Adventures with Henry: Hallo, Amsterdam!

Quick facts:

Who: entire Castle squad, aka about 80 students aka a huge cluster about 99% of the time.

When: EARLY Friday 9/21 to afternoon 9/23

Where: StayOkay Hostel. Decent breakfast, awesome dinner, and no one understood what a sleep sack was.

Most used phrases:

Do you speak English : Spreekt u Engels (Spreken ze Eng-gels)

Thank you : dank u wel (dahnk oo vel)

French fries : frites (freets)

Canals: I WISH TO LIVE IN A WATER CITY. Literally every apartment seems to be waterfront property. I mean, there is an actual reason: Amsterdam is technically below sea level and was designed around a series of dams and rivers through the city which still exists today. (Wait, did I actually learn something from my online Netherlands course? Castle kids: did I actually get it right?) At any rate, you are always crossing a bridge and the landscape never ceases to stop you dead in your tracks – though it does lead to a lot of “Wait, no, I’ve been here before…wait, just kidding, the rivers all look the same.”

Bicycles:Right after you notice all the canals, you notice the bikes…why, may you ask?

Stack of bikes on the left; mini-bike thoroughfare on the right.

BECAUSE ONE WILL PROBABLY RUN YOU OVER. In every other city, the hierarchy of the streets usually goes top to bottom: pedestrians, cars, bikes. In Amsterdam, it would be: bikes, bikes, BIKES, cars, pedestrians. It’s actually terrifying. They have their own little lanes and will never obey any sort of standard street rule. But the coolest part is they all tack their bikes to any standing surface which leads to beautiful tableaus of bicycles up against railings for miles, which I was more than happy to take pictures of.

Museum Van de Loon: This was one of our sign-up options for group travel, meaning that we went in small groups during Saturday afternoon. I ended up choosing this one, which was a “museum” that was really more of a house tour. They took an old family canal house and renovated it to how it would look in each passing century. I was pretty much exhausted at this point so my pictures are limited, but it was a beautiful look back in time and had an incredible garden. Plus there’s apparently a crazy aunt of the family that used to continue to live there while it was a museum, which I thought was the best part of the whole tour.

The Red Light District: Okay, it’s actually really, really interesting. There’s just something fascinating about a country that chooses openness and government regulation over underground operations and general sketchiness. Though, RLD is awfully sketchy anyway. For those of you who don’t know what it is, it’s basically a neighborhood of alleyways with red-lit scantily-clad women in their individual booths trying to tame men in for a…ahem…good time. It’s completely legal and also completely unsettling. I didn’t realize what was going on until I accidentally leaned up against one of the windows and the girl inside knocked on the glass to get me to go away – a wake up call to say the least. Regardless, it’s a thing to see if only to understand the culture.

Strange park with statues: I’m really great at getting names of things, aren’t I? Early in the morning on Saturday I was required to go to a museum with my Art History class, but before that they took us to a secluded little park filled with fascinating statues. I’m usually not one for sculptures but I thought these were really thought-provoking. Plus, I mean, the lighting was perfect so I couldn’t give it up.

Eating out of the wall: I love this phenomenon, mostly because I love food and I love getting food fast. Thus, “eating out of the wall” – yes, that’s actually what they call it. It boils down to these inlets on busy streets that have tiny plastic cases filled with junk food – either chicken sandwiches, burgers, or the now-infamous croquettes – and all you have to do is insert euros. It’s just like a vending machine! I only shared a bite of someone’s burger, but the concept is something I’m more than on-board with. If only it was in Boston…

Other favorites: Cafe Trinity, Jewish Historical Museum, and the Anne Frank house (which will have its own post).

End result: Amsterdam is a crazy place and lives up to its reputation. Definitely a chill-party city with a lot of historical stuff to explore during the day. Also, try the Stroopwafel Mcflurries. Just believe me.

*Disclaimer: I’m in a travel writing class (though granted I haven’t actually been to a class yet…long story) and I’m sure I will eventually learn how to properly write about travel. Until then, I’m gonna do it in the best way I know how: talking a lot about the parts I liked and not really caring about the rest. So when you read these, keep in mind that I did a LOT of things – they just didn’t all make it into the post. If you ever want to know a full trip breakdown, just drop a comment or visit my contact page.

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