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Published: October 1st 2015
Up at 6.00am in Hamburg for a 6.50am taxi call to the station. We had time to kill when we got there. More refugees grouped on the station Poor buggers hadn't washed in days and the smell was strong but they were not long from getting on a train to somewhere else where they were to be registered and looked after. Apart from them the usual domestic drunks and vagrants, still on the station from the night before, being moved on at that hour of the morning.
Our train to Amsterdam had two changes, at Muenster and Osnabruck, but we had ample time between stops to make the next section. The stations are so well sign posted that it is almost impossible to lose yourself. Five hours until we arrived at Amsterdam Centraal. What a circus! Busy! People wall to wall but not hard to find our way around. We got directions to our Airbnb place and it was only about 7 minutes of walking. A narrow Dutch house right on the Brouwersgracht Canal. The downside of the narrow Dutch house as we soon worked out, were the narrow Dutch stairs climbing for three flights to the top of the
Cow series 5
building - yep - that's where our room was. Right at the top. It was small, very small, very very small. One bedside box thing to put stuff on, no room on the other side for anything but a wall, a small bathroom with shower, a separate toilet where it paid to open the door if you were sitting down so your knees would clear the door......small. If I make it sound dire, it wasn't. It was clean and tidy and attractive, but.... small. (When we left on our last day we got a peek at another room halfway down the stairs - twice the size of ours and only half way up! We'll know to ask more questions/make more demands next time before committing to a deal).
However, we were excited, or maybe just high from the fumes we'd walked through that were wafting from the "coffee" shop on the corner of our street and in other places as we'd arrived. The room was very secondary to our plans, as for any of you who've been to Amsterdam know, the city is the thing. And so, off we went to explore. It was around 3.00pm. Crowds of people,
some like us rubber necking, others, locals, tearing through the throngs on their bikes and woe be-told if you got in their way. They barreled along on their high, sit-up steeds with legal right of way from vehicles and pedestrians. We had some near misses and there were plenty of bells ringing in our wake. It was buzzing. The canals were magical. The Venice of the North alright. Brown water in the canals but not smelly. We were told that the depth of the canals is approx 3 meters - one metre water, one metre mud, one metre rusty bikes. They were bustling with boats of all sizes. Water buses, small dinghies, launches, kayaks, stand up paddlers. In the sun of the afternoon it was a sight for us colonials. We walked, we stared, we marveled.
Lyn was very keen to see the red light district. It was afternoon so I wasn't sure there'd be any action but how wrong I was. G string clad, pneumatic, hard-faced, fake-tanned 'blondes' standing/sitting, bored in their shop front windows; nervous small groups of young men (British 'lads') loitering outside with possible intent. What a circus. I noticed Lyn was especially taken with
View from No. 8 Brouwersgracht - our place.
it all and later in the evening wanted to go back for another look. We did. Even more of a spectacle. We watched as an older woman tourist shaped to take a photo of a couple of 'beauties' in a window; man, did she cop an earful from one of them who looked like she was going to get out on the street and slam the woman's camera round her ear. She didn't but I was careful to keep my camera out of view. Wuss.
That was our first few hours. Taking in the sights, smells, noises and spectacle of the compact nine canals area, finding somewhere to eat and drink and then putting on our crampons to get back up to our room and sleep the sleep of the (as we'd just found out) innocent. Slightly.
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