This past weekend I took a short trip to Amsterdam with another guy in my program (who happens to be the only other person from USF here) and we explored the main attractions of the city.
The trip got off to a rough start, as I forgot to bring my wallet and passport with me to the shuttle bus that takes me to the airport. I was visibly upset at the bus stop with no time to go back to my apartment, and a kind stranger asked what was wrong and even bought me a shuttle ticket, telling me something similar happened to her and that I should just pay it forward when I get the chance. I was so happy, but then realized I didn’t have a passport to get on the plane and had to sprint back to my apartment and take a taxi to the bus stop. I made the bus with 2 minutes to spare, and in short, made my flight. I just thought it was so incredible that a stranger would help me out like that, and I can’t wait to return the favor to someone else.
Once we finally arrived in Amsterdam, the initial shock of how cold it was became the most prominent trait of the city, but once we began walking through the canals, old buildings, and cafes, it was a refreshingly quaint atmosphere to that of Barcelona or Nice. There were much less people crowded in the streets, and in general the population was a bit older than Nick and myself. The most stunning thing about the area to me were all of the beautiful stone arch bridges that go over the canals and the individual styles of the apartments that line these waterways. Our first stop was to drop our backpacks off at the place we were staying. We used a site called “Airbnb.com” where you stay in someone’s home and pay as if it were a hostel or hotel. Since Amsterdam is notorious for high priced housing, this option was the way to go, and we ended up being right in the center of the city with a canal view out of our window.
Our next stop was the famous “I AMsterdam” letters, where we stopped to take some pictures and ran into some street performers. And in that same courtyard was the Vincent Van Gogh Museum, which we visited afterwards. Later in the evening, after a nice Italian dinner (Amsterdam isn’t really known for any specific dishes) we walked around the streets, ran into a courtyard with an ice rink and pubs, and later went back to the apartment.
Nick and I began the next day with a tour of the city via canal. Since this is something that is uniquely Amsterdam, we opted for this instead of the regular “bus tours” that most cities offer. It was great seeing the sites from the viewpoint in the water, and we passed places such as Amsterdam’s narrowest house (worth over 750k euros), Anne Frank’s House (where she hid from the Nazis with her family and wrote the famous journal), and even the canal where part of the movie “Ocean’s Eleven” was filmed. We also came across a canal where many beer manufactures began, such as Heineken and Amstel. Amsterdam has over 8,000 monuments, 160 canals, and 2,500 house boats, many of which would have not been seen if not for this tour, so I highly recommend this to anyone who visits.
And what is Amsterdam without a visit to the Heineken Experience tour? Heineken is a Dutch company founded in 1864 in Amsterdam by Adriaan Heineken when he was just 22 years old. It was an amazing tour that included a history of the company and family, a guild that walked visitors through the steps of brewing the famous beer, a walk through of the vats and other machines, a virtual floor-moving ride, a test taste of the beer, a video-making area, and finally, a tasting room where you can enjoy two more beers. While in the tasting room, Nick and I talked with a few people and even met two students that were traveling in Amsterdam, and ended up walking around the local outdoor market and had dinner with them. And strangely enough, the girl we met happened to be a Theta (my sorority- Kappa Alpha Theta) so it was awesome to connect with her over that, and how we are from opposite parts of the US and met randomly across the globe.
(In front of the beer vats)
To end our time in the city, we stopped by the red light district to check out the scene, and it was quite interesting. If you are unaware, prostitution and marijuana are legal in Amsterdam, so the red light district is where all of the girls are- dancing in windows, etc. And many “coffee shops” (or weed shops) are in this area too, but also spread throughout Amsterdam as well.