Some kind of wonderful: Amsterdam

I’m back in London now after a few days in Amsterdam. I spent my time there with Jess, Gosia, and Annie; three fellow Australians, two of whom are also studying Journalism at Monash with me. The trip was great – but not without mishaps…

First of all, we got on the wrong train from the airport. Fortunately a ticket inspector came on board and informed us of this when she checked our tickets. But we didn’t despair. It was 20 degrees and sunny, and we enjoyed sitting in the sun on the platform waiting for the correct train. We found the place we were staying without much drama. It was well located, and we were able to walk almost everywhere we went.

Sunshine makes everything better!

The real drama occurred that afternoon. Annie had a broken camera, so Jess and I went with her to a camera shop in an attempt to have it fixed. She was told it wouldn’t be worth having fixed, and that she should buy a new camera. The man we dealt with was a little dodgy, to say the least. In short, he appeared to be scamming Annie of her money. He suggested she pay for the new camera partly on card and partly in cash. After taking her cash, he insisted her card wasn’t working. He asked that she give another card, but she said she would rather just have her money back and not buy the camera. He refused to return the money, and began to abuse us, eventually chasing us out of the shop – Annie less 30 Euros.

Shortly afterwards, Annie realised the man had asked for her ID and she had not got it back. So we went to the Police. We dealt with a very helpful young Policeman, who walked with us to the camera shop to investigate the situation. It was pretty exciting. In fact, there were two officers, and they stopped traffic for us so we could cross the road! Eventually they came out of the shop with Annie’s money and ID back, and assured us that nothing dodgy was being done with her credit card.

It was rather traumatic, more so for Annie of course, but it was also an experience. It taught us all to be more vigilant in those kinds of situations. And when else am I going to go to a Police Station in Amsterdam? Hopefully never.

On Sunday we went on a free walking tour. Our tour guide explained some history of Amsterdam and told stories along the way. In three hours, we covered a lot of ground – and I fell in love with the place. Amsterdam isn’t like London or Paris, where there are a heap of tourist destinations you have to pack in. Rather, it’s about being there and experiencing the city. Walking along the canals, admiring the architecture while trying to avoid being hit by a bicycle…

One of MANY photos I took. But you can see why, right?

One thing we did make a point to visit, however, was the Anne Frank Museum, which is inside the Anne Frank House. It was well done with testimonies, documents, pictures, and more. I found it extremely interesting and moving. It’s been many years since I read Anne Frank’s Diary; now I would like to read it again.

The tour guide had suggested a few different places we might like to go if we had some time. On Monday we followed his advice and visited some markets in the east of the city. I always enjoy markets, and this one was no different, although I couldn’t buy anything. My bag was really pushing easyJet’s size restrictions on the way over, and if they decided it was too big, I would have to pay to check it in. That’s 30 pounds I’d rather keep.

Later in the day we went to a brewery, which was pretty cool. I’m not a beer person myself, but I believe it was good beer.

Blogging has become an important an enjoyable aspect of my travelling. Wherever I go, I seem to always think about what kinds of things I’m going to write in my blog. In Amsterdam I pondered this more than usual. The thing is, what I want to write about, and what I want my parents and grandparents to read about, is not quite the same thing…

That’s not to say we spent our time in “coffee shops.” Those who know me well know that wouldn’t be my scene. But the culture is inescapable, and I was quite fascinated by it. Cannabis, grass, weed, pot – whatever you want to call it. It’s legal and it’s everywhere. Moments after we came out of the train station, we could already smell it in the air. And you couldn’t walk far along any street without passing a “coffee shop” or two.

And another thing which has to be mentioned in any discussion about Amsterdam: The Red Light District. I’ve never seen anything like it. I found it a little unsettling, walking through the streets, seeing women behind red-lit windows offering themselves. Not only is prostitution legal, it’s a significant industry there.

That’s not to mention all the sex shops in the area; a ‘Condomerie,’ for example, or “the most vibrating shop in town.” Can you guess what that sells? It has to be seen to be believed. I feel like I lost my innocence a little in Amsterdam! But I did love it. It’s a lot less hectic than London; almost quiet at times. And aesthetically, it’s beautiful.

A good time had by all

Anyway, I have to go to bed. You see, I’m getting up at 4am tomorrow morning to catch a train to Belgium. Once I get past that, I’m sure it will be great. Stay tuned for a post about Belgium in a few days time!

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