Published: June 6th 2007June 6th 2007
A lot of Warhol's on display inside
We decided to stick around Cologne for awhile, catch a train to Amsterdam a little bit after noon. Got our bags packed up, stored them in the hostel’s luggage room, and stepped out to check out the Ludwig Modern Art Museum and the shopping district, both which are conveniently located within steps of the Dom.
Walked over to the Ludwig, a crowd was gathered around the Dom and street performers were abundant, bought our tickets, and wandered through all the strange and interesting modern art exhibits. The reason for us going to it was that they had an Andy Warhol exhibit and a Roy Liechtenstein exhibit. Not that we are big fans of Warhol, but its an opportunity to see it all in person. I am not a big fan of modern art and some the paintings, photographs, and sculptures kind of solidified that sentiment. I mean, some were really cool and struck a chord with me, but most looked like finger paintings I did in preschool and most of the photographs were of bus station seats or of nuclear power plants or whatever. After seeing incredible Renaissance art in Florence and the Vatican, I laughed at the thought of
Our room in the Flying Pig Downtown Hostel
what future generations are going to think of the art my generation and my parents generation created. Oh well, everyone has their own tastes, glad I had the opportunity to walk through an art museum in Germany.
After the museum, we walked through the shopping district; I bought a bag from H&M to carry all my souvenirs. For lunch we stopped at a nearby a Doner kebab stand. I am convinced my fortune will be made by introducing Doner kebabs to the U.S. They are all over the countries we have been to. Basically, its Turkish food but with a fast food twist to it. In the shops, there is a big round slab of lamb rotating on a vertical pole with a random flame spurting up to cook it, kind of like rotisserie. They cut thin slices of the lamb and put them into a pita bread wrap (think gyro) and put vegetables and cucumber sauce or whatever sauce you desire in it. Then they give it to you and you enjoy the deliciousness of the Doner kebab. Every place we have gone to has served fries with it. It’s the new craze. And now that I have
told you, I am now convinced someone else will make their fortune through Doner kebabs before I get to.
When we got done chowing down on the steps of the Dom, we went back to the hostel, grabbed our bags, and went over to the station to catch our train, except we got on the wrong train. We were on the right track number, but the train we hopped on was the one that left a couple minutes before the correct one. Fortunately, we were like Keanu Reeves in The Matrix and dodged bullets, because the train we were on stopped in DÃ¼sseldorf, where we could get off and wait five minutes for the train going to Amsterdam that we should have been on. Get it? Its complicated. The important thing is we eventually were seated on an Amsterdam bound train. The train ride took longer than expected. There was an accident of some sort on the tracks in Holland. The conductor would make these announcements in German and Dutch and I would look at the people around me and analyze their facial expressions to see if it was a good announcement or a bad one. The conductor would
Not the actual brewery but still a nice sight to see
repeat it in English but he had such a thick accent, it was like he was Brad Pitt in Snatch. Our train would have to take a different route to Utrecht and Amsterdam, a longer different route, which made people on the train very agitated. The conductor had to get out and walk from the front engine to the rear engine, because we would be headed back the way we came for a little bit, and he opted to get out and walk on the tracks outside of the train to avoid any altercations from the passengers. Although the train would be an hour late to Amsterdam, I didn’t mind, I just enjoyed looking out the window at the landscape of the Netherlands. Kind of reminded me of New Jersey in a way. A lot of random water, small plots of farmland, and trees. Saw two windmills and some ranches that had pygmy horses roaming around. Very pretty country. Even saw a little stone barn with a Jimi Hendrix face painted on it; must be getting close to Amsterdam.
Arrived at the main station in Amsterdam at little after 6pm, a cloudy chilly day, one thing about Europe is
that the sun doesn’t set till like 10. Stepped out of the station and saw tons of people and rows of five or six story old Dutch style buildings (if that is even a helpful description). Walked down a bustling street lined with South American steakhouses, a McDonald’s, pizza places, a small store that sold strictly fries, and souvenir stores filled with cheesy shirts with silhouettes of naked women and shirts with marijuana leaves on them. On the left of the street is a canal with rows of narrow buildings, so narrow they are about two or three windows wide, five stories high, and the tops are stagger to flat point, like a set of four or five steps. The directions took us down this alley that woke me up to the fact that we were really in Amsterdam. The alley was lined with “coffeeshops” and the smell of steakhouses, pizza, and fries was overtaken by the pungent smell of weed wafting out of these places. Found the Flying Pig hostel and walked in. It has a reputation of being the most popular hostel in Amsterdam and a reputation for catering to the party-crowd. When you walk in, the lobby is basically a bar and in the left corner is a nook of pillows littered with stoned kids, some deep in sleep, and some newcomers squatting down to light joints. It was a pretty funny site to see.
