Trip Start May 16, 2006
Trip End Aug 16, 2006

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Flag of Netherlands  ,
Sunday, August 13, 2006

Holland. Weird wooden shoes, canals, bikes, and tourists. The population of Amsterdam, I have been told, is a little under a million. Supposedly, in the high season, there are a million tourists in the city. I am not sure I believe it, but it would not shock me if it were true. Tourists run this city in a big way.

It's a nice town, really. The canals add a lot of character. It's fairly flat and very compact, so it lends itself well to renting a bike and just roaming the city. Dutch is an interesting language to overhear (when you are lucky enough to find it. English and a mix of random other languages dominate much of the town). Like many European languages, it is closely related to English, but what is interesting is the sound of it. If you zoom out a bit and don't try to really comprehend it, but just listen to the general noise of it, it sounds strikingly like some sort of extreme accent of English.

The red light district is a bizarre combination of family-friendly fun and seedy vice. And Amsterdam junkies keep things interesting. One tried to jump in front of my bike then, as I rode off, yelled "yeah you ride on THAT side (the side he forced me over too), you just go off, run back to your mother". And in English. As I walked out of the hostel one day, a unkempt-looking lady that was standing about 30 ft away saw me and started yelling "that's him, that's the bloke". Apparently I gravely wronged her in another life. This probably all sounds as if it would be very unsettling, but the city still feels very safe pretty much everywhere, night or day... at least in and near the heart of the city. These sorts of hecklings never seem like they would amount to much. Mostly they're just guys who mumble 'ecstasy' or 'cocaine' as you walk by. And there are probably pickpockets, but they're in every city.

One of the days I was ventured to the former Heineken brewery for the greatly overrated "Heineken Experience." Really quite terrible. But one funny thing happened. In Brussels, when I went to the pub with 2500 different beers, it was with an Australian, a Brazilian, an American, and two Canadians. In the Heineken brewery, I randomly ran into the two Canadians. And then, shortly after, we ran into the American. Ridiculous coincidence.

Overall, an interesting place to spend a few days, but probably not somewhere I would like to spend a great deal of time.
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