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Published: December 26th 2009
Arriving on a very efficient train from Berlin which I thought was heading to South Amsterdam station, the lovely train conductor told me I could hop across a platform at one of the stations and arrive at Amsterdam Centraal which was where I wanted to be, so already I was a fan of Holland...
Now I was going solo with Ben having gone to Hamburg to see family friends, I took myself out for dinner, and later realised that I was actually sitting in the restaurant window...luckily in the right part of town & not the red light district!!!
A visit to the Anne Frank museum was so interesting, and it is located in the very house that she, her family and another family were in hiding. Having read the book, it was good to really understand where they lived, and to see a model of how it was furnished. The museum actually made this sad ending of a story into an insipring message of freedom of speech (which obviously was non-existent at the time) - how one girls letters have taught us so much, and her story has been spread around the world. It is definitely worth visiting.
I have spent a long time wandering the canals and streets of Amsterdam, and it can get confusing with so many road names, and there are so many paths and bridges in between! I spent a morning wandering the pedestrian shopping areas which was nice, but I was wondering...where is the famous cafe culture and red light district that so many come to see. After much walking, I decided to stop in an average chain-store coffee shop I came across and rest my feet. As I left and chose a nearby street to explore, it didn't take me long to realise I had found that red light district! I didn't know what I had expected to find, but this was not it! Literally - women in windows wearing not a lot, all shapes and sizes. Some even tapping on windows at the men as they went by. It was so blatant, I think that was what surprised me! Then of course I was also surrounded by adverts for, and neon lighting into all kinds of cinemas/theatres/clubs! No need to describe that any further.
I have decided I am not a fan of crossing the road in Amsterdam. Some
bicycles obey the laws as if they are a car, other bicycles assume they can pass for pedestrians. So, as happened to me today, I crossed the road at a green man, when a bike flew round a corner in front of me! I find myself looking everywhere for trams, bikes and cars, and always having to make sure I am not walking on or across a bicycle lane or tram tracks, so confusing! To add to the mayhem, motorbikes are sometimes on the road and sometimes on a bike path! Bike paths are for pedallers OK! Rant over.
Another thing I noticed on my travels....no matter what language, you can spot a chav in any country, well Europe at least, I'm not sure the same term exists elsewhere. "Chav" took a lot of explaining to my Australian friends. There is something about the way they speak, a little louder and more brash, and there is the same style of hair and piercing and that "too cool for school" walk that sets them apart even if you can't understand the foreign slang talk!
Amsterdam is a fairly small place to walk around, so once I had explored a
lot of it on foot, I decided to take a canal boat tour. It was nice to see Amsterdam from the water level, but I wasn't a fan of the pre-recorded commentary that was a bit cringe at points!
Still on my own, I was pleased when Ben was arriving at the Haag that evening so I went on a day trip. I took an hours train to Rotterdam and found myself a map. Once again, I just walked and walked, mostly by the water, looking at some of the nice old sailing boats. Other parts of town were fairly average, just shopping streets and business areas. I left Rotterdam and took a half hour train to the Haag where I met Ben once again, and another friend. Nikki also came back out from the UK to join us so we were reunited and went for a celebratory drink. Later in the evening I got a train and a tram back to my hostel in Amsterdam - a busy day!
By the time my last morning in Amsterdam rolled around, I was definitely ready to head for home! I had to wait until 22.30 when my bus left,
so I spent the day with Ben and Nikki walking around once more, dreaming of home!
My bus left on time, and I was very excited to be on my final overnight bus! We arrived at French customs at about 4am having driven through Belgium already, and I had a big smile on my face as I entered UK customs at about 5am - obviously the man behind the counter didn't care, but I was chuffed - I'd made it into England with no planes since Thailand! Our bus went on the Euro tunnel, and arrived at Victoria station at 8am. From there I got on the final
leg of the journey, on the London Underground, and walked right up to the front door! HOORAH!
I made it!! Thailand to England and no airplanes!! Challenge complete!
What's the next challenge? - I'm not sure yet!!!
J x x
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