Amsterdam Pt. 1
Hey guys. Hope you enjoyed my Berlin posts. It was such an easy place to settle into and experience. Amsterdam, on the other hand....I tried. Ha, I really tried. I'm going to just write everything down as it comes organically to mind. While I am tempted to just show you nice pictures and write semi-obvious captions, I always want to keep things transparent. What really happened. Besides, how boring would a "perfect" trip be to read about, yeah?
So I'm tired. Like reallllly tired. And I have to catch a 6:51 am train to Amsterdam. The tram station is a 1 minute walk from my airbnb so I figured it'd be no problem getting up and moving. It was a good thing I packed up my bag and tidied up the night before I went to sleep (for a measly 3 hours) because when the alarm went off I was DEAD. Not only dead but I woke up to find out I started my period. Super. The first thing I thought was "Well, there goes my 5 star rating on Airbnb." If I wasn't so freaking tired I would've been more self-conscious telling my airbnb host that I bled on his white sheets. I scribbled an apology note down and left.
The transit system in Berlin is A1. No major congestion or any delays the whole week. So the one time I really need to be on time the damn tram is delayed. I knew by the time it arrived I would be cutting it close. Really, really close. As soon as we pulled up to the station and the doors opened I Home-Alone-style ran to my train. No joke the moment I walked on the train and sat down in a seat the train started moving. Holy sh*t. That was close.
I was now embarking on a 6.5 train ride through the German countryside. I slept on and off for most of it. They tell you over the intercom to be wary of pick-pocketers and theives on board and to watch your luggage at all times. Knowing my luck, if I got up to use the bathroom for even 1 minute I would come back and all my stuff would be gone. So I held it. For 6.5 hours.
I walk off the train and I am instantly a lone fish in a swarming school of other fishes and I realize how unprepared I am. I added the Amsterdam section of my trip last minute and always told myself I'd "research" later, I had time. Even when I got to Berlin I knew I had a few days. Then when those days went by I told myself I had nearly 7 hours on the train to figure it out. Well that time is now. It's here. Hahah. OH SHIT. Here we go y'all. Wingin' itttttttt.
The late Bourdain said it best: "I'm a big believer in winging it. I'm a big believer that you're never going to find perfect city travel experience or the perfect meal without a constant willingness to experience a bad one. Letting the happy accident happen is what a lot of vacation itineraries miss, I think, and I'm always trying to push people to allow those things to happen rather than stick to some rigid itinerary."
I hear Dutch (which IMO is harsher sounding than German), Italian, Spanish, and French all around me. I don't hear any English. I walk out of Amsterdam Centraal and look at this city I know next to nothing about. Take a breath and just start figuring it out. I walked into an information center and bought a 2 day unlimited transportation pass. It expires 48 hours from the time you first activate it and not from when you buy it. So if you're just in town for the weekend or something I recommend this option. It was €13 I believe.
Every city and every train, bus, and tram is different. In London, you gotta tap in and out on the tube. If you forget to tap out your Oyster card gets fined. In Berlin you just walk on. But they can do "random checks." People told me that the unmarked cops never check. Well, they frickin checked when I was there and like the upstanding citizen that I am, I had a ticket. (Homeboy was also in a NY Knicks t-shirt which I found so funny for some reason.) In New York you swipe in but can walk out. In Amsterdam you tap in and out. But... only certain doors you can enter and tap in on the trams and certain doors to exit. So if you're not paying attention you can look real dumb real quick. Dude, first tram driver I encounter just starts going offfffff in Dutch. I could tell right away the people there are over tourists. Over it.
As always I used City Mapper. My tried and true.
I'm almost to my hostel and I stop to take these pictures. A woman comes up to me and immediately starts speaking in Dutch asking for directions. Ha. Are you serious? I look like I can speak Dutch to you? Well, this would be the first of many times this would happen. All with the same reaction when they realized I could not only not speak Dutch but that I was American. Annoyance with borderline disdain. I offer to look up where she needs to go on my phone. Not even a 'No, thank you.' Just a good ol' fashioned eye roll and just leaves.
How gorgeous is this park? Oosterpark. Wow. Seriously so so beautiful. Huge giant grassy fields. A water area with a bunch of kids playing in it. A small river running through it. People jogging. Walking. Sitting. Biking. It's so nice. The hostel I stayed at was nestled in the park.
