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There Are More Bikes Than People in Amsterdam

There Are More Bikes Than People in Amsterdam

Last weekend, I had the amazing privilege to spend Valentine’s Day weekend with some of the most amazing friends I have met here in another amazing city– Amsterdam. This was my first time in the Netherlands and while there is a lot of hype surrounding Amsterdam, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. However, any expectations I may have held were completely blow away by the beautiful city. Our group landed in Amsterdam around 7:30pm, navigated the crazy airport (well not that crazy but it was the first reminder that I wasn’t in an English speaking country anymore as all of the signs were written in Dutch), managed to figure out the bus system so we only had to pay 5 Euro for a bus ride instead of a 70 Euro cab ride, and finally walked to our hostel in the dark with our walk being lit by streetlights that cast shadows on the amazing architecture that the city has. Our first night in Amsterdam was our friend Colin’s birthday (the reason for the trip in the first place) so we went to a nice restaurant called “Bazar” where we stuffed ourselves with delicious middle eastern cuisine. We then went out to the city center and hopped around a few different bars until we realized that it was 2 am and we had to be up early the next morning.


Friday was most likely my favorite day in Amsterdam. We woke up, ate breakfast (which consisted of a Belgium waffle smothered in chocolate) and headed off to the van Gogh Museum. Going in, I had basically zero knowledge of van Gogh apart from knowing 3 of his paintings and the fact that he cut off his ear. However, the museum was INCREDIBLE, not only was I able to see most of his works, but I also felt like I knew him as an artist. The museum went in chronological order of his life so you were able to see his paintings develop and towards the end there was a large exhibit of the letters between him and his brother. Theo, his brother, helped finance Vincent (yes I am on a first name basis with van Gogh because I have learned so much) and was also the one who paid for his stay when he was in a mental hospital towards the end of his life. It was sad to watch the progression of Vincent’s talent and passion of his work never fade but his mental health deteriorate which eventually caused his suicide. Some amazing note about van Gogh was that in the final months of his life he painted 75 paintings in just 70 days (how????) and it was also his sister-in-law (Theo’s wife) that pushed for the recognition of van Gogh’s artwork. Theo died six months after Vincent did, so it was his wife, Johanna, that pushed for Vincent’s work to be recognized.

mean muggin outside van Gough

After van Gogh we spent the day wondering around the city where we took cheesy pictures of the I AMsterdam sign, walked uptown and gazed at the beautiful architecture and the canals that run through the city. We spent the night out in the city center again at a giant club where we danced until our feet hurt and finally made our way back to the hostel after stopping for a late night burger. The next morning we tried to wake up early again and went to the Heineken Experience. In general what was most impressive wasn’t the beer or how it is brewed, but the marketing aspect of most of the tour. There was games, pictures, and commercials that made you crave a Heineken (even if you never had one before).


After Heineken our group broke up and my friend Kristen and I were on a mission– find and ride bikes. Our friends were a bit hesitant to rent bikes with us for obvious reasons, biking in Amsterdam is on a whole new level. The bikers ride ridiculously fast, weave in and out of traffic, and have their own lane right by the street. However, Kristen and I figured we had what it takes to ride with the best (not really but we wouldn’t die) but while we may have had the determination to ride the bikes, we did not have anything it took to rent them. Our first stop was a bike shop that the receptionist at our hostel recommended but when we arrived they wanted a copy of a credit card to have on record, and both Kristen and I only had debit cards. Instead, he said, we could leave our ID and 50 Euro, but if we were not back in exactly 3 hours we wouldn’t get our money back. The issue with that plan (apart from obvious reasons) was that we wanted to return our bikes at the downtown location which was where we were meeting our friends later, and we didn’t think we would have time to ride there and back in 3 hours. So we went to a different bike shop where the guy not only wanted 50 Euro, but he also wanted our passports to hold onto while we rode the bikes– a big no no. So at last, we gave up and walked to the other part of the city. We did get to see more of the beautiful city as well as a protest (all on bikes of course) for climate change and getting rid of fossil fuels.


We met our friends at a World War 2 monument that was in the heart of the city. After dinner we did a quick walk through the red light district– don’t worry it was at 7pm and there was a group of 9 of us– but I couldn’t go to Amsterdam and not have at least taken a peak at the infamous area. After a little bit of wandering and shopping, we headed back to our hostel and spent the night laughing and playing cards against humanity since we had to be up at  6:30 for our flight the next day.

After arriving back in Cork, and taking a 3 hour nap, I began to mentally prepare myself for the week ahead– RAG week. RAG week (which stands for Raise and Give) is a week long event at UCC where there are new things going on every day to raise money for a large number of different charity organizations. While that seems fun and easy enough, there is one thing you must understand– the students go crazy. People who do not even attend UCC come for the week to take place in all of the crazy events. The bars on campus open every day at 12:30 and all of my classes for government were cancelled, with the excuse that it was “reading week”. I will be sure to go in depth about everything that has been going on and will continue during RAG week, but for now, I must nap and prepare myself for what continues to lie ahead.

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