Amsterdam Beat Me the Hell Up and I Loved It
In the last four days I’ve spent more hours sat on a coach than I have sleeping.
I’ve been on an adventure that’s Tolkien-worthy in length, set in one of the most bizarre cities I’ve visited. Amsterdam has proven once again to be weirder and even more wonderful than anywhere else I’ve been.
I wandered into a few shops and looked around for a lighter that wasn’t just about weed and women. Everyone knows that side of Amsterdam; I wanted something different. I bought my lighter for €2.50 in a little tobacco shop that lined one of the streets opposite around four other tobacco shops.
After the 12-hour journey it took to get here (coaching from England across three countries is exhausting) Amsterdam was a breath of fresh air. I went with a tour group, I Love Tour. It made it cheap, meant I was going with people that I knew and I didn’t have to worry about organising an actual holiday.
The first thing we did was make it to our hostel – Hans Brinker Budget Hotel, which proudly advertises itself as the Worst Hostel in Amsterdam. The bunk beds had no ladders or rails and after the first day it did begin to have a prison vibe.
Despite this, the hostel had free breakfast, free WiFi and a tiny blacklit club in the basement that went on until about 4am every single day, and a little tannoy would chime at 5 o’clock and a gentle voice would announce that it was time for “happy happy hour!”
Amsterdam’s food is as varied as the city itself. You can find absolutely anything you want to eat. If you look down in Leidseplein, most of the restaurants happily claim to have pizza and pasta for €5. There’s pancake houses every other street if you fancy something sweet. Alternatively, you can make your way to Rembrandtplein – the main square, where you’ll find restaurants, clubs and bars – and find a nice laid back restaurant called Coco’s Outback. It has the same feeling as a Wetherspoons, but it sells kangaroo steak. Now I’m going to be forever disappointed that Spoons doesn’t sell this.
As for things to actually do in Amsterdam, think of absolutely anything you want to do and Amsterdam probably has it.
You can rent a bike for a day to get around the city. There are three times more bikes in Amsterdam than people; I think by this point some have cemented into the buildings. If, like me, you can’t ride a bike, just watch yourself when walking; when you put a single toe into the bike lane about eight or nine bikes will appear from nowhere solely to try and hit you. We opted instead for a canal cruise.
Imagine you are sat on the dock waiting for your little glass boat to come pick you up. You were at a bar crawl last night. Six amazing bars and a t-shirt later, you’re feeling a little worse for wear. Then, you see a boat coming down the canal. Not your boat, but a privately owned one. Proudly emblazoned across the front is the name Willy Willy. The captain is sat in his chair in a matching navy blue Nike tracksuit, wearing a classic sailor’s hat but backwards. As you watch this idiot sail past the dock, he leans back in his chair, puts his feet up on the wheel and begins to steer with them. You look at your friends in amazement. Look at this jerk showing off! Then, in a move nobody could ever expect, still driving with his feet, the captain of Willy Willy reaches down, pulls a trumpet from nowhere and begins to play a jazz melody as he sails away. None of you catch a picture of this mystery sailor – it all happened so fast.
Amsterdam will forever be the weirdest city I have visited. Like my lighter, it is so full of colour and things I can’t explain, but something about it works. After three intense days of getting lost in this amazing place I feel like Amsterdam has chewed me up and spat me out again. My shoes have holes in them and my feet are a battered mess – but I wouldn’t trade it in for the world.