I’ve had trouble writing about Amsterdam. Largely because what I really want to do is write about Vienna, or Cinque Terre. But in the spirit of not skipping ahead (anymore), I’ll tell you a little about Amsterdam. And by the way, it was pretty damn great.
We had the perfect amount of time in the morning before we had to catch the first train of the trip to Amsterdam. We woke up relatively slowly, had a good breakfast, and even a short moment of boredom as we waited the extra minutes out until we should get going. Even then, were set to be at the station about 25 minutes early – just in case.
It wasn’t until we got there – to this multi-floored and bustling station, that we double checked our departure ticket and realized our train was leaving about 20 minutes earlier than we had somehow imagined. So that’s how Amsterdam began – Shradha and I running through a train station with backpacks we weren’t quite used to carrying yet and making it onto our train 2 minutes before departure, sweaty and out of breath.
Our hostel was in the Red Light District – something I found out after Shradha had booked it and before I knew that there was absolutely nothing wrong with that. Thanks to Google Images, we expected our room to look a lot worse than it did – in fact, it turned out quite nice despite the reputation the hostel had built in its online imagery.
As a tourist destination, I understand that the Red Light District is busy probably most of the time. Add the weekend of the Pride Parade on top of that, and I think it was at its peak.
We spent the night moving through the crowds, walking along canals, and falling in love with the city. We had just come from Paris, the presumed city of love, but from our standpoint, that city was Amsterdam.
When you’re travelling, you’re often told to draw some sort of line between the super touristy things that people can do vs going off the beaten path, which is completely fair and I would tend to agree. But I learned that first night not to get too caught up in it – that sometimes, you should just do the super touristy thing because honestly, why not. So with that in mind, we jumped on a cheap canal cruise and drank wine on a boat while the sun set, and it was fantastic.
Amsterdam reminded me a lot of Vancouver, though pretty much everything is different so I have absolutely no idea why that is the case. There are no mountains in sight, the architecture is completely different, probably almost everything is different except that both cities have a tendency to smell frequently of weed.
While I was there I had a John Green quote stuck in my head the entire time. In one of his books he wrote, “Some tourists think Amsterdam is a city of sin, but in truth it is a city of freedom. And in freedom, most people find sin.”
Amsterdam is a city of freedom – you could feel it in a lot of ways – and see it in some. It’s a city that boasts freedoms in ways that many other cities don’t do at all, and it made experiencing the city all the more interesting.
Those several days we spent our time drinking wine in cute bars outside of flower shops, dodging bicycles, walking until our feet burned and imagining which house on the edge of the canal we would want to live in one day. We saw live music, walked through the Anne Frank house, and spent an entire afternoon soaking up Vondel Park from the comfort of a picnic blanket and coffee shop purchases – it was surreal, and humbling.
As it turns out, our trip plans lined up with Amsterdam’s Pride Parade, and even though it was my first time going to the Pride Parade, I can tell you one thing for certain – Amsterdam does it well. We sat on the edge of the canal with a legs dangling over the water, the streets were packed and everywhere you looked was filled with more bright colours. It seemed like the entire city had shown up.
When we had taken the canal cruise that first night, they explained that people spent weeks setting up their boats in the canals for the Parade. Since the parade was actually entirely on the water and through the canals, people would pay boat owners money in order to be invited on their boats to watch. The city was dedicated, excited, and full of love.
On the day, the streets, the boats, the canals, were all entirely packed. It was an absolutely unreal experience and one that by far made our time in Amsterdam all the more special.
It wasn’t until our final night in Amsterdam that we met our hostel roommates, and it’s a shame it didn’t happen earlier. Up until then, the only almost-interaction I had with them was when I woke up in the middle of the first night and was certain somebody was having sex on the top bunk next to me. Now, when I say wake up, I was really only half awake, and in this half-awake state the thought that someone might be having sex on the bed next to me as I listened to it continuously shake and rattle seemed terrifying. When I woke up in the morning, I was certain it had been mostly a bad dream.
As it turns out, there was no sex on the bunk bed next to me. Instead, my bunk bed neighbour, Harry, had come back in the middle of the night, incredibly drunk, and unable to climb onto his top bunk – so he kept trying, over and over again, rattling the bed until he was able to get up. If the rattling went on for as long as I remember, he was both really determined and really drunk.
Regardless, we spent that final night swapping stories, sharing travels tips, and laughing at the hilarity of Harry hiding under a table, intoxicated, imaging the spaceship he was in. We will probably never see each other again, but Shradha and I have enough videos to remember it all well.
In the morning we woke up before everyone else and walked through an almost empty Red Light District to the train station. We could have stayed here another night, maybe longer – we could definitely come back here, but then again, we said that almost every time we woke up in the morning and realized we had to leave.