Originally published 15 March, 2012
View down the canals
We finally have some downtime......we are on the bus headed towards Germany. Amsterdam was very busy. Laurie went to so many museums I can't remember them all! It has been an interesting place to visit. We arrived at Schiepol airport late in the evening. We boarded the train connector towards town and got off at the RAI center. From there we took a cab to our hotel. Amsterdam is quite expensive so we went cheap again and stayed at another Easyhotel.
I will say that the Easyhotel in Amsterdam was MUCH larger than the one in London. Our hotel room in Amsterdam is smaller than the normal hotel room.....but it was probably 3 times larger than the one in London. It was in a great neighborhood, the tramline stopped at the front door, it was impeccably clean, had the fastest internet connection I have ever used (7.50 a day extra) and it was very centrally located. If you're going to stay in Amsterdam, this would be a good choice at 49 euros a night, dirt cheap in Amsterdam.
Amsterdam is rather expensive compared to the states. We paid 19p (about 30 cents) for a two liter bottle of store brand water in Scotland. In Amsterdam, the cheapest we could find was 2 euros (2.60 american). And there seem to be no water fountains in this country. If you want drinking water, you have to pay for it. Same with bathrooms.....50 euro cents for public restrooms. It is a big city and one does expect that it will be more expensive.
Laurie in the shower/bath area, Easyhotel, Amsterdam
Amsterdam is very pretty....just like in the pictures. It is covered with buildings that have been here since the 1600's, houseboats, intriguing bridges, canals, etc. It is, however, quite confusing to navigate. Do not even attempt it without a very accurate map. And you will use said map quite often. The streets are narrow, the buildings are all about the same height, and there are few visual landmarks that stick up above everything else that you can get your bearings with (like the empire state building in NYC). The streets also gently curve, so you can start southward on a street, and if you walk on it long enough you will wind up walking north.
Getting around in Amsterdam by tram
You can also become road pizza here very quickly. You basically have to navigate six things to cross the street. First, there is a bicycle lane. This is the tricky one. They make no noise, often times at night they have no lights, and the lane looks like a sidewalk. There are hundreds of thousands of bicycles in this city. Once you get across this you have to get across the car lane. At least they are big (relatively) and make some noise. After that you have to cross the tram line. Okay....you're half way. Now cross another tram line, car lane, and bicycle lane and you're there. Also, the bike lanes seem to be like an outlaw lane.....they can run scooters and bikes and there seems to be no rhyme or reason in which direction they travel.
A "Canta" car, available only in Amsterdam.
The people in Amsterdam seem very nice. They are straight to the point and most all speak English and a lot of the signage was in english as well. We had a few problems with language here but nothing major. I went to the bathroom and one door said dames, which I assumed meant women. I was correct on this. The other door said a few words in dutch. I assumed it said "men". It was locked and after waiting 5 minutes, a man walked past me and around a small corner and through another door that was the men's room. The door I was standing at said, in reality, Do Not Enter. The dutch guy helped translate it and set me straight. Menus are MOSTLY in dutch and english but not always. Lots of menus had pictures as well.
Febo, like the old Automats in the US
There were very few instances where someone didn't speak english, especially if you asked them if they spoke english in dutch. I carried a phrase sheet especially for this. The only phrases i used with any regularity were (and pardon the spelling on this) aus tu blieft-please, dank u-thank you, hufeld kost dat-how much does that cost, and sprechen je ehngels-do you speak english? If you master those 4 things you can get around Amsterdam quite well.
Laurie toured the Rembrandt House, The Van Gogh Museum, The Museum of Jewish History, The Portugese Synagog, and together we toured the Anne Franke house, and the Dutch Resistance Museum. We also went through the red light district. One would think that it may be a bit dicey but it was not in the least. It is very well policed and it is the biggest tourist attraction in Amsterdam. It is quite safe to wander through and "window shop". And the red light district is not just prostitution. Scattered along the streets with the "Amsterdam Girls" are regular bars, sex shops, restaurants, coffee houses (that sell weed), small stores, normal shops...........they all just coexist. People also just live there. It's a real neighborhood as well as a place for the commerce of pleasure.
Not just any hotdogs....AMERICAN ones!
I read a bit about it (they have a website and an information center) and the girls rent small rooms facing the street with a glass door. The average cost is around 50 euros but is negotiable. About half of this goes to a bodyguard (NOT a pimp. The bodyguard works FOR the girl, not the otherway around) and rent. The other half goes to the girl. And the girls are not tired, beat up and worn out women. They're quite attractive and they are highly regulated by the government. It was interesting to walk through and see something that I've read about and seen on TV.
We met a couple while in the Dutch resistance museum. We had drinks with them afterwards. She was dutch and he was american. They were in their 70's and were visiting from Switzerland where they now live. They were great to talk with and get a different perspective of the post war years in Europe. We really enjoyed meeting them.
Pofferjts! We LOVE these!
We walked through the Albeyrt Cyuups market every morning. It is a four block long street market where we bought fruit, shopped with the locals, and laurie bought her favorite....poffertjes....little pancakes with butter and powdered sugar. Granted...they are awesome....so we ate them twice! They also had fresh squeezed orange juice, Vietnamese spring rolls (bill favorite) and fresh food of all types. It was a great way to shop for souvenirs as they were really cheap at the market.
We woke on the final morning and went to do laundry. The woman who ran the laundromat was one of the few people who did not speak english. We muddled through and she was very helpful. We walked the market one last time while the laundry was washing, picked it up and headed back to the hotel where we had stored our luggage. We packed our laundry and caught the tram for the bus station, a short distance away.
Even hobos get hifi here!
While waiting on the bus, we met a Chinese national who lives in Amsterdam. His name is Chen and he works for his uncle at a medical device firm 9 months a year and he travels 3 months a year. He is taking the same bus as we are and he is traveling to Hungary. He is very well traveled, very intelligent, and great to talk with. He's a great guy and we're really enjoying the bus trip with him! Laurie sat on the aisle and talked with him more than I did. I think she may have expected an enlightened liberal european viewpoint on certain world issues like global warming. She instead traveled 5000 miles and found the Chinese version of her husband in Holland. I thought this was a hoot!
Laurie had a wonderful time in Amsterdam, seeing so much art and visiting so many museums. I enjoyed Amsterdam and would just wander around while Laurie looked at priceless works of art. I did not enjoy it as much as Laurie did. Not that I didn't enjoy it, I did enjoy it very much. But with the huge amount of art that was such an attraction to Laurie of course she would like it much more than me. In a few hours we will be in Essen, Germany. There we will pick up our rental car, and start our drive down through the Rhineland into southern Germany. We'll post more about these travels as they occur.
Bicycles are somewhat popular here it seems....
We took a cab from the bus station to the car rental agency. I can now honestly say I have ridden in the cleanest car on the planet. You could not only eat off the floorboards in this car....you could probably do surgery there if you needed to. Ok...picked up the rental in Essen. I reserved a BMW....didn't get it. Got a damn SUV. It'll still go over 100. I know this as we did that on our travel to Troisdorf!
Yeah....we've never heard of it either. But we were hungry and the prospect of Burger King on the autobahn just didn't hit us right. So we had dinner in a great Greek restaurant we do not know the name of in a town we wandered into. After dinner, it was late and we went ahead and got a hotel room in Troisdorf. Tomorrow....it's off to the castles!
I'm Bill. My wife Laurie and I love to travel and share our stories. We especially love it when we have been able to motivate our readers to start traveling on their own, and making their own stories.