Oh dear, how can I possibly cram these two days into one single post? I’ll have to see what I can do, please bear with me.
At this point I’m running mostly on caffeine. What is sleep? What is real food? Not to mention how much I’d love the simple feeling of clean. I’m currently sitting on my sixth train of the day, finally aware of my surroundings. I just have to take a moment here to damn the Dutch train system. Damn it to hell. In the space of these two days I’ve gone from feeling like complete and utter faeces to having the time of my life. Let me fill you in.
First of all, European night trains are somewhat a horrid idea when you are a single 18 year old girl. While I made some sweet Swedish friends on the journey, I shared my compartment with about the creepiest man I have laid eyes on, and a handful of German grandpas. Mr. Creep eventually got kicked off the train. See, I wasn’t kidding. So I spent my night huddled on top of my bag, ukulele in one hand. On probably the last train in the world without reclining seats.
Nevertheless, this was hardly disaster striking and I made it to Amsterdam in good spirits.
This is where I go on a rant about the Dutch and their railway. Interrail told me to take a direct train to Paris the next morning at 11 a.m. The lady in Amsterdam told me no and gave me a schedule for a train leaving 7 a.m. then switching five times to get to Paris 9 hours later. What fun!! Anyhow I figured I had to do what I had to do and got myself up and out at six in the dark morning. Only to discover that my first train was for some mysterious reason not running anymore. Thank you, you Dutch potheads, I was an hour late for all my connections. No more than a few hours sleep (that, I’ll admit, is my fault: the Amsterdam night life is the good life), I bought the biggest cup of coffee I could get my hands on. I spent the next two train rides unable to hold anything in my shaking hands. It was great. I’ll take uncontrollable shaking due to good coffee over shaking for exhaustion and terror any day. My train of thought while peering out the windows: “I really wonder what country I am in… Is this the right train? Antwerp? …Is that in Belgium? Oh shit, I’m in Belgium. That’s probably the right direction… Maybe I’ll just get more coffee.” Well, bottom line is, it’s been a mess. Occasionally a beautiful one, occasionally hideous. But I figured it out finally, I know where I am and I know where I’m going. Plus I got a bonus hour in Bruxelles.
– bless the chocolate samples. I recommend cinnamon truffle.
– the word ‘unpolished’ fits this city. Not followed by ‘diamond’ though. Just plain unpolished.
Now before we all forget, I did spend some time out of a train too. All the stereotypes you may have come across about Holland – completely accurate. Overflow of bicycles, endless flowers, a subtle (or not so subtle depending on the street) whiff of a joint, and the windmills. The first thing I saw off the train arriving in the country was a good old fashioned wooden windmill. And then there’s the minor detail of my accidental stumbling into the red light district. I saw some alleys I perceived as particularly pretty to my left that I went to explore, and realized only later on that the reason for all the ‘adult’ stores and questionable characters around was that I’d been strolling thought the red light district in blissful ignorance. Returned in the evening of course with a hostel friend, and that’s when it’s impossible not to notice being in it.
Other than that I found myself eating a pancake by the canal, writing a letter in the rijks museum art gardens, and most comfortable in the English bookstore (not the best tourist moment I know).
Amsterdam is pretty much as romantic as cities come. And at night, it is vibrant. Sitting in a pub with new friends, meeting more in coffee houses while getting well acquainted with Dutch culture and traditions, getting completely lost in the heart of the city at midnight… Yes, I’d do it all again in a heartbeat.
It’s been exhausting, it’s been sometimes confusing and painful, but it’s also lead to moments I feel 100% alive and memories I still randomly burst out giggling at. What I’m saying guys is, get out of your comfort zone! If nothing else, you’ll learn to appreciate free toilets.