Amsterdam

28/04/2011 at 8:24 pm Leave a comment

Arriving in a City as vibrant as Amsterdam presented a nice change from the boredom of Rotterdam. Perhaps I’m being too harsh on Rotterdam. It might be a great place and we just somehow managed to miss all the cool and fun stuff.

We once again found ourselves staying in a Stayokay hostel, and although the building wasn’t quite as quirky as Rotterdam’s Cube Houses the quality of the place was still excellent. Due to the hostels location on the edge of the City centre Chris and I decided it would be a good idea to check out Amsterdam’s tram network.

From my experience I can thoroughly recommend the Amsterdam tram network. They are regular, on time and far more cool than taking a taxi or the bus. All English cities should seriously consider adopting them.

Upon arriving in the City centre I was struck by the sheer amount of stuff there is to see and do. Amsterdam really is a cultural hub alive with activity. There are bars and cafes everywhere you look and more canals than any City could possibly need.

Amster-Tram

After simply wondering around for a good hour or so Chris and I decided that it would be a good idea to find somewhere to eat. Not wanting to be too adventurous I settled for a beef burger and chips (with mayo obviously) whilst Chris went for the club sandwich. I can say with some certainty that every meal I have had so far has come with chips. The Dutch and Belgians do love their fries so it isn’t really something you can escape from.

In the evening we headed to an overly expensive Irish Pub in order to watch the Champions League semi-final match between Shalke and Manchester United. Despite being an Irish Pub run by genuine Irish people they still were unable to pour a proper pint of beer. Perhaps it’s because I am British and have spent too much time living on a strange island, but to my mind the head on a beer should not be considered a part of the overall volume. A pint is only a pint when the glass is so full that you struggle to carry it back to your seat without spilling some of it.

Regardless I was still able to enjoy the football as I sipped away on my €5 “pint” of Jupiler. When beer is that expensive you really do appreciate every drop. Manchester United eventually won 2-nil with goals from Giggs and Rooney. We left the pub in high spirits and had to run to catch the tram back to the hostel.

At breakfast the next morning I decided it would be fun too see how much meat I could possibly fit into my sandwich. The cheese at the continental breakfast also turned out to be an excellent divider between the different meats.

Upon finishing our breakfast we had to take our trays to a hatch in the wall where we were expected to clear our plates. Here we were able to find that only badly mannered and grumpy man in the whole of Amsterdam who insisted on loudly sighing and muttering under his breath if we put our dirty plates in slightly the wrong place. There is one obvious solution to this problem – do it your fucking self!

Full of food and not very good coffee we headed out of the hostel and once again boarded the tram. At one stop along the way an effortlessly cool man wearing a suit with sandels boarded the tram.

As Amsterdam is famous for its numerous canals we decided that taking a boat tour would be an good idea. Much like Bruges this is an excellent way to see the City and to take some cliched photographs. The tour took us around the canals of the inner City as well as the Amsterdam harbour. Of particular interest were a group of buidings which were leaning into each other due to subsidence. Apparently one of them is a hotel although I didn’t really fancy spending a night there.

Following the tour we searched out the Stedelijk Museum of contemporary art. Whilst there was the usual rubbish such as some bits of plastic pipe placed seemingly at random on the floor, most of the exibits were very good. One such exibit focused on the medium of TV and how it could be used as an art form. One piece showed a man compulsively washing his hands whilst the artists experimented with different R-G-B filters. This was to express the limitations of colour television. Another piece that stuck with me was a TV running an auto-queue. The text that appeared on screen commented on the relationship between TV and increasing consumerism. The piece was made some time during the 1970s but I felt that its message was probably more relevant now that it was back then.

In the evening we once again headed to the pub this time to watch Real Madrid take on Barcelona in the so called El Clasico. The first half involved Sergio Busquets and Pedro Rodriguez doing their best impressions of being shot by a lone sniper on the roof of the stadium. The second half proved a lot more interesting with Lional Messi scoring two fine goals to give Barcalona the victory.

On day three we decided to find Anne Frank’s house, a task that would have been very simple if I had remembered to take the map. Instead we spent a good hour walking up and down Amsterdam’s canals until we eventually found a sign post.

Anne Frank's House. I wonder if it's double glazed?

From the outside the house is very underwhelming, only a sign on the outside reading “Anne Frank Huis”, (as well as the massive queue of tourists) gives away its location. I can only assume that the sign is a recent addition and was not in place during the years 1939 to 1945. We decided not to go into the house, partly because the queue went all the way down the street, but also because we thought there probably wasn’t an awful lot to see inside.

Much of the afternoon was spent sat on a bench talking about the best ways to flank a Phalanx formation in Rome Total War. Shortly after it started to rain so Chris and I darted into a music store to check out the CDs. Music is outrageously expensive in Holland. Anywhere between €15 and €25 for a CD seemed to be “normal”. No wonder people illegally download music. Having said that the music selection was a great deal better than what you would find in your average HMV store.

Following a pit stop for coffee and people watching we headed out in search of something to eat. Chris recommended we try some Indonesian cuisine. Having never tried it before I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I like to think that I’m very open to trying new foods. I settled for some squid and rice based dish whilst Chris went for a selection of meats (also with Rice). What an excellent choice it turned out to be! The best way I can think to describe Indonesian food is somewhere between Chinese and Indian. A pretty useless description I know but it’s the best I can come up with.

Shortly after we headed back to the hostel for beers and to make plans for our next destination, Hamburg.

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Entry filed under: Holland.

Rotterdam Hamburg

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