Amsterdam in a Nut Shell

Trip Start Dec 16, 2012
Trip End Mar 18, 2013

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Flag of Netherlands  , Noord-Holland,
Friday, December 21, 2012

Hello again Everyone! 

    Jessie here, writing to you after 3 wonderful nights in Amsterdam!  After settling into our cozy hostel with crazy steep stairs and an overflowing shower, we hit the streets for some sight seeing.  We were seriously jet-lagged, and hadn't eaten for way too many hours, but our first few hours were still extremely exciting.  We basically spent the time walking around the city, taking it all in and trying to get our barrings.  Robyn and Matt proved themselves to be much more direction savvy--but I got better as the time went! 
    After a couple of hours of walking, we began to notice all of the quirky little things that make Amsterdam wonderful.  For one, all of the buildings are crooked!  They are leaning on each other, or leaning forward, or leaning back.  They looked like they could fall over at any moment.  We later learned that this is because Amsterdam was built on water, and when the ground shifts, so do the buildings.  Apparently the city monitors the buildings very carefully, and it's safe, for now!
    Something else that was great about this city was the amount of bikes.  Bikers definitely ruled the roads, they were everywhere, and had no mercy. We were definitely looking for bikes when we crossed the road rather than cars.  They have the perfect infrastructure for so many bikes, with an entirely seperate lane and seperate traffic lights to make for an easy commute.  Everyone was a pro at biking in the city.  They would be texting, talking to other bikers, riding on the back wheel of someone else's bike, etc. Very impressive. 
    We also noticed quickly that there wasn't necessarily specific 'Dutch cuisine.'  It seemed that all restaurants were either American, Italian or Argentinian, with some Falafel shops mixed in.  We later found out that they have some Dutch snacks, such as a croquette, which is basically a fried hot dog that they sell out of slots in the street.  We didn't get the chance to try one, which is probably a good thing. 
    On our first night, we went on a guided pub crawl.  It was a great way to meet other people traveling in the city, and also to get a guided tour around the infamous Red Light District.  This was like nothing I've ever seen before, girls behind glass trying to sell themselves.  We learned that this service is mainly for tourists, that Dutch people don't go to the Red Light District, and that people who live in the Netherlands don't have to pay any taxes on it, which I'm sure the Dutch appreciate.
    Day 2 was a relaxing day of seeing the city.  We met a wonderful Italian couple in our hostel, who had been there for about 5 days searching for an apartment, as they were in the process of moving to Amsterdam. The rest of the day was literally spent walking....for hours. We saw the 'iamsterdam' sign, and lots of beautiful parks, buildings and christmas lights!  I won't lie, we were lost for the majority of the walk, but none of us complained because it was an excellent way to see lots of the city!  We were so tired from our first 2 days that we were back at the hostel and in bed by 10:30.  Maybe that was lame of us, but it needed to happen, we all slept like babys that night!
    Day 3 was spent with Robyn's friend Maarten, whom she met in Niger while doing Peace Corps .  He is Dutch, and lives in the city of Utrecht. It's great Robyn has friends around the world, because after we visited the Anne Frank House, he took us out of the city to see windmills, a cheese factory and a chocolate factory! The entire town smelt of chocolate, it was amazing! It was really nice to get out of the city and see a different side of the Netherlands. We would have never known how to do that if it wasn't for Maarten. When we got back to the city he took us to a brewery and then to dinner, and we had a wonderful time until it was time to say goodbye to Maarten, sad! He was a lovely tour guide, and we had a great day getting out of the city with him.    Amsterdam was amazing, and although I could have spent days there, it is time to move on to Berlin, Germany! We are now on a 6 hour train ride to the capital, where we will spend 2 nights eating sausage, drinking German beer, and exploring another European city! Until next post!
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