The Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of Europe
04.12.2015 - 04.16.2015 70 °F
I am on a train to Berlin and have a few hours to kill so I thought I would take this opportunity to write a new blog post.
Well, it finally happened.
After more than two weeks of couch surfing and hostel life I finally broke down and booked a hotel for a single night upon arriving in Amsterdam.
During my last night in Paris I found myself kidnapped by three local French girls who wanted to show me what a real night out in Paris looked like. Between dinner, drinks, dancing, more drinks and bottle service at the club starting at 2am, I knew I was in trouble. After a number of very long days of site seeing while trying to fight off a cold, it was a 12 round fight that I was not prepared for. I believe I bowed out around 4:00am so I could sleep an hour or two before I had to be up for my 7am train to Amsterdam. Not the ending to that story that some of you were hoping for but deal with it. I was down for the count.
After a day of rest, recovery and a proper shower, I rented a bike to explore the city. Whether living in Amsterdam or just visiting, biking around town is a must. It is the best way to enjoy the canals and really get to know the city.
There are many fold more people on bikes than cars on the street. In fact, each street has its own bike lanes on both sides of the road that act as a second layer of traffic. It took me a day or two to get used to not walking in the bike lanes, not crossing in front of the bike lanes, not biking the wrong direction in the bike lanes, and likely every other obnoxious thing one could do to frustrate the locals.
I stayed at a hostel right next to Vondlepark, the cities largest park where locals picnic on sunny days.
This hostel was very different from the one in Paris. It was filled with more families, tour groups and kids than with backpackers. My first room had no wifi or useful power outlets near my bed so I asked to be moved. The staff was helpful in doing so but when I went to my new room, I found someone sleeping in my bed.
Brandon and Dustin found it hilarious and sent this to me some hours later:
- sigh* Hostel life is not always awesome…
On a brighter note, I was lucky enough to be here while the Koukenhof gardens were open. Also known as the Garden of Europe, it's the world's second largest flower garden following the Dubai Miracle Garden where approximately 7 million flower bulbs are planted annually covering an area of 79 acres. The garden is only open from mid March to Mid May each year.
I also highly recommend a visit to Anne Frank’s house. Situated right downtown, it is a powerful reminder of a time when humans proved how horrible they could be to one another. I am a bit embarrassed to say this but having read The Diary of Anne Frank in school many years ago, I believe the true weight of it all was lost on me at the time. It’s difficult for a suburban American kid to appreciate the history of it all when he is more concerned with his lacrosse game and his date for Friday night. It wasn’t until I stepped foot up the stairs behind the hidden bookcase that the gravity of it all hit me.
Amsterdam by night is a very different place than it is by day. Up until now, this post has been a very whitewashed version of perhaps what really happened during my visit. Certainly, eating a brownie and walking through the Van Gogh museum or going to see a show in the red light district are options…but who knows whether or not those things happened? There is a certain amount of what happens in Amsterdam stays in Amsterdam.
Notice: If anyone from work is reading this, those things didn't happen and I will be ready for my "random" drug test when I return.
I think this picture from a pub crawl sums it up. It's not blurry. This is actually what Amsterdam feels like at night.
For my foodie friends:
Amsterdam is full of delicious choices.
I found a restaurant called The Seafood Bar. It’s rated as one of the top restaurants in Amsterdam and boasts fresh seafood daily from sustainable fishing methods. I had the seafood bar platter which consisted of smoked eel, Dutch shrimps, cab salad, warm and cold smoked salmon, served with warm bread and chive butter.
What I also thought was cool about the place, besides their sustainable menu, was that for each bottle of mineral water you bought, they would donate a fixed amount towards clean drinking water projects. The bottle even sites the UN human right to water and sanitation resolution. Very cool.
One local dish that I really enjoyed was called Hotchpotch. It is a typical Dutch dish that consists of a base of mashed potatoes with veggies. This specific dish was served with endive, bacon bits and a large meatball with gravy. This was some serious stick-to-your-ribs food.
If you are ever in Amsterdam, you have to have a waffle with Nutella. They put Nutella on everything. I suggest Nutella and strawberries. I wasn't sure whether you were supposed to eat this thing for breakfast, lunch or dinner so I just had them at all times of the day to be safe. #fatkid
Another local must have are Poffertjes. These a similar to mini pancakes with a warm soft doughy center. I suggest going with the powdered sugar, fresh strawberries and whipped cream. You should probably add Nutella so as not to be insulting.
And to complete the fat kid tour, there is a great little Magnum ice cream shop between the museum and city center districts. Here, you can create your own Magnum ice cream bar by choosing from three different chocolate dips and from a number of different toppings. I went with milk chocolate dip with white chocolate shavings and strawberry sugar crisps.
A few miscellaneous left-over pics:
The Dutch love their cheese shops. I recommend hopping from shop to shop enjoying the free samples.
Van Gogh loved a good selfie. He was into it way before you were.
An interesting poem from Emily Dickinson scribed on the side of a building. Nice sentiment but unfortunately not true.
"To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee. One clover, and a bee and revery. The revery alone will do, if bees are few."
Off to Berlin! Thanks for reading!