Trip Start Aug 07, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Netherlands  ,
Friday, September 8, 2006

Daily temperature: Late 20s
Meal of the day: Tagliatelle Pasta with a simple tomato and herb sauce.
Coolest thing we saw: moulded plastic urinals in the middle of the squares.
Cock up of the week: not realising we had to change trains in Antwerp until it was too late.

When tourists go to Amsterdam they do one or more of the following: Smoke drugs (its legal there), use the services of prostitutes, see windmalls and tulips, wear clogs, eat cheese or go biking. We did none of the above.

Most of our visit was spent walking around the centre of the city and soaking the place up. Amsterdam is a truly beautiful place, in an off beat kind of way. In the historic centre the streets run along the edges of dozens of canals, and the houses are very narrow and tall. Many of them lean on crazy angles, seemingly only held up by the house next door. Being a nice day, we ventured forth without a map, and wandered through the main tourist area into a really dodgy area full of porno shops and drunk hobos. It was amazing how quickly the atmosphere changed in two blocks.

There are 750,000 people in Amsterdam, and 1 million bikes. They love their bikes. The sad thing is 60,000 of these are stolen each year, so the residents have a subconscious contest against each other to own the most undesirable bike. 95% of them are falling apart and were built well before the years of gears and suspension, but this adds to the cities character and laid back lifestyle. There are wide bike lanes on every main street, and even the elderly can be seen out for a ride. The coolest ones to watch are families with young children. They either have seats at the front or back of their parent's bike, or if there are a couple of kids, there are wheelbarrow things attached to the front that can fit several. If the kid's a little older they have wee bikes clipped onto the back of the adults bike and get towed along. In Europe it is not law to wear a bike helmet, so maybe that is the appeal? They drive on the right side of the road over here too. We only thought it was the Americans that did silly things like that!

We went to Anne Frank House, well Liz did, Jonny waited outside. It was a very moving place, they had done it very well, leaving the rooms of the house empty to allow the spaces to speak for themselves. The displays were informative without overly simplifying the story of the families and it wasn't overloaded with holocaust history.

Jonny was very eager to get on the water so we took a tour on a canal boat. We saw the city from a different perspective and enjoyed plodding along at a leisurely pace taking in some sun.

We went to the Heineken Brewery for a "tour", which turned out to be a major branding exercise, where we were confronted with multiple Heineken ads and marketing tricks. There was free beer at the end of it though, so it wasn't a complete waste of time.

The camping ground we stayed at was lively, being Amsterdam there were a lot of alternative types staying there. Surprisingly there weren't very many Kiwis or Aussies, most seemed to be Spanish or Italian. Its hard to describe what its like going to bed with the smell of pot drifting around the tent, buts that's not a weird as waking up to the same smell. It seemed like some people never left their tents except to buy more supplies.

The red light district is famous, so we felt obliged to go and have a look. In case you don't know, the area is full of houses with window lit with red lights, where prostitutes sit and try to entice customers inside. Most of the girls looked almost bored though, and only a few were getting into it. The street were packed, but most looked like tourists rather than potential clients.

Although the packed footpaths can be maddening at times, you don't have to walk far to find a quite square with an ice-cream stall and a busker for entertainment. So far Amsterdam has been our favourite stop.
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jonnyandliz on

Re: not such an alien urinal
Great stuff guys. When we have our arrival party back in NZ I'm going to hire myself one of those.

In this case I would rather fallout than fallin.

jonnyandliz on

Re: Amsterdam
Thats a good theory. Some of the locks and security measures they had on these old crappy bikes was way over the top. Big massive heavy chains or industrial padlocks were very common. It was also surprising how many locked up bikes were missing a wheel, a seat, or even multiple key components. I guess you don't bother buying replacement parts, you just flog the piece you need off a bike down the street.

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