Alice in Amster-Land

Trip Start Sep 17, 2006
Trip End Dec 23, 2006

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

OK, so this week in Prague wasn't very interesting. I didn't really do anything but hang out with my friends and watch movies and shows and stuff like that, but.... BUT... I did go to Amsterdam this weekend. It was amazing. It seems like every city I go to I think "Wow, this is my new favorite city in Europe!" They have all been so amazing and cool, but Amsterdam really is cool. There are so many different facets of that city. There is the obvious morally bankrupt Red Light District, filled with hookers, pimps, drug dealers, and junkies. There is the slow moving, unmistakably stoned coffee-bar crowd. There are the quiet, bicycle riding locals. There are families, lives, real people who call Amsterdam their home. I feel that this weekend, I saw an interesting cross section of humanity on display in one of the wildest cities in the world.

I went on this trip not knowing either of my travel buddies very well, we were all a little apprehensive about how this weekend was going to go. Unsure, set out on our weekend with many different agendas. I was interested in the museums that Amsterdam had to offer, there was the Rijksmuseum, home to paintings from Rembrandt, Steen, Vermeer, Hals, and many others. There is the ever popular Van Gogh Museum, which holds not only the largest collection of Van Gogh in the world, but there is also work from Kandinsky, Scheile, Kirchner, Klimt, and on and on and on.

The first day we were there, they boys stopped by out first coffee-shop of the weekend, and they were playing sort of an obscure reggae album called "Dub Side of the Moon." I am sure that you can guess that it is a cover album of Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon." It isn't bad, but it mostly makes you wish you were listening to "Dark Side" instead of "Dub Side." Anyway, after the coffee-shop, we headed downtown to meet up with the free tour of Amsterdam, which sucked, so we ditched it about a half hour in. Then we just wandered around the city for the rest of the day. We decided there are 2 very different Amsterdams; there is a normal city during the day, where people work and lead normal lives, and there is the city at night. At night, all the weirdos come out of the woodwork (as with any city) but these are extra-special weirdos. They are armed with the drugs that even the Netherlands didn't legalize. About 100 times a night someone on the street leans over to you from out of the shadows and says "Cocaine? Pills? Ecstasy?" Always in that order, and always in the creepiest way possible. We decided that since it was pouring rain and none of us had an umbrella, we should buy a bottle of alcohol and walk around drinking it. We saw some... interesting things that night. There was a Red Light girl who looked just like Nicki Hilton, and that proved to be endlessly amusing to me.

The next day, we got up bright and early to get out free hostel breakfast, and go back to bed. We had been out pretty late the night before. When we finally got up and ready and out of the hostel, it was about 1 pm. We walked down to the Rijksmuseum, and then past it, in search of the Van Gogh Museum. Well, its literally right behind the Rijks, but I was navigating (because I was sober) and I got us lost. Eventually, we found the damn thing, but it was a really round about route. The Van Gogh Museum was one of the best I have been to in Europe so far. The set up was cool, the flow of the pictures was nice, the other impressionists were interesting, there were letters he had written to family and to girlfriends and it was generally really neat.

After that, we went to the Rijksmuseum, where the Rembrandt Exhibition was. I saw not only a bunch of his paintings, but also a ton of his sketches. It was really cool, not as cool as the Van Gogh Museum, but still very cool. By then it was about 7 pm, and none of us had eaten anything since the free breakfast, so we went in search of food. What we had could in some extreme circumstances be considered food. We had Kebab, or as the rest of the world calls it, gyros. I always thought that I hated them, but it turns out I just hate the lamb ones. Chicken and beef are pretty good. I really like the creamy sauce on them. Well, we ate our street meat dinner, and found our way back to the Red Light District, and headed into a cool pub/coffee-shop called "Hill Street Blues."

We stayed there for the rest of the night, the boys smoked their pot, I drank beers, and we met some very interesting people. Apparently, Amsterdam is where all the Spanish people go for vacations. I know this because everyone we met in Amsterdam was Spanish. I  did hear American English being spoken, as well as British English, but generally, it was Spanish. We stayed there talking to people until about 2 am, then went in search of street meat Chinese, and found it around the corner from the pub. We each got our noodles, and ate peacefully. When we left, we got turned around, and couldn't find out way back to the hostel. We ended up walking around for like an hour before we made it back. Our hostel is only a 10 minute walk from where we were. That sucked.

Sunday, I got the boys up nice and early to get some breakfast and head down to the Anne Frank House. Anne Frank house is not something that should be missed. Let me tell you, it was sobering. The more you looked at those rooms, the more you walked through that house, the more you read and saw about her life, the more engrossed you became. The point of the museum isn't to educate about one 12 year old's short and tortured life, but to make you realize how many others there were just like her. How many suffered more than she, and how many people were killed in camps like her. I think that the progression I have been through with my Holocaust education in Europe has been interesting. I started in Krakow and went to Auschwitz. Then I went to the Nazi headquarters in Berlin, and saw where decisions were made, I stood over Hitler's Bunker, and I went to the Monument to the Murdered Jews Of Europe. After all of that, I went to Anne Frank's house. One of the most famous victims of the Holocaust. I saw her bathroom, the most private of all the places for most people. She brushed her teeth at the sink I stood in front of. Like many of my experiences, there is no way to try and sum up what my feelings were standing in that house, and stepping through the bookcase entry to the apartment she and her family lived in.

After that, we were in need of a good pick-me-up so we went and had a lovely lunch which consisted of bagel sandwiches and coffee. After lunch, we rented bicycles and rode around the city and to Voldelpark. Voldelpark is this huge park in the middle of the city and even on cold and rainy days, it is swarming with the local people out with their kids and dogs and lovers. We rode our bikes for hours in the park, and then took a little detour through the city to return them when our three hours of heaven were up. We rode along the canals and along the trails, through the park and back again. It was amazing. One of the coolest parts of the trip for me. I know that I have already said that about the Van Gogh Museum and the Anne Frank House, but they were all so different. The other two were so educational and cultural, and the bikes were just clean, pure, old-fashioned fun for the kids. It was great.

That was Sunday, and our last day in Amsterdam. We again went to the Red Light District, and went on our own pub crawl. We went to I think 4 places, but they were all so dead that we went back to "Hill Street Blues" where we hung for the rest of the night. Got back to the hostel pretty early, about 12:30, and went home the next morning.

I have been doing a whole lot of nothing since I got back. Actually, I think that I am becoming a professional homework procrastinator. I should be doing a lot of things, but instead I re-name all my photos, and rearrange them into new files. I write long rambling emails to people, and I generally fool around on the Internet, looking at hockey stats and standings. That is my week in a nutshell.

This coming weekend will be my last in Europe, and I am planning on spending it here in Prague with my friends. This is the last time we will all be together again, so everyone is pretty jazzed about hanging out this weekend. After this, me (like many others), are headed home. Back to our lives and families. Back to our cities and universities, where everyone speaks your language and you can read all the street signs and menus. The end of confusion, but also the end of our adventures. Sad really...
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