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Published: September 30th 2017
The view from the hostel in Amsterdam.
Geo: 51.2687, 4.46397
Another bad sleep - it's too hot here! Also, the shower sucks in the hostel - the angle of the shower head doesn't allow water to shoot out very far. So you need to snug up against the wall but even that's difficult because the big hot/cold knob assembly prevents you from getting close enough.
I had only one bunkmate last night - some guy from Denmark that is in Amsterdam for an interview. He's really excited about it because he'd love to live here (who could blame him?). It's some job involving traveling 2-3 weeks at a time and then returning to Amsterdam for a week. I briefly considered killing him and taking his place - it sounds ideal! I forgot to ask him what company and type of job it was - definitely worth investigating.
At breakfast I accidentally got some Nutella on my Havarti (sounds dirty, doesn't it?) - you would think it would be gross but Nutella on anything is good! I decided to spend some more time in Amsterdam before going to Antwerp - talking to the waitress last night convinced me to stay. I was actually angling for her to give me a
I saved 50 cents by buying a ticket for the Van Gogh museum at the hostel. But it ended up saving me probably 30 minutes of waiting in line!
tour but she wasn't interested - I guess the Axe body spray doesn't work after all!
On my way out of the hostel I passed a girl talking on her cell phone and telling her friend that "The hostel is great! It's so close to Chanel, Ferragamo, and Cartier!" I laughed because I didn't think any hostel-goers could afford to shop at places like that.
Off to the Van Gogh Museum - a must-see while in Amsterdam. I never knew that he was self-taught - it's pretty amazing and probably explains why his style was so unique. Quite the tortured soul ... ahhh ... Tortured Soul ... (see Euro 2006 blog entitled "The cure for a tortured soul is Tortured Soul"😉. Many have tried to psycho-analyze him through his paintings - who knows if any of it was right, but I think that even the average person can examine his work and realize how troubled he was. An excellent museum.
Next up was the Foam Museum of photography. It was a VERY sunny day and reached 27 Celsius. I expected mid-teens and rain when I packed, so my wardrobe of jeans, black shirts, and suede shoes doesn't cut it!!! I walked
The lineup for the Anne Frank museum. Glad that I went my first night, after 6 PM. There was no line and the museum itself was pretty empty.
along Prinsengracht to get there - a lovely walk along a canal. But what walk along an Amsterdam canal ISN'T lovely?
The Foam Museum was an excellent suggestion by last night's waitress. There was an exhibit by Joan Colom - photos from El Raval, Barcelona's red light district, also known politically-incorrectly as "Chinatown" not because there are any Chinese people there, but because they used to associate Chinese people with the poverty and prostitution found there. Maybe that's why Spanish women don't like Chinese men??? The photos were taken in the 50's and 60's - all I can say is that Spanish women from the 50's and 60's were NOT hotties! Who would've thunk it?
The main exhibit was by James Nachtwey - the man was an absolute genius with the camera. He's traveled all around the world and taken photos of many important historic events - Iraq in 2003, 9/11 (how he just happened to be there, I'll never know), Bosnia in the mid to late 90's, Afghanistan '96 (the aftermath of the Taliban's rise to power), and Chechnya in '95.
The "highlights" (the word highlight implies they were positive but really they weren't - for lack of a
The Noordermarkt wasn't open today - so instead I sat on the church steps and ate an orange stolen from the hostel. Right after, I went inside and confessed my crime!
better term "highlights" in this context for me means the most powerful or moving photos) of Chechnya included the body of a woman lying in the street after being killed by a mortar on her way to get supplies. Another was a busload of Russian mothers arriving in Chechnya to look for their sons - and having to walk through a crowd of mothers of Chechen rebels. Imagine the tension - enemies by circumstance, but brought together by the tragic deaths of their sons.