Checked in, walked up a spiral staircase to our six bed dorm room. What they didn’t tell you at check in or when you reserve online is that “two beds for two people” is really a queen size bed for two people. Our room had a bunk bed with queen size mattresses and a bunk bed with twin mattresses. So I guess in the hostel’s terminology there were “six beds” but in the rest of the world’s opinion, there are four beds. Anyways, walked in and met one of our roommates. He is from Phoenix, too. His name is Tim, probably 30, works for Intel and is enjoying the eight week sabbatical the company gives you after you have been there for seven years. He is in the lower bed of the twin sized bunk bed and says there the person who was above him left today, so if no one gets put in the room tonight, I am going to snag that top bunk. Richard and I have the top queen sized bunk, and I guess from Tim’s description, there is a couple in the bottom bunk who enjoy participating in the liberties Amsterdam has to offer.
I changed into some jeans and Richard and I went down to the hostel bar for some beers. Each ordered Guinness, sat at a table, and looked around. The bar was pretty crowded and hazy from cigarette and weed smoke. There was music playing, a constant rotation of Bob Marley, Sublime, and hip-hop. Finished our beers and decided went to explore the city. The hostel is on pretty busy pedestrian street that has coffeeshops, clothing stores, and eateries all along it. We walk back down the alley to the busy street we walk from the station on. Stopped to eat some slices of pizza. Walked over to a large plaza with a statue in the middle and Madame Toussard’s Wx Museum in the southwest corner. This must be the happening district, starting to get dark, coffeeshops, cafes (bars), restaurants, pastry shops, Doner kebabs, adult toy-stores, and I guess whatever you can think of, is here. The streets were bustling with people, lot of young tourists, but small groups of older couples and Asian businessmen. One thing Richard and I had talked about on the train is that if we were pickpockets, we would operate in Amsterdam because its easy to swipe a wallet from a stoned individual. I guess we weren’t the only ones with this mentality, because pick-pockets are everywhere. They are obvious too. All the tourists and law-abiding people are waddling through the streets trying to get to wherever it is they are heading, and then there are these individuals standing on corners just casing out people. Not all of them are pick-pockets, some are hard-drug dealers. They stand on the corner and when you pass them, they take a step forward, whisper “coke, ecstasy” in your ear, and then take a step back, like a cuckoo clock. It takes you a second for it to register that someone actually just whispered that in your ear. All the while you are crossing canals that are beautifully lit up and you can see historic clock towers and buildings in the distance. Regardless of all the vices available, its an attractive city to walk around and study. I noticed some of the narrow row houses are actually slanting; I don’t know what from, maybe just from age.
Came to an area with a sidewalk on one side lined with establishments, a canal, and a sidewalk on the other side lined with establishments. Amongst the yellow-orange streetlamps, a different color was radiating into the air. Red light. We found ourselves in the infamous Red Light district. The place reminded me of a carnival. The sex show places all had a Scotsman dressed in a suit, calling out to those passing by with clever one liners. To us it was “Come on boys, come inside, just get it over with.” Whatever that meant. To a middle aged couple walking by, he shouted to the wife “Step right in, don’t you want to see what a big one looks like for a change?” Then there were the girls in the windows. It was like a car wreck, you don’t want to look, but you can’t help. Girls off all different varieties, either standing, sitting, or dancing in these windows with long, red, horizontal lights above them. I felt bad, because I laughed sometimes. I couldn’t believe I was actually in the Red Light District of Amsterdam. If you looked directly at them, it was like being at the pound and they get all excited they and start dancing or give you the “come her” with their fingers, then you sheepishly turn your head. The girls were actually very attractive. I had imagined them to be the disheveled, trashy women I’ve occasionally seen roaming the streets of Phoenix at night or on TV. Even the alleys were lined with these red lights, some of the windows were covered with a curtain which is the sign for “busy”. I am 23 years old and Richard is 20, but we would look at each other and giggle like school kids, don’t know why, its just something so foreign to us being from the desert of Arizona.
This is the area to really watch out for pick-pockets. We saw a short, Spanish looking guy in a white sweatsuit wiggle through the crowd, got in front of us, and saw his lightning flash moves as he snuck into a woman’s purse and snatch something. The whole time I was looking at him, and I wanted to say something or grab him, but he looked back and noticed me analyzing him, and shot me a look like it would be in my best interest to keep my mouth shut. Crazy.
Walked back to an area with bars, but the bars didn’t look all that inviting. Most had very few patrons, let alone people our age, so we retreated back to the hostel. The lobby was still full of people seated at the bar and in the nook. Its after midnight and I was tired and still feeling sick, so I went up to bed. The top bunk above Tim is still empty so I am taking it, hopefully there won’t be any stragglers checking in late being assigned it. Tomorrow, we are probably going to go to check out the Heineken factory and the Van Gogh museum. My guess is that the difference between night and day in Amsterdam is like night and day.