So after a painful 3:15am wakeup, and drive to gatwick airport, we eventually arrived in Amsterdam. The weather was nice, with clear blue skies and a tasty 25 degrees to start us off.
After some confusion over how to get to central amsterdam via train, and a painful drink which cost 3.50 euro, we departed from Schipol (Amsterdam airport) and headed for central. A massive blue doubledecker train came to greet us, we decided to sit upstairs for better views.
The 20 minute train ride was an odd one, a european woman towards the back of the train singing (or chanting?) throughout the whole thing made us all pretty uncomfortable.
Arrival at Amsterdam Central, we could see the famous ‘I Amsterdam’ sign in the distance across the lake, along with a shittier looking version of the sydney opera house (going by my research, im going to assume this is either the science museum or the public library? we’ll hopefully find out later.)
The first views after getting out of the train station were impressive, and probably pretty indicative of Amsterdam as a whole:
on the left – a collection of classical looking buildings and trams
in the middle – a canal filled with riverboats and bicycles
and then on the right – a shit ton of bicycles.
We found our way to the hotel with some help from mr Google maps, it seems classy and secure in a fairly central part of Amsterdam city (About 10-15 minutes walk from the train station). Lucky for us, the hotel guy said our room was available already and let us in after I filled out some forms and such.
Upon completion of checkin, he gave us some maps and was basically like “you guys wanna know where the good ‘coffee’ shops are?” and proceeded to tell us, along with the location of the red light district, nice guy – he obviously knows why people come to Amsterdam.
We are given a quaint room, 3 single beds, air con, a window which provides lovely scenic views of the hostel opposite and some shitty looking walls, it’ll do the job fine though for the few nights we are here.
We rest up a little, and get ready to take on the city of Amsterdam.
After leaving the hotel, we basically wandered around randomly hoping we’d run in to something cool and Amsterdammy, the shops around here are a mix of touristy shops and bars/pubs and of course some coffeeshops too – the aroma floods into the street as you walk by on occasion, its quite an experience.
After walking around for a little while we come to the gigantic ‘Dam Square’, a huge square between giant fancy looking buildings and a huge pillar/statue as its focal point. The wide space is impressive and certainly fitting for a famous location in Amsterdam.
We detour down another side road randomly, our senses leading the way, im not entirely sure what we were searching for, but we ended up passing a bunch of tasty looking cake and pastry shops as well as an icecream shop we would come back to later. I spotted a female labourer, not a particularly big deal but still something I (oddly) don’t think I’ve ever really seen in England, theres something kind of surprising about seeing a thin blonde hurling giant slabs of concrete about.
We stumble into the red light district by accident. Yes, accidently, I swear.
I pass by a bar which said ‘red light district’ something but kind of didn’t pay much attention to it and shrugged it off, it was only when we passed by an open doorway and we saw a gigantic overweight black woman in black lingerie and red lipstick that we started to realise where we were. A few more obese lingerie models and sex shops later, we start trying to find our way out of the red light district. We are pretty hungry at this point and are desperately looking for anywhere that looks decent to eat.
Amsterdam is surprisingly expensive, I’m not quite sure what sort of price range I was expecting, but It definitely wasn’t 10-15 euro per meal and 2-4 euro per drink. Especially since the GBP to EUR exchange rate is horrific right now (I think I exchanged some of mine at 1.05? so they are practically 1:1).
We end up at a burger joint called ‘BurgerBar’, we chose it as it was one of the few places to eat which didn’t seem filthy and filled with drinkers. I ordered a large Irish Beef burger with extra onion, but opted to skip the fries (partially as they were 3 EUR) in order to save the money to buy cake later.
We started wandering randomly again, intending to go West to get to a supposedly famous shopping district called ‘9 Streets’, I somehow fuck up massively and lead the group straight South (though I don’t know it yet). The sights are scenic, I love the canals here, it almost feels like Venice, but filled with stoners and drunks instead of lovers.
We continue walking randomly through the town, we think we spot Chinatown in the distance (does Amsterdam even have a Chinatown?). As we head to investigate, it turns out to just be one gigantic 3 floor Chinese restaurant and not Chinatown at all, oh well.
We head into a Vans shop (surf/skate shop) to have a look around, it somehow leads straight into a stoner shop, which lead straight into a knife and weapons shop – it was all pretty awesome (no pictures for obvious reasons), just goes to show there is all sorts of cool stuff around Amsterdam off the beaten path, which leads me to…
Whilst exploring we found a small alleyway leading into some form of grotto area, we went to investigate and ran into this quirky little book market ran by old men with old style music playing, whole walls filled with books – almost like they were about to collapse and murder their shopkeepers.
A small doorway inside the market lead to an opening behind the roads, a small children playground behind Amsterdam University, we stopped and relaxed under on the grass for a while.
To be continued…