Wednesday, November 4, 2009

What happens in Amsterdam...

I survived! And have a tshirt to prove it...

So I’ve actually been writing this entry out in segments in MS word because this week has been too crazy to sit down and just write one solid post. Ok here we go.

Amsterdam. Where to begin?

I’ll just kind of split up the post into random subheadings, as I attempt to organize all my memories/opinions/stories. I don’t want this to be a step by step account of the weekend, since obviously what happens in Amsterdam stays in Amsterdam. BUT I think a good chunk of the trip is blog worthy.

The City

Amsterdam could be my favorite city that I have ever visited. Top 3 for sure (probably with Munich and Hong Kong?). It might be that I’m still feeling the excitement from the trip, but I honestly loved it. Every person I met was friendly, it was easy to get around, the architecture was gorgeous, the food was out of this world, and it had the right balance of history and fun. I’ve been to a lot of cool places in the past year, but the vibe I felt there hit closest to my personality.

So the layout of the city was awesome. I knew that Amsterdam had canals running throughout, but I had NO idea just how many there would be. You could hardly walk down a street without seeing water somewhere. Although we never got the chance to do an actual canal boat tour, we did plenty of walking and I now probably have 200 pictures of canals alone. Unlike Venice, the city didn’t smell from the water either. Appartently there are locks down the Amstel River (main canal) that flush the water out periodically so it down’t get the chance to rot.

BIKES! If you don’t ride a bike in Amsterdam, you are not cool. Period. Every street in the city had a bike lane, with special bike traffic lights and all. As a pedestrian, this took some getting used to, and I’ll have to be honest in saying that I came pretty close to getting run over a time or two…or ten. Oops. None of the bikes were in particularly awesome condition, but so many were painted in such a groovy way (bright colors, flowers, etc etc). Because so many people in the city have bikes, there is some insane statistic about how many are stolen a year (50,000+)…but it rounded out to being that a bike was stolen once every ten minutes. There’s even a whole underground bike stealing world where you can put in special orders for a bike, and someone will go and get it for you. The police don’t do much about it because if the criminals weren’t stealing bikes then they’d be stealing cars, merchandise from stores, things from peoples’ homes, etc.

Basically a common theme that I found was that Amsterdam was a big fan of supporting the lesser of two evils. If people don’t smoke marijuana legally, then they will pursue it (and harder drugs) in an illegal way. If prostitution is not displayed in store windows, then an underground world of kidnap, rape, pimps, and exploitation would still exist. If guys weren’t stealing bikes, then they’d be stealing items of much greater value.

I’m currently writing my final philosophy paper on ethics, and this whole system just blew my mind.

If it wasn’t so touristy, I would definitely consider living some part of my life there. Who knows, nothing is ever out of the question.

Travel Companions

Patrick: American guy in my Immunology class here. Goes to Davidson in North Carolina. Halloween weekend in Amsterdam was his idea, so props to him for making it happen!

Anna: Sweden! She’s popped up quite a few times in this blog already so I guess she doesn’t need much more of an intro

Lindsay: Patrick’s swimming friend from the States. Graduated a few years back and is now doing the ultimate Eurotrip before figuring out what it is that she’s going to do with her life. Very cool

Basically, we were a great group of people to travel together. We all were up for anything, regardless of how tired we were/rainy it was. We each respected what the others wanted to do or not do…which is an important group dynamic for going somewhere like Amsterdam… to each his own :)

The Hostel

**First off, I’m so glad Bill went out his crazy Eurotrip this past summer because it’s definitely making a lot of my travels muchhhh easier.**

So as per recommendation, we booked 4 beds in a 12 bed dorm room in the Bulldog Hotel and Coffeeshop. This place was hands down one of the best hotels I’ve ever stayed in. (I guess it’s been rated top 5 in the world before as well?) I was skeptical of how a hotel in one of the chillest cities would be run, but the place was very professional, friendly, organized, laid back, and secure. The bottom floor had a loungebar fully stocked with a Wii, board games, computers, couches, and tables to mingle/eat/drink/smoke/whatever floats your boat. Next door to the hotel was a psychedelic coffee shop (where I actually only got a real coffee haha), and down the street were extensions of the same idea. The ladies at the reception were sassy and stoned (the best kind of ladies), but were more than willing to help us with anything we needed. There was also a free breakfast every morning that was out of this world for a complimentary meal. The catch was that you had to actually wake up on time (before 10am) to get a piece of that action (I made it down every day, however I did go back up for a nap after each time). Oh yes, and the beds were clutch. Very clean, comfortable, and private (even in a room with 11 other people)

Anyways, that’s about it for the hostel. If you ever find yourself in Amsterdam, I highly recommend it (no pun intended).

