Amsterdam, Sin City of Europe (Day 1)

I think Amsterdam is highly overrated for the wrong reasons, and highly underrated for the right ones. When thinking of Amsterdam, it often elicits thoughts of marijuana, alcohol, prostitutes, and gambling, all of which are surely as plentiful as they say. What people do not think of is the tens of museums, the beautiful canals, the incredible reliance on bicycles and ease of passage for their users, and unbelievable uniformity of architecture. It is unfortunate when you go to a city of which you have seen pictures and realize that those are all isolated snapshots, reminiscent of college brochures that advertise the best-looking place on campus, but omit all of the unpleasant sights. Such is not the case in Amsterdam, as the whole city overflows with beauty in design, everywhere from residential buildings to historic castles.

Before I get into the city itself, I want to make a point about the train ride there: when I bought my ticket from SNCB EUROPE (not to be confused with SNCF), it did not indicate where my transfers would be (I assumed there would be at least one transfer because the projected train ride was over 6 hours long). When I arrived at the Luxembourg train station at 7:45 AM in preparation for my 8:05 train, the board did not denote my Amsterdam destination, nor was there a train that departed at exactly my time. I did see a train to Brussels at 8:08 AM, and checking my ticket, I saw that I was traveling on the weekend Benelux deal (Belgium-Netherlands-Luxembourg), so it made sense that my likely train would be Brussels. I went to speak with the lady at Informations, and she printed out my itinerary for me…I had 2 transfers!! I did not expect this at all…my second transfer was at Bruxelles-Nord, which thank God I caught, because otherwise my Brussels train would have taken me all the way to Bruxelles-Midi. The transfer was slated to be from Brussels to Rotterdam. After having gotten on the train at Bruxelles-Nord, the board indicated that its destination was Amsterdam–naturally, I revelled at my good fortune and was happy that I didn’t need to make a transfer. Suffice it to say, my train arrived almost an entire hour later than it would have had I transferred at Rotterdam. 😦

The trip back was also less than perfect (but thankfully took exactly 6 hours), because when I asked for my itinerary the second time, the agent told me, “Oop, there seems to be some trouble with your ticket.” I said I had travelled on it before, and he said, “That’s not it. There’s a man who jumped at the station in Maastricht, where you’re going, so I’m not sure you will be able to make your next transfer in 15 minutes.” Jonathan and I both thought, Great, he just had to try to kill himself today. Here’s the moral of the story: know exactly what kind of ticket you’re buying. Make sure that your transfer allows for at least 20 minutes between trains, you take the least possible number of transfers, and you should probably avoid SNCB; I know I will.

Back to the good stuff! Jonathan picked me up at the station and we went to the hotel by taking the train from Amsterdam Centraal. We stayed at Hotel Casa: I didn’t take any pictures of it, but it was very clean and pretty accessible to the rest of the city, so I would recommend it. After I left all of my stuff in the room, we went back to the center.

On our way back from the hotel, we noticed the sheer volume of bicycles parked right outside of the train station: I’ve never seen so many bicycles in my life!! The entire city is like this. Throughout this post, I will share how ridiculous certain aspects of the cycling in the city are.

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Once in the center, we rented bicycles–there is no shortage of places to rent, by the way, so I don’t need to provide the name–and were on our way to the Anne Frank House. We parked here:

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Jonathan warned me that there would be a huge line…I said that I didn’t mind it because I wanted to see the house. He didn’t tell me exactly how bad it was…

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For a reference point, know that the House is around the corner, to the right. The line also continues to the back and around the square; it’s insane! We gave up on our plans and instead decided to go for a bike ride with no particular purpose. These are some of the buildings we encountered on our ride:

We ate at a steakhouse, it was incredibly good. Definitely would suggest this one!

After dinner, we went for a walk and encountered these sights:

We went to a bar and I tried this beer – it was good, highly recommended by the bartender.

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WOAH the picture came out huge. Now you’ll definitely have to try it! After the bar, we went to take pictures by the I am Amsterdam sign:

After this experience, we went back to the hotel to rest up before going out again. We debated whether or not we should take our bikes for the “going out” portion of the night, but by 1 AM we had no options for transportation save for the bikes, so the decision was made for us. Evidently, we are not the only idiots who are going out “drinking and biking.”

We went to a gay club called The Queen’s Head. Though not exactly my cup of tea, it was an interesting experience struggling to learn Dutch music and sing along to it! By the way, here’s a video of how active Amsterdam was at one in the morning!