A vacation from ourselves.

George: What is Holland?
Jerry: What do you mean, ‘what is it?’ It’s a country right next to Belgium.
George: No, that’s the Netherlands.
Jerry: Holland is the Netherlands.
George: Then who are the Dutch?

Post-Bristol marked a return to mainland Europe, and the reality hitting that I was a mere two or so weeks from being dead broke and figuring out a way to get back to Australia that didn’t involve things that I might one day come to regret. Bee had headed out with Drew to Paris for a few days after Glastonbury, splitting from him to head North to Amsterdam where I flew in to catch up with her.

Having been there a couple years ago I felt it was all a little ‘been there, done that’ for me but I didn’t want to overstay my welcome in Bristol and I was keen to start heading towards Germany because that country is just amazeballs. Besides, Bee is pretty good company and I am a sucker for frites and mayo (how am I not fat?!).

I never was a huge fan of Amsterdam. It comes across as little more than a freak show for Contiki tour groups to be oh-so-naughty and smoke some weed before going to a sex show. Pretty sure that isn’t really a problem to do any of that in virtually any city in the world, just that they don’t have towns overrun with shop fronts advertising the fact. Couple this with the tourist town syndrome that means everything there is incredibly expensive – I’d say it’s up there with the Scandinavian countries in this respect – Amsterdam feels like a bit of an overhyped ripoff.

That said, we still had a pretty good time. The weather was brilliant, warm but not hot, and the plethora of bars and cafes along the canals provided the perfect mix for kicking back with a few cold brews and watching the world pass by. Fresh from the obligatory tour of the Heinekin Brewery we found a neat little cafe a couple blocks south that served incredible food and beers for reasonable prices.

Having only decided on the trip to Amsterdam a week or two earlier, finding accommodation was proving pretty difficult. Good locations were hard to get, and if they were available they were at New York prices (ie. you could feed a small nation on the cost of 1 night stay). We wound up settling at Stayokay Amsterdam Zeeburg, about a 15 min train ride from the centre of the city. The public transport in Amsterdam is frequent, easy to navigate and with unlimited 1/3/5 day passes, very cheap to boot. The hostel was very modern and comfortable, up there with the better hostels I’ve stayed in.

There was one thing I managed to somehow bypass when I was here last – Anne Frank House – and now that I look back on it, I’m not sure why I didn’t go. I hardly need to point out that it was an eye opener and very emotionally charged experience, but also a massively important place to experience for any visitor to the city. It’d be weird to call it an enjoyable experience, though it was the ‘highlight’ (for want of better word) of my time in Amsterdam.

Book case concealing stairs to the hideout in the attic.

I think anywhere you haven’t visited is worth at least seeing once, if only to satisfy the curiosity, and Amsterdam really isn’t a terrible place. In fact it can be quite fun, but for me, after having done it twice I’d be perfectly fine if I never got the opportunity again.

Written on January 12, 2012