My last couple of days have been spent in Amsterdam. I had arranged to stay there for 2 full days because I thought the city was big based on hype and online reviews, but it is actually quite small.
I took the Thalys train from Brussels to Amsterdam and arrived in Amsterdam at 11 am. I was too cheap to buy the city maps that were for sale at the train station, and I figured that since the hostel I was staying at wasn’t too far from the central station, that I’d manage to find it okay. WRONG.
Unlike modern cities that are planned, Amsterdam is an old city that just sort of ‘happened.’ the roads meander through the city and it is only outside of the city limits that a grid-like system exists. I somehow managed to find an English bookstore and the guy working there pointed me in the right direction.
I found the hostel, and moved in. Up to this point, I had never stayed in a youth hostel before, I’d only heard and read about them. For 21 Euro a night inc. breakfast, it was a steal. I was placed in a room of 20 girls and the room could not have been more than half occupied. The girls were quiet and respectful at night, I got a free map of the city, the beds were comfortable, and the sheets were soft and clean… I couldn’t have asked for anything more.
After unwinding, I meandered around the city, first walking through the red-light district (which is absolutely fine and safe in the daytime) and got lost for a while and found my way to the Anne Frank House. I think getting lost in a city like Amsterdam is the best way to see the city. You see cafes and delis that normally would escape your eye if you were on a metro or in a car, and you get the true feeling that you are a local.
I had read The Diary of Anne Frank as a child and had imagined the way her house would have looked. I was surprised at how large the house was and was impressed by the secret life the family had to live.
After leaving the Anne Frank house, I again walked the city a bit and on my way, I found a knitting shop! I ended up purchasing an Addi Clik set for my mother (they are more than double the cost in the States) and shared some thoughts on knitting with the nice counter clerk.
I’ve forgotten to mention up to this point that the city is gorgeous! It was built on canals and everywhere you go there is a canal of water following you on the side. The roads are flat (except for the bridges going over the canals) and bicycling is a breeze as a result. The city is infested with bicycles and in addition to theft, parking is a problem.
The forecast beforehand had scheduled rain and cold weather for the days I spent in Amsterdam, but I was fortunate to not catch any rain… just cloudy weather. By the end of the day, my feet were tired from walking the city and dodging bicycles, so I went back to the hostel and retired early.