“Amster Amster DAM DAM DAM”

From Brussels I rode what was supposed to be about three hours of trains.  Unfortunately I managed to miss the direct train by taking too long at the European Parliament, which only meant that I would have to transfer in Antwerp.  I was lulled into a deep slumber by the rocking train, and awoke as the only soul yet aboard.  I was glad to see the train terminated in Antwerp, but annoyed that I missed my connecting train.  My time in Japan trained me to wake up just before my stop, so I don’t really know what happened.  Anyway, after waiting an hour and transferring in Rotterdam, I was at last in Amsterdam.

I was really excited not only to be in this city, but also to see the REAL Holland.  I’m of Dutch descent and grew up in the Dutch settled west Michigan area, so to see some of the similarities and differences intrigued me.  I handpicked the Netherlands as my last European stop because I’ve long wanted to come here and also because I knew it would make for a grand sendoff.

My first night there was pretty tame, I just checked into my retrofitted hostel and relaxed.  I expected to see the Mexican pair somewhere, but was surprised to find them checking in some time after me.  They blamed their tardy arrival on a lingering hangover, which they blamed on a Kiwi at the last hostel.  You call this is a hostel…?
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Once we were all settled in, the three of us ventured out to get some food.  I had already eaten, and also lacked their deep pockets, so I just tagged along.  They were good people and I found their heavy Mexican accents amusing.  I preyed on their scraps like a vulture before we returned to the hostel.  I spent the remainder of my night enjoying the reliable internet and doing some major catching up on my blog.  The downside of being so on the move is the constant battle to avoid getting behind.  (I’m currently writing this on an overnight bus in Argentina….uugh)

The next day I awoke at my leisure and polished off another update before setting out.  In order to save some money and make the most of the new scenery, I decided to walk into town.  What I didn’t realize the night before was just how far from the center of town I was.  As I strolled along what was supposed to Holland, I was instead surprised to find myself somewhere very Muslim.  The walk took a lengthy two hours, but I was overjoyed to find an ollieballin stand to refuel myself at.  I liked ours at home at tad better though, their powdered sugar doesn’t quite cut it.
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I managed to spend so much time walking into town that the museums were all closing as I arrived.  At this I thought it stupid to walk any more, so I caved and bought a two day pass for the buses and trams.  The sunlight was starting to fade, so I returned back to the hostel to see if I could find some evening companions.  It was after all Halloween night, so I didn’t want to just sit around and then go to sleep.

The lack of common space complicated meeting people, but I had two Russian roommates who seemed keen on checking out the nightlife.  I happily rode the bus back to civilization and together we got some cheap burgers, a drink, and took a stroll through the infamous red light district.  I was surprised to find actual red lights above each of the outfits, and how casually people were ‘window shopping’.
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The next morning I checked out of my soulless hostel and went into town.  One of my Couchsurfing guests in Japan had offered to host me at his suburban home in Amstelveen, just a bit south of town.  This was the first time one of my hosting experiences had come around full circle, and I was definitely excited to spend some time with a local.

Once I dropped off my things, we headed back into town to do a lot of the walking around and tourism I had neglected the day before.  I was on a mission to eat a few different Dutch foods, and we started my culinary quest with some half-cooked herrings.
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He showed me a couple of the larger gathering spaces around town, the flower market, and also a cheese shop where we could sample a number of local varieties without dropping a dime.  Here is Dam Square, which has the former residence of the royal family.  They don’t really live in Amsterdam anymore, this is only used for special occasions.  An interesting thing I learned is that absolutely none of their governing bodies are in Amsterdam, and yet it is still considered the capitol.
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We ended out night with a visit to the theater, where we watched some movie I hadn’t heard of.  At the time of writing, I can’t remember the plot, or even the title, but I do recall being satisfied with how the different plotlines all came together at the end.  Michael is really into watching and making films, and his critical eye gave it an 8/10.  We went back home after that and I passed right out.

That next morning I had plans to leave Amsterdam to spend the weekend with some local friends of my aunt, and I was being picked up right outside his house.  I said goodbye to Michael, though I would be seeing him again on my second pass through this city.  Though relaxed, I had really managed to enjoy my first couple nights in this country. 

Another new thing that I simply have to share with you are stroopwafels.  I can’t believe I had been in the dark for so long on these…
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