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Published: April 16th 2006
A few days before my return to the states, I was able to sneak away from my program in Maastricht long enough to get over to Amsterdam for the day. I figured that it would be a shame to have studied in the country for so long without having had occasion to peak around the city, but it had always been something that seemed too pricey considering the complete lack of student discounts on Dutch Rail. However, a friend came though a few days before my last day off, and he gave me a 40% off voucher that expired the end of the month. Good enough for me, I was off see the city!
Touristy even on a Thursday during the off season, the city has more than enough charm once one clears the core. I started off just zigzagging around the canals, taking in the atmosphere while trying to avoid the now nauseous odor of burning cannabis (a semester in Holland will get to one after a while). Between the many cannabis selling coffee houses, a nice sprinkle of mushroom merchants balanced out the two primary drugs on the market that day. Regarding vices, I was there too early
to encounter much along the infamous “red light district”.
It really is a shame that many people seem to come to the city and only delve into one aspect of the Dutch persona. Not being too judgmental myself, I was more than happy to experience another substance the country was famous for: Heineken. Rather accidental really. I was just walking along going through the sites I had plotted out on my map, and I inadvertently bumped into the brew house. €10 gets you in, which includes 3 beers. The tour was moderately interesting, but not really earth shatteringly informative. The strangest aspect was a row of recliners that had been outfitted with video screens to show Heineken commercials from different eras. Ok, but honestly, how enthralling did they really expect viewing commercials to be?
I was also surprised by the fact that I passed three Mac stores during my five hours of walking around. I guess that they are more popular here than in the surrounding European countries. However, Holland is not known for its Mac stores: Holland is known for its bikes. They have bikes (for everything here. In just a few hours of meandering about, the
Tulips, Bulbs, and pot seeds! Everything the prospective gardener would need
follow variations of the ‘fiets’ were spotted: maternity (room for baby in front), cargo (very similar, but is shaped more like a wheelbarrow, see picture) 2x cargo is the same, but with parallel containers. In addition to these, they of course have all kinds of the usual tandem and child seat equipped bikes.
I would have loved to stay longer, but with a group presentation to give the following morning, I had to leave on a train that would get me back to Maastricht by 21:00. It was a short glimpse of the city, but I couldn’t have asked for more during a five hour visit.
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