The GoGlobal Blog

Amsterdam

Amsterdam

There could not be a more appropriate name for this post. This entry is very obviously named in order to follow suit with everything in the captivating city. During out stay, it did not take us long to discover the odd sense of humor and original personalities of the Dutch people.

But before meeting too many of these colorful characters, actually getting to the city was quite a bit of work. Seeing as this is my first time  living in Europe (I say this in lofty hopes that there could be future prospects), I want to see every part of the continent that I am able. Obviously, this requires quite a bit of necessary traveling and that fact requires that I become accustomed to everything airport associated – airport food, airport bathrooms, and irritating airport security regulations. But no matter how many times I arrive or depart at an airport, I have a small feeling in the pit of my stomach that something will go wrong. I fear I will look too sketchy to make it through security. I worry the airline will send my luggage to Tunisia instead of my desired destination. Regardless, I don’t put my full faith in the airport til I saunter out of their sliding doors and into whatever new place I travel to that weekend. Never before have I been bested by the airports of Europe. However, my roommate was not so lucky this past weekend. The airline messed up her original ticket and forced her to rebook. As a result, we didn’t make it to our original designated flight time. Luckily, our flight was delayed 2 hours. Unluckily, this meant we had two more hours to kill in the airport and 2 less hours to spend on Thursday night in Amsterdam. However, given the current circumstance, everything really did work out for the best.

When we got into Amsterdam at 1:00 am, we didn’t have many options of activities. As we arrived at our hotel, we experienced our first strange example of the unique Dutch sense of humor. Upon exiting the cab, a man shouted “4 girls!”. Why yes, hello to you too extremely obvious man who is both able to count and distinguish gender. Not five minutes of walking later and an additional “4 girls!” exclamation occurred. We brushed both off and headed into our hotel.

Having read all of the reviews stating that Amsterdam hostels are filled with either vermin or drug addicts, we opted for the cheapest hotel we could find for the weekend. A double room for four people was a tad cramped but served its purpose appropriately enough. However, we were thrown off by a couple of things. In our new place of dwelling, the first thing to get used to were the stairs. Apparently, the Dutch are known for extremely narrow steps. We almost broke our necks everytime we went up and down to the concierge. Also, we were a little more than perplexed by the bathroom situation. Our bathroom was the one thing in the city that was extremely inappropriately named. They should’ve called it the showerroom, as in the whole room was a shower which just happened to have a toilet and sink. This spacial predicament resulted in wet feet and a plethora of damp toiletries throughout the weekend.

The next day, we ventured beyond our unusual lodgings and took advantage of a free tour of the city. We met in Damark Square which holds a few historic landmarks including Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum, the Royal Palace, and New Church (different from Old Church which we saw later). See, I wasn’t joking, the Dutch really are into obviously naming things. Perhaps that is why we received shouts from the strange men from the night before; had they just hoped to obviously define new visitors in their city?

The tour itself was amazing. Despite the crazy reputation Amsterdam may have acquired, it is an utterly gorgeous city filled with amazing history. Because its founders literally built a dam across the River Amstel (again with the obvious naming!), the entire town is on water. This makes for gorgeous bridges and canals at every turn. The buildings were reminiscent of those I had seen in Prague but with a little cuter character. From the mod Jewish district (designed by crazy art students in the 1960s) to the Chinese Districts (meaning no Italian pasta for me for the weekend), each area we visited had more adorable personality than the next.

Considering myself somewhat of a history buff, I loved seeing the ports and museums for the Dutch West India Trading Company ,the hiding house of Helen Keller during WWII (complete with view of the church steeple she mentions in her diary), and the pub where Rembrandt crafted some of his most famous paintings. However, the tour didn’t only take us to dry historical sites. Right after gazing at Old Church, we turned to our left to see the notorious Red Light District with some of its famous ladies already at work in their windows. To end the tour, my inner Wisconsinite came out at one of the most famous Amsterdam cheese shops. It was the perfect tour and the perfect day.

As you’ve somewhat seen, the Dutch proved to be very interesting people. At risk of offense, I couldn’t help but to somewhat look at them as children during my time there. Firstly, their sense of humor is very childish. Our tourguide (a student named Nauschka) warned us at the beginning of the walk that many passerbys of tour groups like to shout “She’s lying!”. She counteracts this by teaching her groups to yell back “We know!” Also, a big aspect of culture in Holland is the usage of bicycles. In Amsterdam, they have difficulties maintaining easy passage through canals because the inahbitants of the city find it hilarious to throw bicycles in the river (25,000 per year!). When they’re not tossing the bikes in the river, people ride them (and ride them INSANELY) through town. They have a saying in Amsterdam to warn tourists – “if you hear the bell, you run like hell”. I found this to be extremely true and pondered if my obituary would humiliatingly say “Laura Osterndorf – death by bike in Amsterdam”. However, I found the most humorous thing about the Dutch to be their childish ignorance of any other culture. Usually I feel as though I must wear a sign on my forehead with Uncle Sam pointing at all the Europeans. However, in Holland, I was asked if I was from the UK more than several times. Having a bit of fun with the natives, we told a group that we were from Spain. We were met with barely any skepticism and only one person bothered to point out the obvious fact that I look nothing like any Spaniard who’s ever lived. However, the same person continued the conversation by telling us how mad they were that we (the Spanish) beat them in the World Cup. I won’t lie, it was nice to not be a totally ignorant American for the weekend.

Finally, there were a few main positives that stuck out this weekend in non-traditional ways. Nostalgically, I was reunited with my foreign exchange German friend Jan from high school; it seems crazy that it took 3 years and a different continent to bring us back together. Second, this weekend was a nice change of pace from a food standpoint. Because Amsterdam is such a touristy area, they cater to all ethnicities and desires. Italian food is big everywhere in Europe (not helpful to Rome natives like us who want to experience new food everywhere). In Amsterdam, I oddly experienced Mexican, Asian, and Bavarian food, all proving to be refreshing and delicious. Finally, the last and coolest memory I take back is going to the Trance Energy concert in Jaarbeurs Utrecht, a different city of Holland which is right outside of Amsterdam. The concert featured some of the biggest House DJs in the world. I had one of the best times in my life dancing the night away. Also, cultural fun fact: in Europe, they call concerts (as Americans known them) “parties”. To them, concerts are only orchestral events. What will these crazy Europeans think of next?

After dethawing from the cold of Amsterdam, it was nice to arrive back in the 60 degree weather of Rome and hear “ciaos” all around us instead of the hacking Dutch lanaguage we experienced all weekend. I can only hope the beautiful weather and beautiful language will stick around for Florence this next weekend!

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