“What did you do last week, Tim?” Well, I did some cooking, ventured around new areas of Bonn, and… oh, yeah, and I went to Amsterdam!
Depending on one’s age, if a person has never been there, they will have a different mental image of Amsterdam. To a person my parents’ age, for example, the name “Amsterdam” would most likely conjure up images of:
Whereas someone my age would probably instantly think of:
- Yeah, that’s probably about it.
Sure, all of those are there and in great abundance, but one thing I wasn’t expecting was to see one of the most beautiful cities on earth; a city of canals and drawbridges, of houseboats and amusement park rides, of flea-markets and microbreweries, of strange museums and statues. Here’s how it all went down for us:
Friday, April 17, 2015
Our weekend started on Friday afternoon. Anna finished work, came home and packed for her Dutch conference, and then we were off to the Köln Hauptbahnhof, or the Cologne Central Station. Our trip from there to Amsterdam took about two and a half hours, but we got off at the wrong station, albeit only two stations before where we needed to disembark anyway, but it still caused a slight hiccup. We eventually got to where we needed to be, Amsterdam Central Station, and then took the short walk down to where we were staying, the curiously named Boutique Hotel Synopsis, a small place with only two rooms run by an elderly, retired woman as a hobby. Such a nice place and really cool people. We had plans to meet Marcus and Chelvin Ang, colleagues of Anna’s from Singapore, in a “hidden” restaurant later that night for dinner, but we still had a couple of hours to kill, so why not explore this place?
Amsterdam is the capital city and most populous municipality of the Netherlands. Its status as the capital is mandated by the Constitution of the Netherlands, although it is not the seat of the government, which is The Hague. Amsterdam has a population of 866,737 within the city proper, 1,380,872 in the urban area and 2,410,960 in the metropolitan area. The city is located in the province of North Holland in the west of the country but is not its capital, which is Haarlem. The Amsterdam metropolitan area comprises much of the northern part of the Randstad, one of the larger conurbations in Europe, which has a population of approximately 8.1 million.
The Amsterdam Stock Exchange, the oldest stock exchange in the world, is located in the city centre. Amsterdam’s main attractions include its historic canals, the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum, the Stedelijk Museum, Hermitage Amsterdam, the Anne Frank House, the Scheepvaartmuseum, the Amsterdam Museum, the Heineken Experience, the Royal Palace of Amsterdam, Natura Artis Magistra, Hortus Botanicus Amsterdam, NEMO, the red-light district and many cannabis coffee shops. They draw more than 5 million international visitors annually. The city is also well known for its nightlife and festival activity; several of its nightclubs (Melkweg, Paradiso) are among the world’s most famous. It is also one of the world’s most multicultural cities, with at least 177 nationalities represented.
Amsterdam is a relatively small city, but there are a few things that you instantly notice when you start walking around in this place;
- There aren’t really any high-rise buildings. With a few exceptions, there is nothing much bigger than about six or seven storeys.
- This city is the most relaxed place to which you could ever go — The streets are lined with completely content, mellow people just sitting around having a beer or smoking a joint. There are no tempers, no arguments, everything is a-okay. This may not have always been the case, but was definitely what we observed while we were in town, anyway.
- Everybody is mellow except for the cyclists, that is. Probably about 80% of the population of the city ride bicycles and they are psychopaths! I don’t know how these cyclists manage to reach the speeds they do, but it’s terrifying! I am surprised we only witnessed one person getting hit by a bike, although we saw a few more near-misses.
- You can smell weed everywhere.
We stopped for a couple of beers before eventually meeting Marcus and Chelvin, plus a few of their other friends, at The Butcher burger bar. At first it seemed a bit weird — Marcus and Chelvin appreciate the finer things in life and you could tell their friends would accept nothing less either, so why were we having dinner in a bar with a few stools and a dead cow hanging in the window? We were soon directed to a large black door at the back of the room that required a special password to be given, however, I wasn’t really paying attention and had no idea this was going to happen. Upon the opening of the door, we were led down a flight of stairs by a blonde woman almost my height into a darkened room for dinner. It honestly looked like somewhere Patrick Bateman from American Psycho would go for dinner. We almost all ordered the burger and lobster and then we went out for the night for some drinks, a great end to a great evening.
Saturday, April 18, 2015
After an awesome home-cooked breakfast by the lady that runs our hotel, we went out to explore the city. When you’re just walking around on a Saturday afternoon in Amsterdam, what you see on a regular day here just seems so surreal, especially if you have been living in such a repressed society as Singapore for an extended period of time; There are stores that openly sell postcards with images that most websites would need a password to access, families walking through the Red-Light District with their children while near-naked prostitutes bump and grind in street-level windows next to them, and stores selling some of the most mind-boggling sexual paraphernalia imaginable! Obviously I didn’t want to come across as a creep so I tried not to take too many tasteless pictures, plus, some younger people in my family see this blog, so I’ll keep the photos low-key:
After walking around and having a few beers again it was off to dinner once more. The food was great again, but for some reason, maybe the staff were baked, a three course meal took over three and a half hours! However, there was plenty of entertainment visible from the dining table:
Anna is one of those glass-is-half-full type girls and also a person who will always try to find something good in everyone. As almost everybody in attendance was a doctor or worked in a pharmaceutical-related industry, the medical talk was flowing thick and fast. I was staring out the window when I saw the red light (above) go on, so I pointed it out to Anna. Her response? “Maybe they just use a red bulb because it matches the decor of their apartment.” When I explained that very few people would probably want their home decor to resemble that of a brothel she then stated that “Maybe she just accidentally bought a red bulb.” No, Anna, that’s a hooker in there.
Our dinner was great that night, but the service was so slow! Anyway, we went out again after that to enjoy our last night in Amsterdam.
Sunday, April 19, 2015
We were scheduled to depart from Amsterdam Central Station at 6:30pm, leaving us essentially one more full day to check this place out. There are some cool things to do and see here, Amsterdam was the home of Rembrandt, Anne Frank and, for a short period of time, Vincent van Gogh. We had plenty of other options, too, which included:
- Brilmuseum (a museum of glasses)
- Erotisch Museum
- Hash, Marihuana, and Hemp Museum
- Heineken Experience
- Sex Museum
- Tattoo Musuem
- Museum of Bags and Purses
After our time in the Torture Museum we strolled around a bit more, checking out shops and flea-markets and stopping off for a beer or three along the way. Our train departed from Amsterdam Central Station on time and our trip back to Cologne was all smooth sailing. There were, however, some problems with the trains from Cologne to Bonn, but we made it home in the end and had to resort to McDonald’s for dinner, as nothing else was open.
Amsterdam is by far one of the most deviant, unorthodox cities you could ever visit. Once you stop constantly asking yourself, “How is this legal?”, it’s an extremely historic, picturesque place to be. Everyone should go there at least once, be it to bask in its beauty or to thrive in its debauchery. Or both.
Oh, and it’s merely a coincidence that I wrote this on 4/20.