“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 the following:
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 places 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:
Our weekend started on Friday afternoon. Anna finished work, came home and packed and then we were off to the Köln Hauptbahnhof. 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, but it still caused a slight hiccup. We eventually got to Amsterdam Central Station, where we needed to be, 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 and most populous city of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, although it is a relatively small city (a population of 813,562 within the city proper, 1,112,165 in the urban area and 1,575,263 in the metropolitan area. The city region has a population of 2,332,773.) 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 place is the most relaxed place you will ever go to, 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 always be 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 saw one person get 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. So why were we having dinner in a bar with a few stools and a dead cow hanging in the window? We were directed to a large black door at the back of the room that required a special password to be given. 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 would have dinner. We almost all ordered the burger and lobster and then we went out for the night. Good times were had by all.
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 sex stores selling some of the most mind-bogglingly graphic 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, so I’ll keep the photos low-key:
After walking around and having a few beers again it was off to dinner. 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 of 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 medicine-related industry, the medical talk was flowing thick and fast. I was staring out the window when I saw the red light 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, but the service was so slow! Anyway, we went out again after that to enjoy our last night in Amsterdam.
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 on the way. Our train departed from Amsterdam Central Station on time and our trip back to Köln was all smooth sailing. There were, however, some problems with the trains from Köln to Bonn, but we made it home in the end and had to resort to McDonald’s for dinner, as nothing 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, whether it to bask in the beauty or to thrive in its debauchery. Or both.
Oh, and it’s merely a coincidence that I wrote this on 4/20.