We woke up early on Sunday morning and got ready to catch the bus to Amsterdam. We arrived at the metro at 7.40am and while we were waiting for it to arrive Kath looked up at the clock and said ohh is it already 8.40am, I checked my watch and confirmed it still was 7.40. When we arrived at the bus station the bus time said 7.55am. So we were happy we were still over an hour early for our bus. We checked in and wandered through the station to find out stop. When we found it we saw all of these people on the bus that was there. So I asked the bus person if it was the bus to Amsterdam. He said it was and that we should quickly get on. So we threw our bags in the luggage compartment and jumped on the bus. It wasn’t until we reached Belgium that we realised that Western Europe has been on daylight saving time through the winter, and the clocks had gone back forward. (luckily we always arrive to places at least an hour early). Our bus ride went rather quickly. Turned out only to be a 7.5 hour ride instead of an 8 hour one. When we arrived in Amsterdam we had to catch a metro from the bus station to the “centre’, it cost us a fortune. We found our hostel (after a slight wrong “exit’ from the platform) and checked in. The girl on the desk wasn’t all that friendly. We had to climb up 5 sets of really steep stairs to reach our dorm. The room reminds me of an attic. There are 12 single beds against the walls, with a toilet and shower in one corner and a “kitchen” against one wall. We got beds at the far end from everything, so we were quite happy to get a bit of privacy. We decided that we would do the “Red Light District” tour that night so that we could get a feel for the city. We weren’t too impressed with the tour guide he kept saying ohh “ass and titties”… I didn’t really like his attitude too much. It also seemed like he was stoned and Kath said she smelt alcohol on him, so he didn’t leave a good impression with us. The district itself was rather entertaining. There were prostitutes in windows that had “red lights” around them, the windows that had “blue lights” meant that the “woman” in the window wasn’t actually a woman, it was a man. You are not allowed to take photos of the girls in the windows, apparently if you do they will either
a) throw a cup of urine at you
b) smash your camera
c) push you in the canal
d) Take a stiletto to your area (if you are a guy)…
Needless to say noone took any pictures. We saw a kindergarten in the middle of one of the “main prostitute streets”, where young children actually still do go to school. We also saw a Christian Hostel in the same area, which pays the tour company not to advertise that tour on the Free Walking Tour brochure they give to hostels. Pretty interesting since they are on a main street with windows on either side of their hostel. When we walked past some coffee shops you could smell the things some people were smoking… The tour ended up at a bar and the tour guide “bought” us all a free shot, Kath had one, I didn’t. We stayed and had a cider and beer then headed back to the hostel.
On Monday morning we went to do the Free Walking Tour. We saw that one of the guides was the guy from the night before, so we hid and went with the second guide that turned up. This guide was really nice and not stoned.. haha. The tour went for 3.5hours and we went through the inner canal area of Amsterdam. One of the first things our guide told us about was more of a warning then anything – Beware of Cyclists. They are not going to stop for you and will run you down if you are in the way. The saying in Amsterdam is “if you hear a bell, then run like hell”… It is true, they are psycho’s on the road. There are outside public urinals for men here, women were given some too (after a protest in the 80’s where 100’s of women decided to wee on the oldest bridge in Amsterdam, so that the government would give them free toilets as well), however they didn’t last too long as people were using them to commit crimes, and etc so they were all closed down. So the women in Amsterdam have to pay for toilets, while the men get them for free. We saw the widest bridge in Amsterdam and the smallest house. The smallest house it 1.8m wide. In Amsterdam they used to tax people in accordance to the width of their house. Apparently the house gets wider towards the back. I would imagine it would be very hard to move in/out of that house with furniture. The tour guide explained to us why houses appear to “lean” forward, he said it was because people used to put lots of things into their attic, and when they would pull it up by the pulley it would bag into the house all the way up, so they made the roof come out more. Years later they realised that they should have just lengthened the pole that the pulley was on. Some houses in Amsterdam lean to the side, there is no reason for this other then really bad builders! The guide was saying that in most houses they don’t fix the lean, they just make the floors straight again, then leave it to someone else to fix later. Apparently a few times a year they clean out the canals, so that they don’t smell. There is 3 layers, the bottom is a layer of mud, the middle is a layer of bicycles and the last of course all water. The guide said that every year there are over 25 000 bikes that are fished out of the canals. They take them away, repair them and then sell them back to the people of Amsterdam. It is safe to say noone really owns a nice bike here. It is a game that the young boys in Amsterdam like to play, have a few beers then throw bikes into the canal to see who can get the biggest splash.
We finished up the tour down the road from the Anne Frank house. We decided to go and find the Homomonument near the Anne Frank house. We saw the Anne Frank House first, as we walked the wrong way around a building. It is meant to be the original location of the factory that Anne Frank and 7 others lived during WWII. We didn’t go in, as the line was huge. The building is not what we expected, we thought it would be more original. It is quite expensive to go in there and we are very curios where all the money goes.We then found the Homomonument. The monument wasn’t quite as we were expecting, but nonetheless it is good to see the people of Amsterdam are supportive of Gays and Lesbians. The Homomonument was put up in September 1987 in remembrance of the Gay and Lesbian people who were killed under the Nazi regime in WWII. It is not only in remembrance of them, but also to commemorate all of the Gay and Lesbian people who have and are still suffering from governments and people not being accepting of who they are, not only from the war but today as well. (more info on the monument http://www.homomonument.nl/hwhy.htm).
After that we went back to the hostel and had some dinner. That evening we decided to go out for a walk, we found the shop that has a huge clog out the front of it, and you can have your picture taken, so we both did that. When we started to get tired we came back to the hostel.
This morning we headed out to the Heineken Experience. It was so much fun. Everyone got arm bands that had 2 drink tokens in it (which you use at the bar at the end). We were shown the stages of making the beer and had a taste of the water and barley together. It was not very nice. We got to have an interactive ride. It was almost like a simulator ride, but you stood up and it took you through how Heineken was made, there was water that sprayed out and bubbles that came down. It took you on the journey of being bottled as well… It was great. We also made a video of us singing in Dutch on a canal. It is very interesting. (we will be putting it up soon). At the end of the tour we had drinks in the bar then wandered through the souvenir shop.
After that we went and found somewhere to have lunch. We found a Chinese restaurant that had a good deal on at lunch time, so we ate there. The food was really good. We then made our way back to the hostel, we saw a boat that was in the shape of a clog, it was really cool. We are now in the hostel to rest our feet before we go on a canal cruise tonight.
We have put up some pictures in Netherlands.
Love Cindy and Kath xoxo