When talking about my travels, I often bring up how Amsterdam is the most surprising place that I have been. Why? Well, it’s one of the few places that blew my preconceptions of it right out of the water. Back a few years ago when we, me and a few friends, were planning our great European adventure, I was hesitant to add Amsterdam to the itinerary. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t know all that much about the city. What I had heard was that it was a party city filled with legal drugs and prostitution and frat boys. (Do they have those in Europe?) But my friends wanted to go and I will pretty much go anywhere. What I didn’t expect was to be totally blown away by the Dutch city.
Side story time! Our journey getting there was a little rocky and is the epitome of looking back on it and laughing. We were in London and had a flight to Amsterdam. The night before me and my friend checked into the flight, the third opting not to. Well, the next day was riddled with delays, us leaving the hostel too late, the train late by 20 minutes, therefore making us late to the airport. Our friend missed the cut off for check in by 10 minutes. Ah! But she told us to go ahead and leave her behind. Though I didn’t like the idea, it would have cost us all too much money to do so. So, me and the other friend made a mad dash through security. I had never taken off and put on boots as fast I had then. And then, as if to add extra torture, the plane was on the entire other side of the airport. So, like a couple of crazy people, we ran like our wallets depended on it. I fell behind, one, because I was out of shape, and two, my asthma was acting up. My friend left me in her dust. When I finally got to the gate I was wheezing like a squeak toy. And to add another layer of embarrassment, the plane was already out on the tarmac and we had to hoof it up the stairs and be the subject of annoyed stares as we made our way to our seats. I collapsed in my seat, totally worn out, grateful to actually make it and not keeling over in a fit of wheezing and choking. The flight itself was delightful and short. Our bags, also being late, didn’t arrive with us at the airport and we had to wait for them and our friend at the hostel. So, lesson learned. Leave plenty of time to get to the airport because delays can and will happen. And if you can, check in the night before.
Anyway, after that whole ordeal, getting to the airport was a relief in itself. What wasn’t fun was trying to figure out the public transportation. I’m a total noob when it comes to that stuff. When we finally reunited and set off to explore, I was struck by just how beautiful Amsterdam really was.
It was spring when we visited, so it was still kinda cool out and the trees and plants were showing off their new greenery, but that didn’t detract from the charm of it. The architecture was picturesque with the tall skinny buildings, the canals and bridges, small side streets, filled with quaint shops and restaurants, and inns, etc. Bikes were everywhere. And boats, either giving tours or to be lived in. It was so quintessentially European. Being an American, I felt like I had been transported into another world. It was unreal.
Now, there were all of those things that I had originally been uncertain about, not that I am against those things per se, but there is enough to balance them out. From the flower market to the Anne Frank House, which we didn’t get to see, there is enough to do and see to please almost everyone. We only had a few days in Amsterdam, so we opted to just explore, and eat. One of our main goals of anywhere we go. The food didn’t disappoint. I think we got bitterballen two or three times. And cheese, ah, cheese… We did, out of curiosity, go through the red light district, which is where most of the hedonistic activity is located and had a few giggles. What I had feared turned out to not be bad at all.
So, what I suppose the point of this is, give a place a chance. You might end up liking it more than you think. I think we tend to let our fears prevent us from trying things sometimes and we have to tell that little voice in the back of our minds to shut up and take a chance. I am glad I did. (please use your own discretion, I do not condone ignoring instincts completely if you think a place is dangerous!) As for Amsterdam, it is one of my favorite places that I have gone so far in my travels and I would absolutely go back.