06.07.2011 - 06.07.2011 23 °C
So today started off the most awesome way imaginable. Colored sprinkles on fresh bread. That should be all I need to say for you to sigh and curse me with jealousy. No? Well then something is wrong with you. These coloured sprinkles I speak of are in dutch called vruchtenhagel, though in my childhood they were called sprinkles. Period. You eat them on a slice of fresh bread with a thin spread of butter so they don’t fall off (though I load mine so full they always fall off anyway!) The hostel we are staying at here (equipped with the requisite one crazy roommate) has a spread for breakfast that includes these sprinkles and hagelslag, (chocolate sprinkles) which means I can totally pig out without guilt! And pig out I did, after far to much sugar and a few cups of coffee Shane and I left for Amsterdam.
Amsterdam, to me, can be summed up in one word, chaotic. It is insane. Everywhere you look there is something or someone. Bikes, graffiti, people, garbage, bikes, so many bikes. The only place I can see some sort of order is in the canals, which is why all my pictures are of canals. I like clean lines and peace, hard to find in this city. Once you get out of the main tourist areas the city becomes a lot easier to love, for you can find quiet and beauty. The houseboats line the canals bobbing slowly up and down, potted plants anchor stoops and tall green trees give fresh air (something certain streets definitely need.)
We had two main goals this day, shop and eat. We started by buying klompje, the dutch wooden shoes. My grandparents always wore theirs doing chores outside, so I figured I needed a pair to be a good dutch girl. I bought them in blue, and I expect you’ll be seeing them on my OTHER blog when I get home. We also bought me a pair of wooden-shoes-slippers, yellow of course. Shane and I did some brainstorming for gift ideas and walked up and down streets squabbling over what to get, neither of us wanting to make any decisions.
Eventually it got to 1115, the start of our free walking tour. We followed our guide around, through the red light district, (ew!) up alleys and down streets. We saw nieuwmarket (still very old, the square was built in 1614) and the narrowest house in the city (only the width of the door.) The skies darkened threatening rain. We visited a floating flower market and breezed through Begijnhof (a (sort of) convent started in the 15th century.) When the tour finished three hours later everyone was soaked, the skies had delivered. Luckily we finished just outside a gourmet chocolate shop, the perfect refuge from the rain.
We hussled back across a few canals to Cafe Hoppe, which we noticed earlier in the day. It is a very old brown cafe, opened in 1670! The bar side, which is not very large, had sand on the floor (which I think is a cheap way of polishing the floors!) and felt as gritty and dark as it would have when it opened. Shane and I drank Amstel beer and ate bitterballen which were very good, but not quite as good as Opa’s. We soldiered on, we had shopping to do.
We walked a lot, looking everywhere for gifts. We did find some really great ones for Steph, Heather, Hunter and all of the relatives we are due to see in a few days. By the end of the day we had amassed a lot of bags and Shane’s credit card was steaming. We bought a freshly made, piping hot stroopwaffle from a vendor at a market, which we ate standing in the rain.
We ate dinner at an Indonesian restaurant near the market. Shane ordered a nasi dish which turned out to be very, very good. And that was basically the end of our night. We made the long walk back to the train station trying very hard not to get run over by bikers. The sidewalks in Amsterdam are merely an addition to the bike lanes (or so the bikers think.) Anywhere there is space you’ll soon find a biker and you better watch out! When ever you cross a street you must first look left for cars and then for bikers. You run to the middle and then again look right, first for cars then for bikes. If the coast is clear you run like mad and hope a phantom biker doesn’t pop out of nowhere to mow you down.
We took the train back to Haarlem and the bus to the hostel. Of course waiting for us was our crazy man hating roommate, where else would she be? She tried asking us some questions but we tried not to answer them, luckily she went to bed early.