Red Light District

Oof, now this is a topic. I spent most of the weekend in this neighborhood actually. Noooo, not to stare at the ladies shakin their booties in the window… but because our hostel was actually conveniently located right in it. I am very conflicted about how I feel about this area. Wrong to exploit women, duh, yes. But I cannot say that I am innocent in that I didn’t enjoy walking around it as a tourist.

One of the craziest things about the area was day vs. night. At night the windows are full of toned, busty, young, porn star-ish looking girls wearing skimpy little numbers to attract as much business as possible. In the daytime however, it was a whoooole different story. In the day, the windows were full of (much much )bigger, (much much) older, (much much) less put together ladies wearing ridiculous underwear that looked like it’d been found in a dumpster. Sorry if that’s a rude description, but if you’ve been there you know it’s a fact.

From what we learned however, the red light district is actually in the process of being shut down. The government is gradually buying out all of the windows and replacing them with art and fashion displays. I can’t say I don’t disagree with this policy, however many people we talked to did make it a point that if the business going down in the red light district isn’t out in the open, it is still going to happen in a much shadier and probably dangerous way.


a-m-a-z-i-n-g. Although Amsterdam isn’t known for any particular food (cheese? French fries? Anything that satisfies the munchies?), the variety and quality of food in that city was amazing. There was definitely an eclectic mix to choose from as well: middle eastern, Italian, Chinese, Brazilian, American, etc etc etc. The first night we searched up and down to find an Authentic Dutch meal, however we settled for Indonesian (close enough). The menu was complicated, but I ended up ordering a Tahoe Telor (omelette filled with tofu, bean sprouts, cabbage and topped with soy sauce) and this crazy salad of magoes, papayas, sweet potato (RAW), and cucumber.

It was fabulous to say the least. I cleaned the plate and felt full but not disgusting cause most of it was pretty light. Linsday and I split a pitcher of Dommelsch beer which we had no problem finishing (even though the waitress seriously judged us for ordering it…meh). It was good, tasty yet drinkable.

The second night we didn’t eat quite so glamorously. There was a biiiig Halloween pub crawl, and our mission was more to get something in our stomach before heading out. We settled for a pretty good (yet wayyyy overpriced) falafel joint, and it did the job. No pic, no point.

The third night we went to the greatest food court on the planet. Our walking tour had stopped by it for a break earlier in the weekend, however none of us were hungry or felt like spending

money at the time. Lindsay and I split a shrimp and veggie pizza and a roasted veggie mish mosh (eggplant, sweet potato, olives, red peppers, tomatoes, etc). SOOOOOOOO GOOD. Boston needs a “La Place” food court immediately.

The rest of our meals there were from the free breakfast at the hostel. We would load up on a heart breakfast, then shove extra sandwiches and apples in our bags for later. Hey, when you’re traveling on a budget, you make the most of what’s provided for you. :)


If you ever go to Europe, find out where the free newEurope tours are. They are informative, funny, and (as I said) FREE…with tips accepted of course. On Saturday, we decided to take part in a 3 hour walking tour of the city to get our bearings and check a lot of the more touristy stuff off our list of things to do. I thought it would be kind of lame, as I usually do with guided grou

p things, however I really enjoyed this. Our tourguide, Cameron, was animated and interactive. He had hilarious and quirky stories about a lot of the ins and outs of how Amsterdam works (especially interesting in the Red Light District and around the mushroom stores and coffeeshops). He also made the more historical aspects very fun. We roamed around the canals, markets, gardens, museums, and ended at the Anne Frank House.

