A bus, a train to Rome, a train to the airport, a flight, another train. After leaving my apartment at 1:15 pm Thursday, I finally found myself in Amsterdam at midnight. It wasn’t cheap, it wasn’t easy. But as a key destination of my travels, I did what I had to do, and boy, was it worth it.
With my bag packed on my back, I strolled by canals lit up by street lights and surrounded by the row homes I’ve seen in so many pictures. All of a sudden, we turn a corner. Hoards of people, clouds of smoke, red lights mounted to buildings. So, it’s called the Red Light District for a reason. Do I regret staying in a hostel in the Red Light District? Yes, probably. But it provided for an “authentic” experience. Besides sleeping here, I didn’t find myself spending free time in this neighborhood. It was depressing; walking along the streets seeing women, young and old, dancing in windows in promiscuous outfits, calling to by-passers to come inside and spend time with them. Some forced against their will, others doing what they need to do to send money back to family in their home countries. Prostitution may be the oldest profession in the world, but it made me realize how lucky I am to be educated and on my way to a 9-5 job. Spoiler alert: there is so much more to this city than the famous Red Light District.
Our first full-day we found ourselves doing touristy things. The I Amsterdam sign, the Fault in Our Stars bench, a market with delicious Dutch treats, a canal tour. This is the cutest city to walk miles in. Despite the clouds and rain… the architecture, canals, boats, bridges, bikes, flowers, and all the other small, perfect details of this beautiful city made walking all over well-worth it. Cyclists buzzed around everywhere we went – watch out for the bike lanes, they’ll mow you down. There are more bikes in Amsterdam than there are people, and they (not sure whose job this is…) pull between 12-15,000 bikes out of the canals every year. Who is pushing these bikes into the water?!?!
Amsterdam was at the top of my list for places I needed to visit. One of the main reasons was to visit a friend. For those of you who do not know Joyce, she is the sweetest and kindest girl. I was so lucky to have this incredible person brought into my life through pure chance. Randomly assigned to be my roommate last semester, Joyce was studying abroad in Pittsburgh, but she calls the Netherlands home. After living with her for nearly 4 months, I wanted to visit her country more than ever. Hearing about her culture, seeing pictures, eating delicious Dutch treats: I knew this place was meant for me. Luckily, I was able to spend the whole weekend with her and saw so much of the city outside of the touristy things. Thank you, Joyce! Next time I come to the Netherlands, I’m coming to see your city, too.
Saturday morning, Joyce and I went for breakfast at the trendiest brunch place I’ve ever been: Coffee & Coconuts. Away from touristy neighborhoods and filled with locals, I would 100% recommend making the trip here if you find yourself in Amsterdam. Delicious and healthy food, comfy couches, and a clean, modern environment. This was one of my favorite parts of the weekend.
After a hearty meal, the rain began. So for a suitable, rainy day, we went to the Van Gogh museum. Van Gogh’s art is as beautiful as it is intense. As I traveled through his life’s work floor by floor, I recognized the development of his skills as an artist. He has such a unique style, and not only from other artists. He has various techniques that look so different, some pieces as if it was another artist’s work.
As I strolled through the streets of Jordaan on our way to a huge, open-indoor market for dinner, I really had the chance to take in the aesthetics of this beautiful, colorful city. I could wander along the cobblestoned canals all day. Even though every block looked exactly the same to me, this didn’t prevent me from finding charm in every new alley I strolled down. And just when I thought they couldn’t be more beautiful, seeing the water lit up at night from the street lights made the view even more mesmerizing.
The culture, the view, the bikes, the FOOD. Amsterdam was amazing. The Netherlands is not a country I will check off my list and say, “once and done.” Without seeing Dutch wooden clogs, windmills, or fields of tulips, I can’t quite say I have seen it all, but one day I will.
Please drool over the delicacies I indulged in this weekend:
AmsterDAM, I miss you already. Thanks for an amazing weekend.
Ciao for now!