Date and Duration:
January 2-3, 2015
Although this post is written over a year after it happened, Amsterdam is still burned into my memory. I was staying with my friend in Brussels and wanted to do a small trip on our own. Since this was my first time in Europe, I let her do all the planning and Amsterdam hit our list. With no expectations, I boarded the bus and we headed to the dreamy, sinful, canal city.
Most of our time in Amsterdam was spent strolling the long canal roads and they were definitely times well spent. We arrived at dusk and immediately saw the millions and millions of bicycles locked to the gates and fences. After checking into our hostel, we walked around with no real place in mind. We ran into a couple markets and smelled the hundreds of potted plants and flowers until the mist became rain. We retreated back to our hostel for dinner and to get ready for our night out.
One of my fondest memories of this trip is spent in the hostel bar. It had been a couple months since I’d seen my best friend. We ordered some food and got some cold beers (including an authentic Heineken! Hell yes!) and talked about our old high school memories. Sitting in a foreign country, over a cold beer, with an old friend, relishing in the nostalgia of good and bad times as well as accepting the new year that lays ahead of us. It was beautiful.
We eventually ventured out into the city to find a good club, but even at 10 pm nothing was open. We walked up and down the same road five times just waiting for something to start, but nothing did. One group of people told us to head into one of the buildings because there was a party, so we excitingly went in. It was entirely empty. I grabbed my friend’s hand and whispered, “This is where we get murdered. Let’s go!”We ran out of there and down another street where we came across a Jazz Club. With a €5 entry fee (and I was running out of money fast), we went in with high hopes. And we were not disappointed. We each got a glass of wine and found a table near the front of the stage where we watched this band feeding off each other. To our right was an artist, drawing each other their faces. It felt magical. Eventually, we left in search of a place to dance but was once again disappointed. We gave up and decided to go back to the hostel and buy a bottle of wine to drink in the room, but all of our roommates were asleep. A little reluctant and a little hopeful, we tried again.
We found a district filled with bars and clubs and at random, we chose one and with the little money we had left, bought a beer. We made our way to the side and put our coats on the sketchy floor and just danced our hearts out. We made friends with these two guys from Switzerland who were just absolutely hilarious and danced until the early morning. At around 3 am we called it a night and trekked back to our hostel, only to get entirely lost. With no data, no maps, we got lost in the curves, loops, and circles that create Amsterdam. Not only were we lost at 3 am, but it began to downpour on us. In heels that were definitely blistering my feet, my hair stuck to my wet face, and no idea where we were, we walked for two hours until we found our hostel. Still wet and gross, we slammed into bed and tried to sleep it off.
We didn’t feel like doing much the next day but knew that if we didn’t, we would regret it. Sometimes you just have to push through the disappointment to see what else is possible.
We walked over to Anne Frank’s House, which had a line that was a mile long, and thought that seeing the outside would suffice. We wandered Amsterdam in the misty morning light with nowhere particularly in mind. We went through the Amsterdam museum, walked the canals, heard a piano being played from an apartment, found a cute coffee shop (not the one you’re thinking of) to stop in, and then came the Red Light District.
I had been avoiding the Red Light District. I think I was afraid, but alas, we ended up there. We took a turn and I began to see things that seemed… strange. Like a kitchen apron with a plush penis and testicles (and hair). Or a giant neon elephant. Oh, and then the naked women in the window. I exclaimed to my friend, “Olivia, I think we’re in the Red Light District!” She brushed me off and said “no, we’re not”, but once she realized that we were the only girls in the crowd, and the naked women in the windows, I could tell both of our hearts were racing. We laughed and kind’ve picked up our pace to try and get out of the area, both entranced and terrified. Although it wasn’t planned and a little terrifying, I’m glad we experienced it.
The rest of the trip was just wandering before we had to catch our bus. We saw the famous canal houses along the edge of the Damrak, which I immediately recognised from the replicas that sat in my childhood home kitchen.
You might think this was a pretty boring trip. Not much was accomplished and I didn’t do a lot of things most people do when they go to Amsterdam. But it’s worth stating that this was my first real “abroad” trip, meaning it was just a friend and I and no parental guardians. I wasn’t about to go smoke weed in a coffee shop or stroll down the Red Light District or see a peep show.This trip was pretty innocent and I think it’s safe to say that I didn’t get the full Amsterdam experience. Regardless of what I did or did not do, Amsterdam is a city right from a dream. With the foggy sky, rolling canals, gorgeous houses, and hundreds of bicycles, I truly felt like I was drifting. I just know I have to go back. Question is when. But isn’t that what we all say?