Pictures of famine in Sudan and Somalia in '93, the struggle between the ANC and Inkatha Freedom Party in South Africa '92, the violent clashes in Rwanda in '94 involving mass extermination of the Tutsis ... there was too much to absorb. The Rwandan photos were particularly poignant - shots of people standing in line for hours and even days to get medical attention, and perishing before even seeing a doctor. French soldiers using bulldozers to move and bury disease-infested rotting bodies. I remember this being discussed in Grade 12 Social Studies but not having the maturity or intelligence at the time to really comprehend what was happening. But seeing these pictures now ... it registered
I left my backpack in locker #10 at the hostel. Traveler's tip - if I'm in a hurry I'll just right notes down on my arm if I don't want to dig around for paper to write on.
I actually have a map of the Louvre tattooed on my butt. The show "Prison Break" actually stole the idea from me! But unfortunately the map is no longer of any use - I've grown over the years and the map has been so distorted that it no longer makes any sense.
in my mind like a blow to the head.
Easter Europe 90's - environmental damage due to unregulated heavy industry with photos showcasing the human aspect, with shots of workers in carcinogenic environments without any protective breathing equipment. Interesting note - Magdeburg, Germany was featured in the photos - the home of Heinrich, the guy with the wine from the Brussels hostel.
Indonesia '98-99 - the downfall of Suharto's dictatorship. A photo of a man with only one arm and one leg (he had been hit by a train years before) bathing his children in a polluted river. Most memorable were photos of student demonstrators in front of the parliament building, falling into trances when Suharto resigned. Powerful, compelling, gripping ... I can't adequately describe with mere words the look of bliss on their faces after the end of decades of terror and oppression. Just imagine my face after eating some variation of hazelnut gelato and you'll have an idea!
But the most moving exhibit was Romania '90. Decree 770 was issued by Nicolae Ceaucescu in 1966 to increase the nation's workforce and build it into an economic powerhouse, birth control and sex ed were outlawed. Women were
An innocent-looking cake with the ultimate best-friends, Bert and Ernie on it. If I saw this cake anywhere else I wouldn't think anything of it ... but given that it's in Amsterdam, Bert and Ernie are probably more than just friends ...
urged to have as many babies as possible; those that didn't were threatened with criminal prosecution.
The problem was that the government couldn't look after its own people and the economy was in ruins. Families lived in complete poverty - women who were pregnant and already had a family they couldn't provide for decided to have illegal abortions rather than raise children in such conditions. Sadly many died, orphaning the remaining children. The resulting massive influx of orphans overwhelmed orphanages to their bursting points.
The images were unreal - heartbreakingly so, in fact. Definitely not as graphic as some of the brutal images of war depicted in the other exhibits, but more striking. Society is so inundated with violent images that people become desensitized to them. But show images of children suffering ... and it's a completely different story.
Some facilities only had hot water for one hour, twice per week. The tubs would have 5-7 people jammed into them at a time, and sometimes not all could even fit inside at once. There were also the "incurables" - those born with congenital defects weren't even cared for to any degree and were cast into the deepest
Chinese restaurant Kam-Wah. For those that don't know, that's how we prounounce "camera"!
depths of these squalid dungeons.
Beds were packed with 5-6 people and some didn't even have mattresses to sleep on - only the bare metal frames beneath. There were shots of children crying in agony - locked up in what were essentially cages without any blankets or even clothing. Most unforgettable were the blank, empty eyes of a child blinded by a serious eye condition. He lay in bed with several other children and was left to fend for himself without any degree of medical care.
Doctors in Romania also began seeing the first cases of AIDS in babies but were forced to conceal them. But with the poor hygiene conditions and the many that were infected, it was only a matter of time before countless more contracted AIDS. I think the name of the exhibit was "Awakening". Maybe you can find it on the internet somewhere - it's definitely worth a few minutes of your time.
The long walk over to the Noordermarkt in the Jordaan was a good way to clear my head after the exhibit. The Noordermarkt was closed when I got there - I guess I misunderstood the waitress, because it's apparently only
Doner Kebap - quite possibly the perfect backpacker food. I suppose it could still be improved - by throwing in some Belgian chocolates, Italian gelato, and wrapping it in Belgian waffles.
open certain days of the week. So instead I walked along Princenstraat, Herenstraat, and Westerstraat. It was a long day so far!
