Adventure to Amsterdam
Around 10:00 am, we arrived in Amsterdam; it was chilly and quiet with an eerie haze that consumed the city. Once we got off of the bus, we exchanged money in the train station and tried to figure out the public transportation system. After a few failed attempts at understanding Dutch, we decided to stand by the tracks and hop on the first available train car. Once we were on the train, we bought tickets for the ride and a local resident suggested the stop we needed for our hotel. We booked one hotel room for seven people. Needless to say, we could not all go into the hotel at once, and attempted to hide our baggage.
Once we settled into our hotel, we decided to walk around town. The entire city is divided by canals, which made me lose my sense of direction. Amsterdam is FULL of bikes! Literally hundreds of bikes are parked on the sidewalks! Since many people bike, the city is very quiet and there is much less road noise. We headed in the direction of the Red Light District, and picked up lunch at a bagel shop along the way.
After our bagel, we wanted dessert, so we ordered waffles from one of the many sidewalk stands. The food in Amsterdam was wonderful! The pastries were delicious, but there is also a chain of French-fry restaurants called Chipsy King, that serves French-fries in a wax-paper cone with any sauce you like right on top of the fries. Also, we ate Kebabs that were by far the best we had in Europe.
After our waffles, we walked around the Red Light District during the day. This was unlike anything I’ve ever experience. The streets were empty and the neon signs were yet to be lit. There were sex shops up and down the entire street. Being in the Red Light District opened my eyes to an entirely new culture. Prostitution and Marijuana are legal in Amsterdam, which gives the city a different feel than any others I have been to. Prostitution is a major industry in Amsterdam, and the Red Light District is the hub of the profession. Coming from a very structured background, seeing the relaxed regulations was shocking to me. It is hard to imagine growing up in a world where the sex industry is a major player in the local economy. The TV programs were also very lax compared to America’s, showing graphic music videos and commercials.
After the Red Light District, we walked to the center of town. It was absolutely freezing, so the girls on the trip bought matching Amsterdam hats. Then we stopped at the famous wooden shoe for a photo op.
On Saturday, we ate at a very cute restaurant that served fresh juice and mint tea. After lunch, we toured the Heineken brewery. The tour took most of the day, and we ate at an American sports bar for dinner. We went to the Red Light District in the evening, and the atmosphere was completely different than during the day. There were herds of men on the sidewalks, and hardly any women. The men would go behind the doors the prostitutes were standing in front of; the situation was repulsive to me. It was obvious that some of the women working in buildings together were related to one another. Some of the women worked on their bodies a lot, since they chose that profession; on the other hand, some women were older and not fit at all. It was interesting to see that the unfit women were not concerned about their body types, something very different than women in the US.
On Sunday, we visited Anne Frank’s house. This was the highlight of the trip, for me. It was so interesting to have Anne’s story come to life. It really helped me get a visual understanding of how the Nazis marched the streets. After Anne Frank’s house, I needed to head to the bus station. We went to the hotel to gather our luggage, to find out that there was a national transportation strike that day. Since there was a strike, I had to take a cab to the bus station. Unfortunately, I had a different bus time than the others, and had to endure the 12-hour journey alone. I arrived in London at 5:00am, and had to wait an hour for the next train to come. After taking a short nap, I headed to work on Monday.
Overall, Amsterdam is very different than the US. I kept an open mind about its culture and find it intriguing that the country has such open policies. It was a great experience to open my eyes to how other people live.