Trip Start Dec 03, 2008
Trip End Oct 14, 2009

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Flag of Netherlands  , Noord-Holland,
Thursday, October 8, 2009

When we were in New Zealand we met a really great couple in a campsite kitchen, Robbert and Mijke. We sat next to them at the table and ended up talking to them for over an hour.  We kept in touch and they invited us to stay with them when we made it to Amsterdam.  

We were pretty tired from our train ride.  We took an over night train and got a sleeper cabin again.  We were the last 2 to get into 6 person cabin.  We were happy to have the 2 bottom beds at least.  It was really difficult to make our beds in the dark and a room the size of a small bathroom.  We didn't get much sleep because our bunk mates got up at different times to get off the train.  Robbert had the week off luckily so he met us at the train station.  They have a great little apartment close to everything.

Amsterdam has a lot to offer besides the Red Light District and the coffeeshops - although, that's what most people look forward to when they get here.  It is truly impossible to not encounter these though.  The coffeeshops are on every corner (where you can get anything from actual coffee and "space cakes" know).  The Red Light District is right in the middle of town.  You can't avoid it.  By the end of the week, I recognized the women in the windows.  There really are red lights everywhere and the streets are lined with windows that open up onto the street.  In each window there is a woman, usually somewhat covered.  They rent the windows out for 8 hour shifts.  Some go as much as 750 EURO per shift.  Imagine how much work you'd have to do to break even.  But this is just how it is here.  Along with the red lights, there is pretty much anything else you can think of relating to sex.  I won't go into anymore detail then that.

I didn't realize how confusing the city was laid out.  We truly got lost every single day (twice at night on bikes, in the rain).  Everyone in Amsterdam owns a bikes.  In fact, between Robbert and Mijke, there were 5 bikes!  And neither of them ride them to work.  There are 10 times more bikes then cars, in fact, we heard that 80,000+ bikes are stolen every year!!!  Robbert has gotten his bike stolen twice - and no, he didn't get them back.  Each bike has wheel locks, a key and a 5 pound, completely rusted out chain. 

One of the best parts of the city?  Donors everywhere!  Those are the chicken, lamb, beef pita wraps.  Oh, they are soooo good!  There are an amazing amount of snack shops, pizza places, etc around town - I'm sure to cure the "munchies".

Our first day Robbert showed us around downtown.  There is so much to see and so many museums.  In the main squares there are street performers all the time.  We saw one guy from Australia shallow a sword (a LONG one) and bend over and jungle!  He said he was one of 6 in the world that could do that.  Ahhh! 

Robbert and Mijke made us an amazing Mexican dish our first night.  We went to the grocery store first and after talking with Brian about beer, Robbert got 1 of every kind of beer that the store had.  We walked out of there with 20-some bottles of beer.  All different kinds.  The guys were planning beer tasting for that night. 

So Robbert and Mijke set up a very comfortable bed for us in there apartment.  So that night, we got some good sleep.  They also let us use 2 of their bikes for the next week.  So the next day we started off on our bikes.  It is kind of scary riding because this is no leisurely activity here.  People are serious about their bike riding.  We hit up a street market first and rode around town for awhile.  Later that day we checked out a couple of pubs and saw some live music.  The weather is fabulous here but that night it started raining and didn't let up.  We had to ride back to their apartment on the bikes, in the rain, and that was the first time we got lost. 

On Saturday, Robbert and Mijke took us out to the beach and dunes with them.  It was near where their parents live and ended up seeing Robbert's parents at the dunes.  It was great to be back at the beach, just wish it was summer and we could swim.  After a couple hours we went back and had dinner together, but not before getting lost in the dunes (like in New Zealand).  That night they went out with Brian and I to a nearby pub. 

We got to sleep in the next day and rode around on our bikes for a long time.  We checked out this huge park near the center of town.  Of course, it started raining on us again and we had to hide out under some trees and ended up having to eat our packed lunch under there in our ponchos.  Mmmm...  And again, we were riding our bikes in the rain.  That night we were supposed to go to a concert with Robbert but it was raining too hard.  We would have had to ride our bikes, plus I'd have to sit on the back of Robbert's bike.  I think that would be bad for everyone involved

If you don't see the theme, we spent a lot of our time in Amsterdam just riding around on our bikes, checking out the pubs and eating!  We were told to go to this famous bakery for world famous apple pie.  There was also a huge street market near there, so we went to both.  The pie was so good, we went back the next day.  Oh, so good.  We rode all around the waterfront and saw how much they are expanding the land out into the water. 

The next day, our final full day on our trip (!!!) we went to the Amsterdam Brewery and saw one of those famous windmills - very cool.  We went to another park and ate lunch.  We also got a couple beers from a market and enjoyed them on one of the countless canals that run through the city.  This is such a wonderful city.  It is so beautiful!  All the canals and houseboats and small shops and pubs, etc.  Such an amazing place.  We've had such a great time hanging out with Robbert and Mijke.  They are so fun to just sit and talk with.  Again, its so great to stay with locals.  They were such good hosts.  The time has gone way too fast.

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