On my afternoon flight to Amsterdam, I had some white wine and the best cheese sandwich of my life (as chronicled in a previous post). Thus began my cheese-filled weekend in the Netherlands.
My friend Margaret and I stayed at the Van Gogh hostel conveniently located near many of the museums in the city while the rest of our group stayed in an Airbnb on the outskirts of the city center. After dropping off our bags, Margaret and I took a scenic walk along one of Amsterdam’s many canals to meet the rest of the gang at their Airbnb. Google Maps got us within a few blocks of the apartment but failed to fully execute. Once again, living that #NoData life left us stranded and lost. The neighborhood was eerily empty and gray. However, I yet again had Lady Luck to bail me out. After about fifteen minutes of aimlessly wandering, we coincidentally ran into everyone else returning from buying groceries. That night we ate too much pasta and watched Monster’s Inc (I couldn’t tell you why that was our choice in a movie). Because of our late afternoon arrival, we took the evening easy and waited until the next morning to begin exploring.
We woke up the following morning bright and early to visit the Anne Frank house. Luckily, we had done our research and learned to line up outside before the museum opens. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck outside for hours in a line around the block. Despite a slight delay after learning that the tram passes we bought didn’t work for the buses as well, we still made it by 8:30. Visiting the Anne Frank house was moving and sad, but I was glad I went. It was a similar feeling to when I visited Auschwitz in Poland (I tried to articulate those feelings in a previous post).
Afterward, we found a cute restaurant to have some Dutch pancakes for breakfast. I dined on a delicious apple and bacon pancake. Now, this may seem trivial, but we went to a drugstore after and I found a toothbrush cover! Hear me out. This item had been on my shopping list for about a month. I was sick of keeping my toothbrush in a zip lock bag and after scouring Budapest for a toothbrush cover, I always came home empty-handed. Finding this item in Amsterdam was like finding a twenty-dollar bill on the ground.
I decided that this remarkable event determined the rest of the day to be great. We then ventured to Waterlooplein, which is a market in the Jewish Quarter. It has a flea-market vibe, as it is mostly filled with trinkets and random memorabilia. After some browsing, we decided to embrace the full Amsterdam experience by renting bikes.
A quick note on biking in Amsterdam: biking here varies greatly compared to Copenhagen. In Copenhagen, you can simply lock the wheel of the bike without even locking the bike to a pole and no one will steal it. In Amsterdam, you better lock it up really well or else someone is likely to nab it.
We mounted our bikes and rode to the flower market, which turned out to be my favorite of all the markets we visited. The flower market sells – you guessed it – flowers! I even bought a tulip bulb in a can to take home (side note: it grew but never bloomed). However, the flower market is adjacent to several cheese shops, where we sampled many types of gouda and bought some to use for dinner. The market is also dangerously close to Chipsy King – a fine Dutch establishment where you can acquire a heaping cone of fries smothered in a sauce of your choosing. Naturally, we had to stop in.
We rode to Dam Square, which has shops and street performers looking to part tourists from their money. It started raining, so our visit was brief because we needed to return our bikes. Margaret and I dropped our things off at the hostel and once again went to the Airbnb for dinner. The gals prepared pesto gouda (yes, green cheese) and truffle gouda grilled cheese sandwiches while chefs Garrett and Phil made a tomato bisque.
After mustering enough energy to fight off our food comas, we took an Uber to the Red Light District. I swear – we just went to walk around and see the area at night. Turns out, most people in the area were doing the same thing as us. I saw maybe one person enter or leave an establishment. It was definitely interesting, though. Even though everyone knows what the Red Light District is, it took me a few minutes to register what was actually going on. We didn’t stay very long before walking to the surrounding neighborhood and finding a chill bar to hang out at.
The next morning, I woke up early to get breakfast by myself at a cute place next to our hostel called Blushing. After walking past every day, I wanted to try it at least once. I had a latte and a nice yogurt parfait. Our plans changed due to rain, so Margaret and I met the rest of the group at a breakfast spot. I had already eaten, so I just ordered some coffee.
Reunited, we decided to buy passes for the hop-on-hop-off canal rides. It was still slightly raining, but luckily the boats had glass covers. We rode most of the loop to the Albert Cupymarkt. I enjoyed this market almost as much as the flower market primarily for one reason: stroopwafels. Just picture this delicacy: two warm thin waffles sandwiching a layer of caramel; finally, the entire thing is dipped halfway in chocolate. Are you drooling yet?
Still high on sugar, we decided some carbs were in order. And by carbs, I mean beer. And by beer, I mean Heineken. The Heineken Experience takes about two hours and involves learning how the beer is made, one of those movie theaters that moves and bumps you around and sprays water on a few unfortunate people, some virtual soccer, beer-pouring games, a virtual DJ booth, some more videos, and oh yeah, lots of sampling. By 4:00 pm I was a little buzzed. I was honestly a little hesitant about handing over 16 euro for a brewery tour, but it was definitely worth it. Experiences over things, right?
It was our last day in Amsterdam, so we had one last obligatory stop: the I Amsterdam sign. I managed to take some rainy selfies while holding an umbrella over my head and called it a success. The sign stands right in front of the Rijksmuseum, which was on my Amsterdam bucket list. We got there after it closed, though, so we walked through the underpass and listened to some beautiful violin players. It was a moment of tranquil refuge from the rain.
We had an early flight the next day so our evening was relaxed and unremarkable. On my flight back to Budapest, I was given another sandwich. This one had ham and was much less inspiring than the original cheese sandwich. However, I was already envisioning myself back in Amsterdam. I can see myself admiring art at the Rijksmuseum, biking through Vondelpark, and aimlessly wandering the narrow streets of the city.
But let’s face it, I’d go back for another stroopwafel alone.