes and got ready for the pub crawl we had signed up for. 70 people, 6 bars, 10 shots (some of which basically sugar water, others straight vodka or Jäger - yay), loads of drunk people, and a few new friends later, we made it home at 4am only to wake up at 8.30 for absolutely no reason whatsoever the next day. As any two people who had gone out the night before and gotten four hours of sleep would tell you, a run is a great next choice. So run we did. I did a 3k mostly because I got lost, Chrissy kicked my butt, and neither of us knew where we were by the end of it, but it happened, and I'm pretty proud of it. I'm not really a runner, but John and I are doing a 5k mud run in September upon my return, and I would really like him to be able to maintain the remotely healthy image he has of me rather than hearing me pant like the most exercise I get in a day is the walk to the fridge (sometimes the case). I had a phone interview after our run and eventually headed to town to grab breakfast. The three of us decided to do a boat tour through the canals, which was beautiful and informative despite our short attention spans. We stopped for lunch because our stomachs were digesting themselves we were so hungry and proceeded to nap it up at the hostel because our lack of sleeP caught up with us. We grabbed grocery store salads for dinner again and ate in the hostel bar while we looked for train tickets to Heidelberg. After procrastinating in the way only experienced kids can, we headed upstairs around 11.30 to pack our disastrously messy locker contents back into our bags. Then we headed to bed, only to wake up 4hrs later (I'm sensing a pattern) to get ready to go to the train station.
Our train left Ams Centraal at 8.05 and will arrive in Heidelberg at 13.45, where we will stay for the next two nights. I do not even have the words to tell you how excited I am to German. Hearing Dutch the last few days was quite the tease because I could hear the similarities but it was not similar enough to communicate in, so we stuck with English. As per the norm, most everyone we came in contact with spoke decent English, so we had no trouble. All in all it was a beautiful city that I have wanted to see for ages, and it did not disappoint. My only regret is missing the Pride Parade that starts tomorrow, because I think this would be the best city to experience it in due to its open mindedness and acceptance, but there's always next year.
Four hours stand between us and one of my all time favorite countries in the whole wide world, and I couldn't be excited. I am so grateful for the opportunities that have been given to me this summer and even more excited to be able to share them with someone as laid back, sweet and fun-loving as Chrissy. Can't wait to show her all my favorite foods (the real reason I travel) and introduce her to the culture I love so much.
Until next time you lovely humans!
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Mouth like a sailor, great lacker of empathy, paper cut survivor, avid arguer, harsh critic of people who put clothes on their pets, easily distracte
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