It was the lights that woke me up from my travel-induced coma, the brilliant lights of brand new train stations and highways, lighting that dark winter evening of February. I had been travelling for almost 24 hours, train after train after train all the way from Stockholm, when I finally arrived at Amsterdam Centraal.
I was worn down, cold, and hungry – I hadn’t exchanged enough money in Stockholm, so all I could buy during the long train trip was a cinnamon roll and a strong coffee. I might have been able to afford a second cinnamon roll for lunch if I hadn’t spent the money on coffee…but I thought that being awake to keep watch on my meagre belongings (consisting in a grand total of one medium backpack and small bag for documents) was somewhat of a priority. If the only clean outfit left had been somewhere in that mess, wouldn’t you have done the same?
Finding food was easy enough: fast food chains, kiosks and small restaurants are everywhere around the touristy areas, and central station is right in front of the main road, and a few minutes away from all the main attractions. But I didn’t even have time to leave the station, I was starving and it was late so I pretty much went for the first thing I found. And the first thing I found was an automated fast food selling fried snacks and burgers. So my first meal in Amsterdam was…fried cheese. I mean, don’t get me wrong, it was delicious! But wasn’t Europe supposed to be a romantic, classy, bistro-and-patisserie-filled heaven? Well, I was happy with my fried cheese and fries. So off I went to a nice hostel nearby, where the guy in the bottom bunk kept me awake half the night with his incessant snoring. Oh, the pleasures of dorms.
The next day I was up before dawn. After a much needed wake up shower (I was not going to catch up on sleep up until almost a week, and two countries, later!), I was finally ready to go out and soak up some Dutch culture. All the famous sights were the first to be ticked off my list: Oude Kerk, Dam Square, Anne Frank House, Rembrandtplein, Hermitage Museum and the (must see!) Van Gogh exhibition. If you plan on spending a day in Amsterdam, you can easily reach all the above-mentioned must-sees plus the Red Light District without having to run around too much.
My second and last day was spent strolling along Amsterdam’s amazing canals, browsing in thrift shops, and eating delicacies in small cafés. Oh, and then I had a peak at the Red Light District. What? Did you think I was just going to dismiss it as any other attraction? Well, let me tell you, I wasn’t impressed. I mean, I was kind of impressed at the fact that those girls could stand in front of a glass door in tiny bikinis, occasionally opening the door, at almost -10°C. But the whole feel of the place was just not right. Plus, as a solo female backpacker, you’ll understand that I wasn’t exactly the target audience, and peaking at the girls made me feel almost guilty of somewhat encouraging the practice. But hey, to each his own! After all, no European Red Light District is quite as famous as Amsterdam’s, so it’s definitely worth a look!
And finally, it was time to say goodbye. I had my last fried cheese and fries at the station, and I boarded the night train to Berlin. Of all the places I visited in Europe, Amsterdam was my shortest stop, but it was also the city I loved the most. Who knows, maybe I stopped so briefly because I knew I’d be back? But all that is for another story.
One last thing though: Stroopwafels. The second most addicting legal thing you’ll find in Amsterdam. If I have to be completely honest with you, I’ll have to admit that I went out of my way to go to The Netherlands (I mean, seriously, why else would you add a stop in Amsterdam between Stockholm and Berlin?) because of those delicious caramel waffles. I’m dead serious. Buy as many as you can and bring them home. I’m savouring one as I speak, breaking my diet once more, and nothing comes even remotely close to the deliciousness of these things.
By Sylvia, Arts/Education