Some older gentleman starts talking to me while I am walking in the park and starts giving me directions to some random place I didn't even ask for. We hadn't even been speaking. So when I tell him "Oh, haha, sorry, thank you, but I'm not even going to wherever that is. I'm actually going here." The dude just starts mumbling under his breath how he was just trying to help and then continues in Dutch in a tone that most likely was along the lines of "F you, B."
Amsterdam is EXPENSIVE. Every airbnb I looked at was minimum $350/night. Mmmm...pass. I normally am not one to stay at a hostel. I like to have my own private space, but for the sake of costs and possibly a way to meet new people I felt it was good option. Plus, Generator Amsterdam, is super cool. I wish I had taken more photos of it. Reminds me a lot of a mix between an Ace Hotel and Ikea. I opted for a 4 girl room and for two nights it was $115.
I was so tired and out of it and hungry and sweaty that I just dropped my stuff off and didn't even care that I didn't have a lock for my stuff. At this point, steal it.
I went for a walk to try to find something to eat. I am a breakfast person. A breakfast person that can eat breakfast foods at all hours of the day. So I had written down Dignita as a spot to check out.
So this place is super cute. Lots of people waiting in the garden for their table. Put my name down. Since it's just me I knew the wait would be a bit shorter. I'm seated after maybe 5-10 minutes. Awesome. I have a ticket for the Ann Frank house in a couple hours. I'll have plenty of time. They put me literally in the corner. Ha, it's fine. NBD. I just hope they don't forget about me. They completely forget about me. And when I spoke up for the 3rd time asking various waiters, waitresses, even the hostess if I could just order something they acted so annoyed about it.
Very long story short I was reminded that America's standard of service is unmatched. I was hot/sweaty. I was annoyed. I was almost late for my Ann Frank appmt and I get my plate and I'm like what even is this:
I ordered blueberry pancakes with lemon curd and then there's this Willy Wonka's leftover October/Fall carnival snack situation on top. But...to be fair. It was good. I didn't even wait for my bill because I didn't have two more hours of my life to give to this place so I left some cash on the table and left. (This was the first time in my entire life I haven't left a tip.) I wished I'd had a mic to drop.
I had heard that it was recommended to book your tickets to the Ann Frank house around 2 months in advance. I hadn't even booked my flight to Germany 2 months in advance so when I logged on the website the week before I assumed it would be completely sold out. Which it was....almost. Another perk of traveling solo. They had one ticket left on one day at one time. If you are going to Amsterdam and have even an inkling of interest in checking this out I would highly recommend booking in advance. They do allow for day-of ticket purchasing but the line is a MAD HOUSE. Like it sounds quite like an extreme comparison but I'm say the ease of booking ahead was comparable to making DMV appointments versus not.
As far as the actual museum I think I liked the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin better.
One minute I'm just enjoying myself sitting in Dam Square and the next I'm caught in a rogue rainstorm and I'm soaking. Muggy with 100% chance of not having it. It's okay. A famous man once said: "How you gon' b mad on vacation?"
I don't have any plans besides stupidly agreeing to hang out with someone later that night that.
I begin to do what I love most. Walk around. I look up the closest coffee shop and start walking in that general direction.
Amsterdam is BEAUTIFUL for real. People's front door set-ups are crazy beautiful.
This next one is partially on me. I knew that everyone loves Amsterdam because you can legally smoke weed there. Which is wild because apparently you can get arrested if caught with it in so many places across Europe. When I was living in London I heard about it all the time. I never heard, however, that "coffee shops" are actually dispensaries. So my not knowing this factoid, got me all wound up when I showed up at the "coffee shop" I walked to and realized I wasn't going to be getting actual coffee. I just want coffee not indica. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
So I'm damp. Tired. Obtained no coffee. Getting Hangry. And without realizing it I find myself smack dab in the heart of....the redlight district. Drunk/high hoards of european tourist men gawking at these girls in the windows and just looking 50 shades of sleeze ball. Listen, live your life, I'm not here to judge. I just felt weird. Some girls looked like they loved what they do. Some girls looked at me like they wanted me to pull a Liam Neeson though and bust them out of there. It was a mixed bag of thoughts about being a woman in the world.
This post is getting beefy so I will leave you hanging for now. Tune in for part 2 where you can read about me hopped on adrenaline at 3am in the streets, doing something a never do, and more restaurant blunders.