As for all the tourist draws of Amsterdam it’s true that coffee shops are everywhere and that a disappointing amount make ridiculous amounts of money by selling weed of questionable quality by attracting consumers with a deplorable amount of neon signs, rasta couture and loud music.
On the coffee shop tour I learned smoking isn’t “legal” as the EU doesn’t tolerate it but police in the Netherlands basically ignore that (not sure what they blame since there aren’t any skunks here). Also, a lot of the good stuff is bc bud. mmm, enough said. we then walked past a lot of good examples of bad places-I think i avoided taking pictures because it was a traumatic experience. However! i went to visit a few good ones with a Swedish girl i met on the tour and they were alright. I really liked Ke2 and have heard good things about blues cafe, the grey room and (Amsterdam’s oldest coffee shop) mellow yellow.
the red light tour was later. here’s the basics: legal, everyone has health insurance, min age 19 (i think, changes a lot), still have problems with pimps “grooming” girls, some drugs, (way less than van), the prostitutes are grouped by type for your shopping ease.
the tour went by during “tourist hour” so most of the ladies we walked past were surfing Facebook on their iphones.
Of course in the course of my stay there was a canal tour. pretty relaxing hour and a half. from the water the city looks very different, much older and felt like i imagined it would years earlier when it was bustling instead of mad with tourists
P.s things I learned: orange is caused by the bacteria caramelising the sugars. After 3 years there are no natural sugars left.
There is no photography allowed, really I guess there isn’t a lot to see. Everyone enters through a building next door and then walks through the storehouse below; the offices; past the bookcase that hides the entrance to the hiding place which you must duck to step through to. Once inside the secret annex you walk, In a quiet line of museum goers through bare rooms with wooden floors. The windows are all covered in black out curtains but I was somehow surprised that it felt so dark, almost stifling. On the walls are pictures of what the rooms looked like when lived in, they feel large. More so then I imagined but it’s easy to see space when ones only passing through.
The kitchen has a small gas stove and one long counter. In Anne’s room are the only decorations, a strange selection of her postcard and picture collection glued to her walls, ranging from cherubs to old painting to pictures of actresses cut out of magazines.
Near the end of the museum there is a video running of her friend who spoke to Anne shortly before the war ended. It was weird to see and realize again how young she was, how if she lived she would be living her life now, a famous author probably. There were also biographies of the people who his the Franks and it’s impossible to say enough about their bravery.
Horrors upon horrors, I’m typing most of this entry on my iPhone. Turns out keyboard only stays charged if you don’t leave it on for 10 hours afterward.
I will struggle through typing on his tiny phone for you, because I’m on a train for 3 hours and because the guilt of being 3 cities ahead of where my posts say I am is beginning to cause a lot of anxiety.
Amsterdam! It all began with the dam of the Amstel river. From there it was a matter of making money; one of the dutch’s favourite things. Amsterdam became a very successful port by waving taxes for foreign traders and basically welcoming anyone into the city.
I know this because free walking tours by new Europe are my favourite Europe find. Although my Amsterdam guide was a lot more from Alaska than Holland. She was funny and knowledgable enough that I couldn’t resist signing up (and paying) for the coffee shop walk and red light walking tour.
The most precious place and likely what I’ll remember most in Amsterdam has nothing to do with what so many tourists travel there for. for me it was the Anne Frank museum. But, instead of including my longwinded expressions of emotions relating to that experience here I’ll put it in a short post to itself.
After my emotional morning I was glad to be in time for the free walking tour.
The tour went something like this: introduction; joke; history-no taxes, freedom, religious persecution, rich=tolerance; joke. We walked through an old Begijnhof-like a monastery for this obscure branch of Christian nuns-now being used as affordable housing/ retirement community (waiting list of 20 years)
Thats just the front entrance. Inside is just a tiny church and a green square. We walked out past a wall of the history museum that had a few of the old business tiles on it. before Napoleon conquered Holand and brought about street names and made people make up last names for themselves the plaques hung above doors as a way of identification.
we looked at one of Amsterdam’s smaller abodes and good representation of their leaning houses (I think this on is only leaning forward)
At the end of the tour we got free cheese. Gouda is so much gooder in Amsterdam!
Saying The Hague you probably don’t think beachy town. thats true Den Haag is where the house of orange resides (royal quarters), where the UN tribunal meet and the house of parliament for the Netherlands. I was very lucky, I stayed with some really nice, mildly cat-obsessed couch surfers who live in scheveningen, 10 minutes from the beach. The beautiful sunset was my first night there.
