Day 38: Thursday November 17th, 2011
So, Holland. They basically all speak three languages: Dutch, French and English, and it barely felt like I was in a foreign land except in the grocery store. Amsterdam is a beautiful city of 17th century canals (another UNESCO gem) resulting in a map that looks like fingerprints, a lot like Venice and Bruges, though not as confusing. It’s also known for its tulips and bikers. The tulips were obviously nowhere in sight in November, but the staggering fleet of tall blondes on bikes whizzing past you is quite a treat. It makes a guy want to take a step into traffic and hope for serendipity and teenage pregnancy.
I was up early because this was really my only day in Amsterdam and I wanted to make the most of it. I only booked two nights because on the weekends, hostels in Amsterdam cost around 50 euro a night (!), and to be honest, I was worried I was going to spend way too much money and get way too crazy. I did not want Drundy to appear in the Red Light district. Also, I had plans to meet up with Mary Anne (who you will remember from Belfast and briefly in Dublin) and her friend in Brussels and Bruges that weekend.
I was way early for the walking tour because I planned for getting lost and I didn’t for once, so I had some kid of wurst, cheesy bread with saurkraut and a hot dog on it. It wasn’t great. Should’ve waited for Germany.
The tour was good, learning that there was more to Amsterdam than weed and hookers (it’s actually Riley’s favorite city due to the many bikes and tulips), which was shocking, I know. It has a ton of museums, great brick and renaissance architecture, it’s own sad chapter in Jewish history (but I suppose everywhere qualifies for that) and is the home base for ING.
On the tour, I met Dave, who was staying at my hostel and who I hung with the night before, and Sam, a fun New Zealander. After the tour we resolved to make it a fucking day. We skipped the Heineken Experience, which I’d heard mixed reviews of and obviously have done a few brewery tours in my day. But we did pretty much everything else.
We went to Cafe Hoppe, a bar that was pointed out to us on the tour as the oldest bar in Amsterdam. While we were about 7 minutes away when we ended the tour, it took us a good half hour to find it again. I had one of the local beers, an Amstel Bock, which was WAY better than the shitty Amstel Light, and got an order of the bitterballen, which are fried balls with meat puree. You apparently aren’t supposed to question what’s in them, and neither did I when there’s mustard on the side.
Then we went to a coffeeshop (these are the places that sell weed in case you didn’t realize) and bought what was recommended to us, a strand called Vanilla Queen. We smoked two joints and then went off to the best museum in town, the Rijks Museum. Going high to museums is something I need to do more often, as I appreciated the art a helluva lot more. Go Rembrandt. Sweet still-lifes as well.
After that we found Mellow Yellow’s, recommended to us by a 44 year old woman smoking a joint at the first coffeeshop, for some space cake. Space cake is basically an edible said to have weed and shrooms in it. We were warned to its potency by others, but the guy in the shop said you could handle a whole piece yourself. He was right, since it actually didn’t do much to me. I just felt off, with the feeling that there’s a layer of film over your skin, and it simply added to my drunk later that night, but beyond that, no craziness.
We returned real quickly to the hostel, where Dave passed out, high as all fuck. Sam and I were pretty good, so we went to a bar or two, including Bulldog’s, the famous coffeeshop/hostel in Amsterdam. It’s very commercialized and apparently has shit weed, but what do I know? Very quickly, I learned that I had left the land of pints. Or, if I wanted to return there, it’d be an expensive buy. Most beers were in smaller sizes and more expensive than a pint was in England or Ireland. This trend continues throughout all of Europe, until Germany.
Then, of course, we walked down the red light district, which is something you have to do. It’s a maze of pussy, from ridiculously hot girls that look like models that you really can’t believe are offering themselves to you (at a hefty price; Ryan, don’t come to Amsterdam) to women that could be men or men that could be women or both, to old and fat Asians to old and fat black women, to basically anything you can imagine or don’t want to. Let’s just say you know when you’re on the good streets.
The novelty wears off after awhile, especially when you see the men that actually talk to the girls and then go into the glass doors, with the red shutters closing after them, swallowed up by Amsterdam’s finest. It’s fucking off-putting and weird.
At the end of the night, we went to Feebo’s, a famous Amsterdam institution. It basically preys on those with the munchies, as it’s a fast food dispensary. You put a euro or so in the wall, and get a hamburger, croquettes, etc. out of a glass case (kind of like the women). It’s not good, but you have to do it once, and I got a mediocre cheeseburger that still felt heavenly that night.
I said goodbye to Sam, and returned to my hostel, only a little paranoid that my black friend from earlier would appear. And that was my admittedly lame Amsterdam experience.
Like Vegas, with no morals, self-respect and a lot of money, you can have the time of your life in Amsterdam. But that wasn’t me and didn’t appeal to me. My biggest regret wasn’t that I didn’t buy a hooker for 50 euro, but that I didn’t make it to the Anne Frank House.
Does that make me a loser?
NEXT: One of my new favorite countries: Belgium.