Monday, March 18, 2013

Amsterdam

After Paris, I thought no city in Europe would compare, beauty-wise or awesomeness-wise. Then I went to Amsterdam five days later.



I can't quite put into words how beautiful Amsterdam is. It's only about 200 kilometers (125 miles) north of Brussels, but it is light years ahead of Brussels in every way. First of all, its fantastically beautiful. Lots of canals, obviously, but also lots of trees, grassy areas, clean streets, bright buildings, houseboats, and bikes. More bikes than I've ever seen before, by a factor of, I don't know, 10,000?

Bikes bikes bikes bikes bikes bikes bikes bikes and bikes
Canals canals canals canals canals. Flat. Bikes. 




Honestly, the logistics were far from perfect. Eeva and Lucia were on a different bus line from myself, Kaan, Lera, and Monika. We had some mishaps with couchsurfing/youth hostels/taxis/taking nightbuses into the forest. Our first tram ride was less than graceful. Not all of us knew how to ride bikes. (Seriously Kaan?!) We didn't really know what we wanted to see in the city. We squandered a chance to get delicious kiwi smoothies for 1 euro. We had to pay for tap water. 
None of that mattered one lick. Amsterdam is too beautiful and friendly and open for us to possibly have a bad time. From hopping onto tours for 5 minutes at a time to randomly coming across the flower market, the entire trip was spontaneous, fun, relaxing, and, dare I say, euphoric. Amsterdam had each and every one of us happy and smiling, and wondering why we chose to study in Brussels instead. We will be back. 
(And we will stay in the same hostel, rent bikes from the same guy, and eat pizza at the same restaurant. Seriously it was all awesome. Especially the bike rental guy, so nice).

Fortunately my camera was alive and well for this trip, so let me walk you through the highlights:

My new favorite word to say (or try to say at least): Pannenkoekenboot,
i.e. Pancake Boat. Rolls off the tongue
Titanic posing on a ferry
ride in the harbor with Kaan
Cheese! Everywhere there were cheese stores (or cheese
museums), a lot of which had free samples. I purchased
some pesto-infused gouda and some smoked goat cheese
Can you see the green gouda? Its delicious
This "museum" seemed to me to be just another fancy cheese store,
albeit one that I spent 8 euros in
I didn't realize a car that small could physically move. Later we pulled up
on our bikes to a red light and we saw a similar car with a family of four in it.

Lucia taking a break in the middle of the park
So of course Lera and I joined her
Eeva got a picture too, artistically taken (i.e. not by me) 
Happily chilling
Eeva and Monika climbing 
From on top of the I AMsterdam sign
Posing with statues of soldiers

I Want You!
Me??!
We rented bikes, 24 hours for 10 euros. Greatest deal ever
The view from my handlebars. Just a random street
Lucia and I wait for the others to catch up
Bike lights, and countdowns
Lera waits for the green light
Came across a cool tree in the park

Getting silly with Lera, Monika, and Lucia. Pity Eeva was taking this
picture so we don't get to see her "funny face"
Climbing higher with Eeva and Lera
Lucia happy to be in Amsterdam
Houseboat
This houseboat has a chandelier inside!
A couple houseboats and a pretty bridge
I really want to live on a boat one day
Eeva and I figure out where we are: we did a lot of just
walking/biking around, the city is so safe and small
Finally a picture that includes all of us! Monika, Eeva, Lera, Lucia, me, and Kaan;
The perfect group to spend a weekend in Amsterdam with....if only Kaan could ride a bike
Amsterdam was simply amazing. We are already planning our next trip there. My parents have been telling me how great it is for years, but sometimes you just have to see it to believe it. Unlike most of my travels, I wanted to remember this one, and I bought some very touristy souvenirs. Not all of it is for me, but most is. Definitely the peanut butter.

So at final count looks like I got 2 hats, a jacket, a jersy, a t shirt,
a postcard, 4 bags of stroopwafels, 2 cheeses, and 1 jar of pb

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