Guest post by Shane
05.07.2011 - 05.07.2011 22 °C
Wake up! Time to get the hell out of Dodg...er Frankfurt. Crackheads outside of the hostel. Homeless peeps sharing breakfast with us. This wasn’t really our cup of tea. So with a belly full of coffee and Nutella, and a new and improved Gary(now equipped with a belt!) in tow, we made our way the few feet to Frankfurt Central to catch our train to Amsterdam. Amsterdam, Holland. HOLLAND! The motherland. The famous dykes, and cows, and cheese and stroopwaffles, and bicycles, and wooden shoes, and windmills. First things first. We got off the train at Amsterdam central, Gary still behind us, and right onto a connecting train to Haarlem where we decided to stay to avoid the more unseemly hostel mates we figured we would be likely to find in Amsterdam herself.
Haarlem is a picturesque little Dutch city, located a fifteen minute train ride from Amsterdam. Not to be confused with Harlem in the USA. This Haarlem has an extra ‘a’ and I can only assume a little more class. Although having never been to Harlem I can’t be in any way certain. Haarlem is pretty small and our hostel had it’s very own bus stop so it was pretty straightforward. After checking in, (and meeting our crazy, man-hating, bizzare-question-asking hostel mate), and setting up our beds we jumped right back on the bus, then the train straight back to Amsterdam. We had a city to explore.
So first impression as we walk out of the station, “Wow! That’s a lot of bikes! Way more the Copenhagen(the self-proclaimed cycling capital of Europe).” A three-story-parking-garage-exclusively-for-bikes, lot of bikes. Bikes everywhere. Anywhere there might have been a free space, there was a bike. It was insane. And these were just the ones not being ridden. Cars aren’t likely to run you over. Bikes will pretty much definitely run you over. Next impression was kind of like, “...uhhhh, this doesn’t look so clean...” But what can you expect from a city where pretty much anything goes. The first neighborhood we wandered through was kind of the outskirts of the infamous ‘Red-Light-District”. The maps don’t tell you, but it is pretty much directly outside of the train station.
After some first neighborhood jitters, we calmed down and started checking out the city a bit. Amsterdam is filled with narrow houses, and countless canals. People are growing beautiful flowers outside most of their houses. But the city is filled with tourists and locals alike who come for the seedier things the city has to offer. And being as business-savvy as any good Dutchmen ought to be the Amsterdamers take full advantage of the reputation their city has. Everywhere you look there are stores selling pot and paraphenalia, or some sort of erotic art, device, or experience. I would go as far as saying Amsterdam doesn’t really seem like part of the Holland I had come to expect from the stories of family. But I wasn’t really expecting it to be that way. I know the Holland my family talks about has nothing to do with Amsterdam.
Feeling a little let down by the city, but not totally hopeless we went to find dinner. Alyssa had picked out a place well known for their pea soup. Supposedly one of the best in the city. We started out with a appetizer of 6 small Dutchish items. There was a cheese croquette, a shrimp one, a mustarded(yes that’s a word now) leek soup, a pâté of some sort, a potato salad, and some sort of figgy-type bread with pickled herring and beets. It was all pretty tasty, with the croquettes being the best, although nowhere near as good as Opa Wilbrink’s. We also both had some local beer. Lys had a dark, caramel tasting beer, and I had a wheat beer. I am loving the wheat beer. It’s such an interesting flavor and I have been making a point to try them whenever I get the opportunity. I think my favorite has been ‘Edelweisse’ from Austria. The one I had tonight was pretty good too. Next was the ‘famous’ pea soup with bacon AND sausage. It was super thick and salty delicious. I would have to say that Alyssa’s pea soup blows this one out of the water(wink, wink, make me pea soup when we get home baby). Still a tasty meal.
It had been a long day, and not being interested in any of Amsterdam’s late night activities, we decided it was time to make the journey home. As we pulled into the station at Haarlem, we realized that we were out of toothpaste. After any meal involving herring, it isn’t really acceptable to be out of toothpaste. So we decided it would be best to walk around Haarlem’s center area a bit and try to find a grocery store. This would prove to be a little more difficult then we had initially thought. After about 45 min of searching we found one, but not before having the opportunity to explore a little bit of downtown Haarlem. Finally done for the day, we made our way back to the hostel for fresh breath and fresh beds.