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Amsterdam – Venice of the North

After returning from Cuenca and Segóbriga, I went to visit Amsterdam on that Thursday. I unfortunately booked the wrong flight into Amsterdam, so I ended up getting there before Thea (who made the trip with me). The airport I flew into, Schiphol, is super nice, with tons to eat and many shops to peruse, and also has a train and bus station. I asked an official looking lady for the best way to get into the city (literally every single person I talked to in this country knew English) and kind of wandered around for a while. Eventually I sat down on a bench to figure out where I was. While I browsed Google Maps, I opened up Skype and talked to my sister and my friend Jacob while seated on a bench. It was pretty cool to just turn my computer around and point the camera towards a busy Amsterdam street.

The first night, when Thea arrived, I met her in the hotel (which was around 30 to 40 minutes outside of the city by train and bus) where she came in needing help, as the cab driver screwed her over–she was charged 40 euros for a 25 euro taxi ride. We then went into the city and kind of wandered–something that we did a lot while there.

The city itself is really visually attractive (yeah, I personified it). I am realizing that cities with some sort of charm are the ones that I find to be the most pretty. Amsterdam certainly had that historic, established, and dignified feel. It just looked very Dutch. Something I wasn’t aware of before going was just how much water flows through the city (including the Red Light District). There are little canals everywhere, and little bridges to overcome them. It’s very cool.

Some of the things that we did while there:

  • Visited the Torture Museum. The Torture Museum was exactly that, a museum that showed medieval forms of torture. It had a real-life example tons of artifacts, including a guillotine and an iron maiden. It was cool, but I was expecting it to be more of a chronological evolution of torture as opposed to examples thrown pell-mell into a set of rooms.
  • Saw the Red Light District, as indicated above. We happened to stumble upon it during the day. I was amazed at how normal the street looked. It really was just like any other street, but there were buildings with big glass windows with hookers in underwear. I don’t understand how that intrigues people, but to each his own. Someone told me that there’s a possibility of a new school opening up nearby, and that the proximity of the District to the school would force most of it to close or relocate.
  • Went to Keukenhof, a giant tulip garden in Holland that’s only open during the Spring and Summer. It has, as you can imagine, a TON of tulips and other flowers. We went on a beautiful day, and I enjoyed myself quite a bit. This is in spite of the fact that I spent the entire day with a bunch of flowers.
  • Visited a brewery! This was probably the highlight of the whole trip for me, getting to go to a small microbrewery in Amsterdam called Brouwerij ‘t IJ (don’t ask me to pronounce that). While trying to find it, we kept asking directions to “the brewery”, not realizing that we were being led to the old Heineken brewery (which no longer actually produces beer). Eventually we found it in time to take a tour. I loved it, and was actually quite surprised at how similar their brewing procedure is to mine for the MireBeer. While on the tour, I learned that the original owner was a former musician who had a passion for homebrewing, and decided to open up his own brewery. He picked this particular location as it was originally a bath house, making it ideal for the transformation as beer making can get messy and requires water as an ingredient anyway. Very interesting experience. I picked up some coasters to bring back home for my father, as well.
  • Saw the Anne Frank house. From the outside, at least. It was rather expensive to enter, so we elected not to. Nevertheless, it’s cool to see a place that is so infamous.

Holland thoughts:

  • I liked it, but not as much as I thought I would. I like Madrid much better–the weather, the people, and the abundance of activities. Maybe someday I’ll go back, but I was a bit underwhelmed.
  • Upon first contact with anybody in the country, they always started speaking to me in Dutch. I had no idea that I look Dutch until now. Two nights ago, I was participating in a Botellón near the Templo de Debod, and I met a few Dutch people studying in Spain. I asked her, and she told me I did look like I was from the Netherlands. Especially with a shaved head, which she says is very common there. I never knew.

Next blog post will just be some more thoughts and observations. I still hope to get it done tonight. As always, thanks for reading!

Link to panorama

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Categories: Culture
  1. Louise
    April 10, 2011 at 9:20 PM

    I hope some of that Heineken makes its way to me…

    also you should really submit that “ironic picture” to the Nicolas School – they’re always having artsy contests, you might win something

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