10 hours sitting on a coach from London Victoria to Duivendrecht (Netherlands) was probably not the most ideal way to start this European crash-course adventure I was about to begin but it definitely was an experience and at only £15 one way you couldn’t really go wrong.
The price starts to make sense when it’s 3am and you have some man speaking a different language right in your ear to his friends whilst you’re trying to sleep, and when you rock up at Duivendrecht Rail station at 5am only to find out that trains don’t start running to Amsterdam Centraal until 7.30am (I assume this is only on Sundays??) but it’s all worth it when you get to see the sunrise through the station window, get slightly harassed by a friendly but very persistent man who says your eyes are beautiful at 6am and save those precious pennies.
Amsterdam looked so pretty under the glittering light of the sun, and at only 8am in the morning we had the whole day to kill. We couldn’t check in to our hostel until 2pm so we hit up Pancakes Amsterdam, a great little place opposite the station and then found our friends hotel for a nap. After a couple of hours sleep, and feeling rough as hell we decided to embark on a 2 hour free walking tour with 360 Amsterdam (technically not free-free, they work on tips). To be brutally honest it wasn’t as good as I hoped, but it was educational and I did get to see the smallest house in Amsterdam and a legit Banksy which I probably wouldn’t have seen otherwise. After some dinner, and checking into our very lovely hostel (Aivengo Hostel) we decided it would be wholly appropriate to visit the Sex Museum. At only €4 a ticket I highly recommend it! It was so amusing, but beware it is extremely graphic and so, so weird. Probably not for the faint-hearted! Well worth every penny in my opinion. We spent the rest of the night wondering around the Red Light District. It was so strange, I’ve never seen anything quite like it. Women standing in shop windows, half naked, looking extremely bored either on their phones or trying to catch your eye to get some business, with some random men standing idly by watching from afar. It’s quite uncomfortable really.
A Red Light District and “Coffee” shops aren’t the only thing Amsterdam has to offer which a lot of people seem to forget or generally don’t know. Today, the start of a new day, was our day to explore the other side of Amsterdam. To begin with… Anne Frank’s House. It was amazing. It was such an incredible experience to be there, to see everything I’ve been taught about, years of history lessons all put into perspective and laid out right in front of me. It was terribly emotional, just seeing the conditions they were forced to live in for 2 years just because of their race. It’s shocking how low humanity stoops at times. After the sadness of the morning, it was time to uplift our spirits with some cheese and what other place is better than the Cheese Museum? I don’t know how far I consider this to actually be a museum, more a room with some information laid out on the walls and some cheese making tools around. But the most amazing thing this place has to offer is not only the section where you can dress up like a cheese farmer and take some embarrassing pictures but the shop above with all the samples of cheese your brain just can’t comprehend to imagine. It was amazing. The cheese was amazing. So good. To continue this amazing day, as the weather was just gorgeous and we’d been seeing groups of guys sailing around on boats in the canals drinking and chilling we decided to rent a paddle boat (the cheaper yet under-rated alternative). If you go to Amsterdam, you have to rent a paddle boat! It was the best hour I think I’ve ever had. It’s awfully thrilling, boats in canals are a very serious thing in Amsterdam, you have to make sure you keep to your lane for starters and get out of the way of the big tour boats that come along. Along with the adrenaline, the perfect thing about a paddle boat is that you can just moor up to the side of the canal and sit and chill for awhile in the sweet sun. A truly beautiful moment. By now you think we’d probably be done with the day, right? Wrong. Experiencing the “other side” of Amsterdam is fun, but I think it’s also important to learn all sides of the city so we took a trip down to the Cannabis College, an interesting place where all your questions about cannabis, hemp, hemp related products can all be answered by the very knowledgeable staff. Furthermore, they even have their own Cannabis “Garden” which is a stretch to be classified as a garden, more of a room with a few Cannabis plants growing. It was interesting to see though I’m not going to lie, and only €3 for entry (if you keep your ticket, apparently you can get in for free for life afterwards) you can’t go wrong really. After some ice-cream and a dutch cookie cheesecake (which was amazing), it was time for the day to be over.
Our last full day in Amsterdam, a visit to the Vincent Van Gogh Museum for me. I loved it. It was amazing. Although I am a Vincent Van Gogh fan so am a bit biased, but three whole floors dedicated to all of his work from different time periods. I thought it was amazing. Although a bit pricey, I definitely think it’s worth it especially if you do like his work or are interested in his life. My favourite part in the museum was this microscope they had with a piece of his artwork underneath. You could see all the detail, so much so that you could even see grains of sand stuck in the paint which were probably there due to him painting on the beach and the wind blowing it around. I don’t know, I just loved it so much. Due to the museum being right next to the ‘I am Amsterdam’ sign, we took a moment climbing up and posing in some pictures, doing as tourists do. Then made our way to the supermarket to have a picnic in Vondelpark. Again, the weather was beautiful today so a day in the park was definitely needed. Vondelpark was very pretty, however the amount of cyclists really annoyed me. There were literally hundreds just whizzing round in a constant stream, you couldn’t even cross the path without being nearly ran over! I suppose it’s good to cycle, but when there’s no space even for a pedestrian I think it’s getting a bit too much. No wonder the saying in Amsterdam is “If you hear a ding, jump like hell”. After a few hours we headed back to Dam Square and ended up walking around the Red Light District again. Unfortunately for us this time (although we could take it as a compliment, but…) a man literally tried to buy us. Apparently 3 girls walking with 1 man screams women for sale. He approached our male friend asking “how much for the 3 ladies?” Maybe we were in the wrong place, but I was literally dressed like a man??? Although my ankles were on show so that must scream prostitute. Unaffordable was obviously the answer.
The last 3 days literally flew by, and before we knew it our time was up. We didn’t have much time the following morning before we had to head to the station. When it was time to leave it was all a bit of a panic finding out where to go, what train to get on, etc, etc. It was all very easy actually but as this was our first time Interrailing and more importantly our first time boarding a foreign train, we went and asked at the information point who directed us to the reservation centre (very unnecessary but they were very helpful). After saying goodbye to one friend, the 3 of us went to proceed on our next city!
1 city down, 10 more to go.
Next stop: Munich, Germany.
Top tips for Amsterdam:
- Paddle boats, paddle boats, paddle boats
- Vincent Van Gogh Museum
- Sex Museum
- Anne Frank’s House (book in advance if you can, those queues look crazy!)