“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – St. Augustine
What other city would have strangers add to your conversation while walking down the street, or have restaurants promoting discounted weed and good beer? In all the cities that I have visited nothing compares to this student’s dream land of equally fun and laid back city in the Netherlands.
My roomie, Ada, and I set out in Covoiturage and landed at our Couchsurfing host’s apartment on Friday night, enjoying a relaxed evening of tea and snacks in her cozy home, 30 minutes from the city center. An evening of conversation between a Canadian, a Polish and an Indonesian made for a great start to the weekend. Saturday morning we ventured out, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to tackle the busy Dutch streets. Only minutes after boarding the train we met a curious local, who accompanied us to the Royal Palace and let us off with directions, tips and hints of the city. Watch out for the cyclists, they will run you over.
There are coffee shops (AKA weed shops) on every corner, next to tourist stores with booming house music and glow in the dark party wear. Restuarants with cuisines from all around the globe are on every corner of every street; kebab, sushi, Chinese noodles, French patisserie, Italian pasta and sandwiches, burger joints and even vegetarian health spots.
Everyone speaks English in Amsterdam, but when listening closely you can hear the hum of a mix of languages from all over. I felt like everyone was on vacation and even those who were clearly locals were more than happy to help out and have a chat. Even the security guards in the train station gladly shared some of my waffles while mocking my accent when I asked for directions.
While we were there we saw, and were accidentally part of, an anti-racism protest. The current political situation is not pleasing many locals so what else would they do but stand up and fight, especially against discrimination. Again; Love. This. City.
Ada and I spent our afternoon in the Heineken museum, which was well worth it. For 16 euros we got a tour including three beer and followed by a 25-minute canal ride leading us to the Heineken store where we picked up our complimentary Heineken glass. During and after the tour we hung out with people from Syria, the States, Holland and Egypt, four of which have multiple passports and three of which lived in Canada. The culture in this city is amazing.
That night we strolled through the red light district. We didn’t think we were on the right track, but it’s easy to find; once you’re surrounded by streets lined with red lights and half-naked women in the windows, voilà, it’s party time.
Sunday morning after a big breakfast with our Couchsurfing hosts our friend back in France joined us and three of us went to the Rijksmuseum, a Dutch museum dedicated to arts and history. The rest of the afternoon had us strolling the streets, avoiding crazy cyclists and appreciating the beautiful canals.
Going back to France we were both exhausted and could do nothing else but laugh over all the crazy conversations we had and fun people we met. This city is definitely one of my favourites.
Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.