The next day we did a 2 hour bike tour of the outer skirts of the city. We were apprehensive because we had heard that the weather would not be ideal, but we ended up decided that whatever…When in Amsterdam…(plus we’re from Belfast, a little rain never hurt anyone). Anyways, a little rain turned into a LOT of rain minutes after the biking adventure began. At first it was okay and only drizzled, but by about halfway through we were soaked. I was wearing 4 layers (cami, shirt, sweatshirt, and jacket) and I was soaked to the bone. My jeans were practical my second skin, and I was shaking from the cold by the end. Despite the miserable conditions, the tour was still really fun! We went outside of the city center to the museum area where we saw the Van Gogh Museum (although unfortunately didn’t go in :( ) and the infamous "I Amsterdam" sign. The Heineken Brewery, the harbor, and this bridge that a bunch of ladies peed on (ask me for more details, this is a blog, not a history lesson) were also stops on the trip. The tourguide managed to keep our spirits up, and seeing that we were freezing he squeezed a pitstop at a local brewery located in an original dutch windmill into the trip. I had some beer that I could never remember again, as the name was basically a bunch of consonants strung together which still sounded nothing like how I tried to pronounce it. But it did taste a lot like Hennpin, and it warmed me right up for the last leg of the trip.


I know what you’re all thinking, how can Casey seriously have an entry THIS LONG about Amsterdam and never talk in depth about the coffeeshops. Well here we go. PS, this is all hearsay from my tourguide…of course.

SO. Fun fact: the distribution, selling, and buying of marijuana in Amsterdam is still illegal. Decriminalized for having it on hand (wooo Massachusetts and Amsterdam are like the same place!...not), but the whole business itself is still pretty much underground (well… as underground as the police in Amsterdam care for it to be..which isn’t a lot). So yes, that is why the places are called coffeeshops. It is also illegal for the front of the store to advertise that it is selling pot, so you won’t see any cannibus leaves in the window (although the bob Marley flags, tie dye, bright colors, and cute names make it all pretty obvious). Anyways, if you really only want a coffee, you better go to a coffeehouse and not a coffeeshop (although most shops have coffee as well). So yes, in these places, there is a menu, like any other café. However the menu has a list of herb from all over the world with descriptions of how strong it is/what the affect will feel like. The “baristas” at these places are also very well informed, and will be more than happy to help a customer with any questions/concerns they may have. In addition to the actual smokable stuff, the also have any baked good you can imagine…tea…lollipops…you name it. What clever people.

So yes, we visited some of the more famous joints (ha I crack myself up). De Dampkring is known as being the most famous and many a celebrity has frequented the place. It is not allowed to advertise directly, however the place did give out free souveneir posters (I now have 5, and it made an appearance in Oceans 12…I’ll be renting that movie soon.).


How did I almost forget about the holiday that this trip was centered around. Halloween baby! I had heard that no one in Amsterdam really recognized it as a Holiday or dressed up (this is true.), so I chose to be a hippie for my costume (so I would potentially fit in whether people dress up or not). Anna had a matching hippie costume, Patrick was a vampire, and Lindsay went the budget route with wearing a headband with spiders. Our tour earlier in the day had told us about a big pub crawl going on that night for the holiday, so we decided that would be our best bet. It was insane. At the meeting point for the pub crawl, we bumped into a few other Americans, one of which was a fellow NORTHEASTERN GIRL! Jessica Manning. We have 11 friends in common on facebook. Small world. The others in the group were from other places in the States (Duke, Hahavahd, Columbia, Toronto (yes I know that’s not in the states..but close enough)). Our group of kids (minus Anna, she found better things to do hehe) had a great time. The crawl included admission to 6 different clubs, free drinks at each, and a tshirt (yessssss). Because it was a Halloween pub crawl, this was probably where the greatest concentration of people actually dressed up in the city was located also. It was wild. We ended the night chilling back at the Bulldog lounge til ehhhh 4am or so (that was the last time I saw a clock at least). Definitely nothing like any of my past conventional Halloweens, but amazing nonetheless.

Well that’s all for Amsterdam. There is tons more to say, but I’m exhausting this entry and I’ve got crazy papers to do

So people, does Utilitarianism conflict with the demands of justice?

Please answer that for me in 4000 words. Ready, Go.

Highlights of today

  • 8 hours in the library
  • I lost my umbrella (usually not a blog worthy event, but when you live in Northern Ireland that’s a pretty big deal
  • Lots of grocery shopping
  • Very sore from toning class at gym yesterday
  • Made CURRY for dinner (with cauliflower, red and yellow peppers, chickpeas, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, celery, zucchini, red onion, carrots, and tofu.) Deeelicious.
  • Got a postcard from Marie todayyyyyyyyyyyyy! STAY PRETTY AND DRINK REAL BEER. heck yes :)
  • I love it here, but miss home more everyday. Not in a sad way, but in an “I’ll appreciate living a normal life again” kind of way


No comments:

Post a Comment