Asher and I took a trip up to Amsterdam via hobo route: hitchhiking. Reason being is the train is rather expensive, and we are young lads who like adventure. I personally haven’t considered this method before, but Asher has done it so far and has had good luck. It’s a very common thing in Holland to hitchhike. It went pretty smoothly and we met some interesting folks along the way. One person was recently separated from his wife, and plays bass, one was a lawyer, and the last ride was a student who was going into Amsterdam for night class. Holland is such a small country as compared to America - you can cross the entire length by car in about 3-4 hours of steady driving.
We made it into town in about 3 hours, after having to take a short trip via the metro we arrived into Centraal. (Side note: I love the word Centraal – not sure why it’s just really appealing to me). We had decided beforehand we needed to book a hostel, after having no luck on the couch-surfing front. Amsterdam is one of the hardest cities to find a couch in, there is very limited real estate and the city gets so many visitors per year that it makes it pretty tight. I am relatively new to couch surfing and now realize that it takes about a solid week of looking to get a proper response. Also it was a mistimed week, as all of Asher’s friends were either really busy or out of town. The hostel we bookedd was really rad though, they gave us a bed for 10€ each. Not only that neither of us had our passports with us (I never take mine out of my bag for fear of losing it). This is apparently a faux pas.
We spent the early evening walking around the centruum and taking in the sights. It was a really nice sunset over the city, and the colors of the canals are really beautiful in the early evening light. We picked a canal and sat by it, drinking cheap canned beer and reminiscing it was nice that I got a deeper insight into what Asher has been doing. We talked about past in Chicago, present where we both are, and the future and what we plan to do.
Amsterdam is really a party city. I don’t think that all of Holland likes this aspect, but the people in Amsterdam get down. There are so many tourists who are attracted by the very relaxed drug laws, in the way of ‘soft-drugs’ and really low prosecution rates. It has also obviously gotten its reputation through marijuana legality. Just a week before I came the Cannabis Cup took place. I really didn’t come to Holland to smoke a bunch of weed, but if one so desired there is so much and more to be offered. Come to think of it I didn’t even really make it to the red light district. Not that its my cup of tea either but prostitution is totally legal there. The people involved in the sex business follow strict laws about testing and its well managed, well about as well managed as legal prostitution can be. The country allows this to be practiced in a safe way. Honestly, its going to happen anyway – why not make it legal but safe, to me it seems better than the alternative.
We wound up getting some more beer at the Albert Heijn – really sick deal 6 heinecken for 6€, after all we are in the country of heinecken. We sat along another canal – this is a theme if you hadn't noticed. This woman pulled up in her car and said that we look really like happy young men, and offered us a bottle of rosé.
We all laughed, I was happy as rose is kind of dirty, especially the sort of cheap crap we had just been handed, it was a blessing in disguise I think.
We said bye to the lady and walked a bit, we heard a din the distance and realized something was happening. We followed the noise and came upon a rally to protest the figure Black Pete (Zwarte Piet). It seemed to be comprised more or less of African migrants to Holland. I will get into the Zwarte Piet thing in a later post.
I started to follow the protest, I saw out of the corner of my eye that Asher had stopped to talk to someone. I continued on to follow the rest of the people who were marching, by the time I realized we had gotten sort of far from where we started, Asher was nowhere to be found. Of course he doesn't have a phone either so there was really no way to contact him. I hovered along the areas in which we had been hanging out but he never turned up. I had a feeling Asher had just wandered off as his free spirit might have persuaded him to.
There was a bit of a feeling like we should be in fact spending the night together in its entirety. Sometimes it doesn’t always work out. I spent the next few hours wandering around checking out the city. Most of that time, by checking out, I meant becoming completely lost through the channels and canals. I had this kind of shitty map from the hostels but the scale wasn’t totally right – and I wound up quite a bit away from where I needed to be. The city for me was really quite confusing, the streets are all quite small, and it all kind of runs in a circle.
I did happen across some very cool graffiti.
There was also a few Ethiopian restaurants in the area.
I finally wandered into this bar and bought a not so expensive Amstel and asked the bartender for directions. He pointed to around the western part of the bad map I had and said that a walk back wouldn’t be so bad, or I could take a taxi for around 10€. I chose the former.
The map above is roughly where I walked to.
Another realization I made is that the Dutch language sounds especially crazy when you are drunk and really listening to it for the first time with no English thrown in. I can kind of equate it to the likeness of a winding messy river. It flows in such a strange way, and doesn’t exactly sound pretty. So we had the flowing of canals, the flowing of Dutch and the flowing of beer it made for a pretty interesting night.
As a note, I did find Asher later. He wandered into the hostel a few hours after I came back. I had made friends with some of the people who were staying there. He had managed to badly sprain (he calls it broken) his foot dancing some jig in the street trying to entertain some people. Asher transition into the kingdom of street hustlers and entertainers is nearly complete.
Amsterdam Pt2 Coming soon!