Thursday, March 12, 2009

I AMsterdam

I'm not sure I know how to talk about Amsterdam without getting myself in trouble, so I believe I'll stick to the basics. We took a bus to Amsterdam from the University on a Thursday evening at 5:30. We arrived in Amsterdam the following Friday morning at 9ish a.m. Needless to say it was a long bus ride, but we got to take a ferry from England to France. We took two charter buses filled with students from all over Swansea University, so not just Americans this time. Once checked into the hostel, we were all set free to do as we pleased in Amsterdam. We had the opportunity to choose our roommates for the hostel. So, the crew that I most generally travel/hang-out with here all roomed together. That'd be Nate, Katie, Jeph and myself. To start, everyone was tired and hungry, so just about everyone set out for breakfast. Beyond breakfast, there was no time to rest, so we ventured into the city. Amsterdam is a very artsy city and fairly expensive as well. We visited the Anne Frank museum, the Van Gogh museum (and yes I saw Starry Night!), the Red Light District, Hard Rock Cafe, numerous windmills and outside markets. The absolute best way to travel in Amsterdam and I highly recommend, is by bicycle. The most noteworthy thing about Amsterdam was that it seems to be the bicycle capital of the world. I've never ever seen so many bikes in my life. Cars and pedestrians alike all give way to bikes. Bicycles have their own street lanes, traffic lights, road ways. It is unreal! It is without a doubt the best way to get around the city though. It seemed very complicated to navigate the intense roadways, traffic, and people on a bicycle, but it becomes very natural after a while. I got to experience and see so much more of the city by bicycle. The only downside is the high bicycle theft rate. It is very important to lock up your bike every time you stop, which became somewhat of a nuisance. The Anne Frank museum, though I was skeptical about visiting, especially with the high entrance fee, was jaw dropping. The whole museum/house was very well designed and interesting. The Van Gogh museum offered almost every one of Van Gogh's most important works of art. It was a real treat to see them in person. The red light district was exactly as I had imagined it would be from the movies. It isn't quite as 'shady' as you might expect. During the day, parents and children alike all walk through the district. Prostitutes parade around the window rooms dressed in lingerie at all hours of the day and it is quite the popular tourist spot. At night is when the district really shines however! I learned that you must always stay cautious in a city like Amsterdam. People offered drugs on the corners of streets and friends of mine had close encounters with pick-pockets. By all means, don't misunderstand me, I loved Amsterdam, you just have to use caution. Although I haven't been to Venice yet, Amsterdam seems to resemble the same type of set up. The main centre of town is surrounded by water-ways splitting up the city into sections like a stadium. The food in Amsterdam was also a treat. They had fantastic pastries such as doughnuts and pancakes (which is more like an American crepe). On the way home we stopped in Belgium at a small diner where I had the most amazing Belgium waffle's in the world and at a Belgium chocolate shop. I fully understand why they are known for their chocolates and waffles. mmmmmmmm I enjoyed them for days after the trip was over!

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