Amsterdam weekend. The minute anyone hears this, there are crazy images that start to form in your head. Even before that can happen, I wanted to clarify what an atypical weekend it turned out to be.
Firstly, of all the weekends, we chose Easter weekend. Everyone all over Europe kept saying – ‘we are going away for the weekend’. However, nothing changed. People went from city to city and places still remained crowded. Somehow, the number of people who landed in Amsterdam outnumbered the lot who left Amsterdam, making it one of the most crowded Easter destinations. Standing in the queue in Vitoria coach station, waiting for our Eurolines bus, we realised this. But, we didn’t turn back. Amsterdam weekend had a nice ring to it.
We have done bus journeys before. 24 hour ones in South America. 6 hour bad road journeys in India. Everything seems like such a cake walk compared to the London – Amsterdam one. The minute you manage to find a comfortable spot and almost fall asleep, its time to get up for Immigration. Then, its time to transfer from Bus to Ferry. Ferry to Bus. So on and so forth. Reaching Amsterdam in the morning around 10 am, we were dead tired. No turning back. Reminded ourselves it was Amsterdam weekend.
We took a train and headed to our host Maria’s place. Maria and her daughter Regina lived in the suburbs, away from the maddening crowd. Maria, originally Indonesian and having lived in Netherlands for the last 20 years called herself ‘Dutch on paper, Indonesian at heart’. Regina was among the smartest 13 year old I have ever come across in my life, with a sense of curiosity that amazed me. Over cups of coffee, lounging in the balcony with the sun on our faces and chatting about Amsterdam, we decided what we were going to do over the three days. Yup! That’s the miracle of Couchsurfing.
So, here is our Amsterdam list. And, stuff that we want to save for next time.
Canal cruising – Everyone says Amsterdam is fairly compact. I guess the city centre is compact. But, the 1 hour cruise takes you through all the main canals and tells you about the key attractions around the city. (We could straight away rule out what we did not want to see 🙂 What we loved most about the Canal cruise was looking at the house boats, their roof gardens, colourful appearance, queer scarecrow kinda displays and what not. (For next time – We need to figure out how to rent one of those tiny boats and navigate around the canal ourselves. Maybe also invite ourselves to someones houseboat for a drink)
Bike watching – They don’t call Amsterdam the bike city for nothing. Apparently, there are more bicyles than people. I did not believe it earlier. Now, I do. There is a cycle chained to any fence, spare railing, wall, lamp post, bridge…. you name it. There are multi-storey cycle parking lots. Just incredible. More than anything, the colourful old world bikes that you see are truly a photographers delight. (For next time – Must must rent a bike. If you can bike in Amsterdam, you can bike anywhere in the world.)
Tulip tripping – If there is one month you must visit Amsterdam, its sometime around April / May. Find out when Keukenhof is open and plan your trip then. Don’t know whether to call this a garden. A park. An estate. Whatever it is, it is filled with tulips and flowers – all so colourful and beautiful. Unimaginable in a sort of fairytale way. Every photo you take will manage to look technicolor. Walking along the edge of the park, you can look out into the fields of tulips in perfect stripes. Those farmers know their geometry. (For next time: In retrospect, Keukenhof is too perfect. I guess one can skip it all together and just roam around the fields on the outskirts of Keukenhof or rent a bike and ride along the fields). Either way, don’t miss the tulips. (Worst case, you don’t make it there, atleast head to the Flower market – Bloemnmarket)
Cheese, fries and all things greasy – The less said the better. I should be using this time burning off those calories in capoeira class, instead of blogging about it. Nevertheless, please go and eat those fries and do some cheese tasting in any of those adorable little shops. (For next time, find out which one is the Actual best fries in Netherlands. Every fries shop claims that.)
‘Its all legal’ walk – That’s what I’d like to call this. You want to smoke some weed in a coffee shop. You want to check out the red light district. Its all ok in Amsterdam. There is something completely repulsive about it as much as it is refreshing to see that it is all legal. Either way, it was really difficult for me to get used to the idea of a coffee shop where coffee was not the main things on the menu. Also, you may get tempted looking at the large chocolate muffins on the counter. You may think twice when you see that it is called as Space muffin the menu. (For next time, avoid this all together 🙂
Pretty touristy Museum crawl. Well, the queue’s at all the museums were a mile long. I was keen on visiting the Van Gogh museum and the Anne Frank house. Once Roy made fun of Van Gogh paintings, comparing them to the poster of Taare Zameer Par, I decided it wasn’t worth waiting for 2 hours. We headed only to the Anne Frank house, completely worth the wait. This is one thing you should not miss in Amsterdam. Seeing the original red and white checked diary and her handwriting gave me goosebumps. Seeing ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ in book stores for as long as I can remember, it almost felt fictional. Only visiting this house and walking through the secret annexe jolted me and made me acknowledge the brutal reality. Not in every holiday do you want to be moved to tears, but this one is a must. (For next time – Go and check out the Van Gogh museum. I’ve been in love with Cafe terrace at night for too long).
And finally, last but not the least, what we would like to save for next time is visiting Maria and Regina as friends and not as Couchsurfing hosts. The one conversation I know we will be having is Regina’s blog. Over coffee and chats about Regina’s passion for writing, I helped her set up her blog. ‘Dont write with the mind, write with the heart’ – That’s what this 13 year old says in her blog. And, I’m green with envy. 13 and blogging.
Phew! I am sterdam visiting very soon!