I grabbed some pastries for lunch - a crappy sausage roll and a hot dog bun baked with cheese from a second, more upscale bakery. The hot dog bun was nothing special though they had an amazing-looking sponge cake that was glazed and covered in what appeared to be passion fruit seeds. I wished that I had tried a slice of that, too!
After, I strolled along Kalverstraat to Leidseplein and retrieved my backpack from the hostel. The 15:30 train was cancelled so I had an hour to kill. I sat along the canal opposite the train station and ate a kebab. Kind of crappy at the end - the sauce ran out halfway through as a result of a poor job of sauce distribution. They really should teach the kebab makers the proper technique! But still, it was nice to have a kebab again - memories of last summer! The canal wasn't very pretty in this area - there was lots of traffic, taxis, people ... but hey, it's my last few moments in Amsterdam
Cool fast food joint - though you can still order at the counter, you can save time and just use the vending machines to get your frites, burgers, etc.
- I'll take what I can get!
I tried writing the journal on the train but I had no inspiration - I was too depressed because I was leaving Amsterdam. I picked a bad spot on the train - I was stuck in the hot, hot sun. I managed to fall asleep but awoke in a sweat. I should've brought more shirts that were NOT black! The PA announced that the train wouldn't be stopping at Antwerp Centraal but at Antwerp Berchem instead. A pain in the butt! But then not 5 minutes later they announced that it WOULD stop at Centraal, amidst chuckles from the passengers. The train conductor was as indecisive as me at a gelato stand!
Antwerp has a nice train station - it reminded me of Milan's. And also like Milan, Antwerp is kind of boring! I had some confusion with the metro/tram system - the hostel directions said to take tram #2 but I went outside and couldn't find it. Turns out the metro system is basically a few trams that run underground. It was quite a hike to get back to the right spot.
I arrived at the main square - the hostel
Antwerp - statue in the square in front of the cathedral.
directions said to "Go to the cathedral and go to the left and the hostel is right there." What the heck??? I had to ask four people and the final person literally had to walk me to the doorsteps of the hostel. It's several sidestreets behind and to the left of the cathedral. Despite good reviews and a proudly-displayed poster saying it was voted one of the top 10 hostels in the world by Hostel World users, this place was a dump. No lockers and no toilet in the room so I had to go into another room to use theirs - awkward! But that was better than the other option - to go down and use the bar's nasty bathroom. Just a bad hostel in general.
There was nobody in my room but I saw two in the other room when I went to use their bathroom, so I asked them if they wanted to join me for a walk. Caroline's a student from Connecticut who just finished a university term in Florence and Lars is a banker from Copenhagen taking a short break before starting a new job.
Lars needed a shower first so Caroline and I
The cathedral, just beyond the port-a-potties.
went looking for a grocery store and told him that we'd be back in 30 minutes. Ahhh ... another Maes beer ... There's not much to see here except for the main square. We returned, gathered up Lars, and encountered a lost Spanish girl as we walked towards the square. Only one person out of all of us was able to actually find the place on their own - Lars.
Anyway, we pointed her in the right direction and then walked down the Meir (name of the main street) to the train station. There were lots of shops but it was dead as everything was closed. It would have been a great place to stroll during the day.
I grabbed a chicken leg for dinner and we walked back towards the main square in search of a waffle stand, but first I stopped back at the hostel to use the can. I found the lost Spanish girl in the room and asked her if she wanted to join us but she declined because she was too tired (too tired for a waffle? Impossible!). There were also two Montreal girls in the room, Crystal and Katrine (ooh la la!). But
Cool - pinxto (Basque tapas) bar set up with a conveyor belt system, similar to many sushi restaurants. It's part of a chain with a branch in Brussels. Never got a chance to sample, however.
they scurried off before I had a chance to extend the invite 😞
We found a place and sat outside while eating our waffles. I've had better but hey, it's still a Belgian waffle! It was chilly but still a fairly nice night. We sat and chatted a while then went back to the hostel around 11:30 or so. Funny moment of the day - Katrine was trying to get onto the top bunk of her bed. Being kind of petite and not having a ladder, she had to hurl herself up the bed. She made an "Oomph!!!" noise as she landed. Usually it wouldn't be an attractive sound, but her French accent managed to make it kind of sexy!
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