After my unfortunate disaster in Brussels, my friend and I took the first train out of the city. When we arrived in Amsterdam, I immediately felt a huge tourist vibe in the city. Unlike Brussels, the tourist population here was much larger. It also felt safer. By the way this post might have some “mature themes” because of the Red Light District stuff.
Coffee Shops and Other Strange Places
During our walk to the hostel from the train station, we began see some pretty strange yet touristy places. For example, along the way, there was a Vodka Museum and a Torture Museum (they’d actually present different pre-modern torture devices), and of course a lot of “coffee shops”. For those who don’t know what a coffee shop in Amsterdam is, it is where people go to legally smoke weed. A place for people to drink coffee is simply called a cafe. Many people go to Amsterdam for that reason, but not me though.
It wasn’t just the Vodka Museum that was weird, they even had stores selling cannabis seeds, which I guess is okay because weed is legal, but coming from a place where it isn’t, it definitely struck me as weird. To take that even further, there is even a Cannabis Museum.
After walking through the town square for a little bit, we arrived at Dam Square, the historic center of Amsterdam.
As the historic center, this area has a lot of notable buildings such as the Royal Palace, New Church, National Monument, and Madame Tussaud’s Museum.
This is where I noticed the ridiculous amount of bicycles. In fact, I saw more people riding bicycles than people driving cars. When I crossed the street, I looked for bikers and not drivers. Making our way further into the city, we began to see the large network of canals.
Another thing that Amsterdam is famous for is its canals. Built in the early 17th century, city planners had the idea of constructing this network for the purposes of defense and water management. Today, people dub it as “The Venice of the North” and it is quite a cultural landmark.
The canal receives its water from the Amstel River (there is a beer named after it). According to Wikipedia, because of the canals, there are about 90 islands and 1500 bridges.
While walking to the hostel, we reached the New Market, which is another city square. In the center there is a city gate that has been long converted into a cafe/restaurant.
Turns out our hostel was less than 100 meters from here. We went there and dropped off our stuff before we continued exploring.
The Christian Hostel
Before we left, Germany, my friend booked a place for us at this Christian hostel. I’m not even Christian, but that didn’t matter. It had a lot of rules like no smoking, no alcohol, no weed, etc, which was okay. The ironic thing was that when I walked into my room (this was at around 2 PM in the afternoon), I saw a few people passed out on their beds. I thought to myself, “they probably just drank too much beer or smoked too much weed.” The hostel didn’t really care, so long as they didn’t bring that stuff in. They even had a “bible study”. I really wonder who would go to that.
Next to the New Market Square was Amsterdam’s Chinatown. My first impression of this place was that the Chinese stuff here was really traditional unlike the multitude of westernized Chinese food places I always see in Germany (not a big fan of chicken chow mein or kung pao chicken). This place even had a temple with Buddha and various people from Chinese folk religions like Guan Yu. The butcher’s shop even sold entire slabs of an entire pig (like the ones that some Chinese people use for celebrations).
After walking through Chinatown, we proceeded to our next destination: the infamous Red Light District.
The Red Light District
Before going to Amsterdam, I already knew that the Netherlands legalized weed and prostitution and so I figured that these things would be really prevalent in the city. Indeed they were. Walking down the street, I could smell the odour of weed coming out of every coffee shop. On top of that, if the business I walked by wasn’t a coffee shop, it’d be a sex shop.
There even some businesses geared towards gay people. They proudly waved a rainbow flag outside their establishment. The Dutch are clearly really open about these things.
At first I walked by a lot of brothels without really knowing that I did (I had no idea what they looked like). It was only when I noticed that some buildings had a row of windows with curtains over them. In one of the windows, a woman wearing lingerie displayed herself for potential customers. I noticed that the building didn’t have a banner or any label. I guess people see that and just know (notice the guy who appears to be in deep contemplation in the picture).
They even had a condom shop that sold condoms with different shapes (they even had a Statue of Liberty condom).
This city has such a strange blend of an old European vibe mixed with the vices of modern people. It is kind of interesting yet sad to see people indulging in such things.
The XXX Flag
In a lot of places, we kept seeing a flag with a giant “XXX” printed on it and at first, my friend and I thought it just meant what everyone knows it as. Then we started seeing this on the side of old churches and even on police badges. We wondered what its actual meaning was. Apparently, that’s the flag of Amsterdam. What a crazy coincidence.
Another thing really common in the city is the crazy amount of churches. I didn’t really count how many I saw, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I saw at least five or six of them.
Lots and Lots of Churches
There isn’t really anything to explain here.
There are more, but I didn’t bother posting them.
Anne Frank House
While randomly walking, we stumbled on the Anne Frank House, the building that her family lived in during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. For those who don’t know who Anne Frank is, she was a victim of The Holocaust who wrote a diary, now published into a booked called “The Diary of a Young Girl”, documenting her life between 1942 and 1944. The building has now since become a museum for people to visit. Inside the museum, people could see the conditions that she lived in and some of her personal paraphernalia. Unfortunately, I couldn’t go in to see the museum for my self since my wallet got stolen (damn bastards!).
After walking for almost the entire day (I reckon we walked about 30 kilometers that day), we went to go buy food. We would have been hungry a lot earlier if we didn’t stuff our faces at the breakfast buffet at our hotel back in Brussels. Knowing that the Netherlands was famous for its fries, that’s what we got.
The most unique thing about their fries is that they do not serve it with ketchup. The main sauce they use is mayonnaise. When I first heard about that, I thought it was the weirdest thing. I had never thought of combining those two things together. After trying it, I can say that I’m never having fries with ketchup ever again.
Another cool thing about their fries is that they serve it in a nice conic container with a wooden fork-like utensil.
Other Dutch Delicacies
Although not as significant of a consumer of cheese as Germany and France, Amsterdam still has shops dedicated completely to cheese. Now I don’t know much about cheese, but the cheese in the store looks so delicious (I like the colour too).
Another thing that the Dutch are famous for is their beer. Everybody knows Heineken in North America (probably), but it’s really expensive there. Here, it’s like a staple, so I had to try it. We sat at a table overlooking the canals and enjoyed the view while we drank our beer.
Afterward, we made our way to Museumplein, also known as Museum Square.
We went here that night and also the next morning. This area houses four museums: the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum, the Stedelijk Museum, and the Diamond Museum. In addition, there is also a concert hall and a giant sign for the city.
In addition to going to Museumplein that morning, we went to the flower market first. I was told that the Netherlands were also famous for its tulips.
The Flower Market
As I expected, there were indeed many varieties of flowers. They even sold little ceramic “shoes” (basically a shoe shaped container) that people can use to grow their flowers in. I also can’t really say I was surprised when I saw cannabis seeds there too.
After checking out this place, we went to a nearby park called Vondelpark.
This place was basically a place for people to just relax or exercise and wasn’t really a touristy place. Either way, for people that enjoy seeing nature (I’m not exactly a HUGE fan myself), this is a good place to go.
After going here, we went to Museumplein to see the place during the day. After chilling out there for a little bit, we went back to the town center for some food before our train back. We left in the early afternoon and by the time we went back to Stuttgart, there was time for a beer before going home. Throughout the whole trip (Brussels and Amsterdam), I only spent around 80 euros with accommodations included, but not train tickets. I ended up borrowing that money from my friend and we both had just enough.
More photos here