My second day I burrowed the bike and road past the peace palace and peace flame then onto the Japanese botanic gardens. Is it a rule that every city has botanic gardens? it wouldn’t be a bad rule but i do question the specific reasoning that called for “botanic gardens” can’t we creat new green spaces and name them “nice gardens” or “free grass”. No?
The second day I took the tram downtown for 3 euros, past the palace (under construction) to a tea shop that although slightly disappointing in variety (no oolong, no deal) happened to have a wonderful collection of themed teapots
Not feeling like going to the same old-here’s-another-work-of-art-museum I instead went to the Escher Museum. I learned that besides a unique style Escher was ridiculously talented and disliked school, liked traveling to remote towns and liked nature.
What a cool guy.
After the first day in Ghent I had not had my fill of old architecture but I’d seen enough to be able to look at other things.
There are tons of old churches: all beautiful. There is a hall built by louis the 5th (big, pretty, lots of gold. king stuff). With my wonderful and enlightening new couchsurfer friend I got to see a few less well trodden sights around the city and eat the best chocolate spread for brunch. Also vraai which i will come to last.
One thing I had to do in Ghent was to see the famous painting “The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb”. So i saw it. was a’ight. Sorry Hubert van Eyck fans. I payed 4 euros to see this sacrificial lamb which was quite small, but the focal point of (once 12) 8 panels of an alter. The lamb doesn’t like paparazzi so, you know, google.
My wonderful dose of sincere sarcasm, Ben showed me where graffiti alley is. the only place where you’re “allowed” to spray paint walls in Ghent.
We also came across some other art. the middle one is part of a wall dedicated to cycling.
So Vraai. A cake, something closely related may be pumpkin pie. Take you some gingerbread and some speculoos cookies. Mush those together with milk and cook slightly. mix in eggs and cornstarch pour into your cake pan and bake and BAM. desert. mhm. Lastly, Ghent gets even nicer lookin’ at night.
I don’t even know where to start with this city. Really. It was a snap getting from the train station to the info centre which was the only priority i had when i got here. Find a map. try to figure out where on earth to go. As always, it’s best to walk in circles when first arriving somewhere new-at least this seems to be my chosen method. this time, however I walked in a large circle with purpose! after i begged the tourist info lady for suggestions she handed me a map of a route to walk through the old centre “the bowl” she called it. I had a whole day to kill lugging my delightfully not light backpack around so my plan consisted of walk this walk as slowly as possible. I don’t have anything to compare it to but i spent extra time resting, I mean “admiring” the city along the way.
First there was the Gravensteen “Castle of the Counts”. yeah right? so I figure that covers castles for a bit
Inside was pretty sparse; a few weapons, suits of armour and torture instruments on display. guillatines, the usual. I was pretty impressed by the guns they had on display. Definitely pieces of art-don’t want to kill animals or things with weapons not fit for a gentlemen right?
After that short detour I walked towards St Michael’s church. Looked out over this
And walked into the church where I was encouraged to take pictures-if i wanted! I’m not a fan of church’s or photos but the beauty of this church, the organ music playing quietly in the background; if that’s what religion revolved around, just beautiful things filling your eyes and ears, I could get on that wagon.
After St Michaels I walked past this amazing hair choice
And heard the sound of a some slide guitar. Bam. beelined towards that and listened to some amazing blues and rock (a bit of stairway to heaven, of course) for a couple hours drinking cheap beer on the sidewalk with some other listeners. finished my walk and only got mildly lost. hmm starting to sound like my new catch-phrase there.
I’m on a small farm just an hour out of brussels for until friday. So far I’ve gotten to weed and hoe and…wash dishes. but this is only day 1. And by the way, I think i did a fairly bang up job. I may have a natural affinity for hoeing.
for two days here i’m the only volunteer worker then (pft) two Canadians are supposed to get here on monday. we’re like the plague or a unwanted affection, just unnavoidable.
Until the politeness around here triples i’m camping solo…but not. The set is a yurt a hundred feet from the house so when i’m in the yurt I’m doing camping ish things like listening to music, reading, drinking beer, typing on this iphone…and playing a little classical guitar i found in the corner (happydays, thankyoujesus). and trying to get the goddamn fire to burn and not die out.
Yay camping! when I’m not in the yurt doing yurty things I’m inside trying to make myself look like a person people want to host for couch surfing (takes much time) and sometimes i talk to Kristine who’s hosting me here. So far I can tell I like her husband Dirk even though he mostly speaks flemish he talks (raves) about people a lot and throws in the occasional swear word. tis good. as far as i can surmise. They have a son who is 17. enough said?
I’m a little worried that no one is petting the cat, Boris, but me. either he’s starved for attention or a complete suck. one can never tell with felines.