What a trip! I need to get my things together! Though a couple of mishaps occurred I couldn’t be happier with my trip.
One thing that’s great about taking a later train is that it’s easier to meet people, since a lot of people are either travelers or heading home, like the two Hollanders I met. Both were engineers (or on the way to becoming one) and had internships in Stuttgart and Frankfurt. It was nice to have someone to talk to on the ride but little did I know it would be the guys sitting next to us that I would end up hanging out with. Rick and Jeroen, are two upcoming business men who just finished a conference in Köln and they offered to show me some of the night scene in Amsterdam. I was so excited since I thought I was going to miss out and just go to bed that night.
This is when my first problem occurred. Since we were going out I decided to try and get some money out. (Tip! Its best to get money out at the main train station if you are using an American card because it’ll be harder to find an international ATM in the middle of the city.) This ATM took my card from me because I falsely entered my pin number. X(
That didn’t stop me from heading out with Rick and Jeroen, I took down the ATM’s phone number and continued on. First I checked into my hostel, which was right around the corner from the Red Light District (which made it easily accessible to the train station and most of the sights in Amsterdam. (Tip! Use Hostel world for your bookings I saved money on a cheap bed and got a great location! Also if there aren’t lockers do NOT leave your things in the hostel take them with you! So pack light!!) From there we walked deep into the city to a bar where most tourists don’t happen to catch that was filled with Dutch students. I hit the jackpot.
I can’t believe how lucky I was to have met these guys. For one they took me around the city, to an amazing bar, and bought us some drinks and for two networking! I got really lucky that I didn’t miss out on the nightlife in Amsterdam because that city comes alive at night better than Vegas.
We stayed out until closing time and were literally pushed out of the bar. Our trek back was a fun one, as we walked through the red light district all I kept noticing was the gaggles of swans in the canal! There were so many! The guys took the time to tell me about the city and how if you look closely you can see that the buildings are leaning forward due to the foundation. The city is below sea level and is literally built on water.
They took me back to my hostel and headed on their way, but they did take the time to give me their business cards, so maybe we’ll see each other again some day.
As I stumble into the hostel at 3-4 in the morning I remember about my card, how I have to wake up in 3 hours to head to the Anne Frank house and that I still need to print my train ticket (since I suck and left them in my room in my rush to catch the train). I set my alarm and hoped tomorrow wouldn’t prove to be too stressful.
I wake up and hustle to get out into the city. (Tip! The best resources to a city are the people that live there. J) I ask how to get to the Anne Frank house at the front desk and venture out into the city. It’s so dark that the pictures I take make it look like it’s the middle of the night. I was one of the few on the street and it was awesome. J
However it was not so awesome when I wasn’t sure where I was going. Haha
Luckily I ran into a woman who worked around the corner from the Anne Frank house and she walked with me to where I needed to go. I was very impressed with how many and how well the Dutch speak English. The woman talked to me about how some Hollanders are still upset about the war and don’t really take much interest with the Germans. I was a little taken aback by this but I can understand why considering how destructive WWII was.
Once I got to the Anne Frank house I waited outside with some other tourists for the museum to open. Thank goodness I got there so early because the line was growing rapidly after I arrived. (When I left the museum it was around the corner of the building and down the street!)
It was really surreal for me to be there. I mean I have waited almost ten years of my life to see this place and to finally be there it was just unbelievable. I was also a little conflicted given that I chose to speak German because (originally) I wanted to read her diary in German but her diary was actually written in Dutch. It made me think about a lot of things and really made me realize how much German had grown on me and added to this reoccurring theme that there is more to Germany than the Holocaust and WWII. Unfortunately I didn’t take any pictures inside of the house but it was really amazing to walk in the hidden rooms and learn more about Anne’s father, Otto Frank, who helped make this museum come to life. I never realized how much work he put into fighting racism and anti-Semitism. I was astonished by how much I had to think about after visiting the house. I spent an hour inside and when I left I realized it was only 10 am and that I had until 7 till my train left.
I decided to try and find the Rijin museum where many Rembrandt and Vermeer paintings are housed. Man was that a hike! I got so lost! No matter how many times I asked for directions I still managed to mess things up. The canals through me off since they are not straight but rather curve like a u in the city. It was around noon when I finally got there and found out that not all of the museum was opened due to some construction. It wasn’t that big of a deal since I still wanted to see what was inside but the price for a ticket was super high (12 Euros!!!). I went in and spent about another hour touring the exhibits. Once again I wasn’t allowed to take pictures but it was still a really cool museum.
I thought about going to the Van Gough museum but decided it probably wouldn’t be a good idea, since I didn’t know what money I had the card that wasn’t eaten by the ATM. This allowed me to experience the city and just wander around, shopping and enjoying the sights. I took lots of pictures and stopped into tons of shops. No I did not try any brownies or mushrooms, haha. Guess I’ll save that for the next time I visit ;).
I then walked all the way back to the train station to see if I could call the ATM and get my card back. Since this wasn’t possible I had to then call the US and cancel my card and ask for a new one. After all of this calling I was left with no money on my phone, leaving me a little stranded in Amsterdam. (Tip! Put more money on prepaid phones before traveling, there are roaming charges and minutes dwindle quickly!) After the fiasco I found an internet café and printed my train ticket and sent some emails to let my parents know what was going on. (Tip! Always keep at least SOMEONE informed about what you’re doing or where you’re going just in case. (duhhh but still J ) )
I decided if I was going to spend the money I had I was going to spend it on something cultural for the area, and what better than food! J I went into a store dedicated to cheese and bought some 10-year-old cheese. It was actually really good and went perfectly with the bread I brought along. (Tip! Trains aren’t like airplanes; you can bring food and drinks with you to where you travel, which is a good way to save money. It’s also a good idea to carry around a water bottle and refill it wherever you can since “free” water at restaurants and coffee shops isn’t really practiced.)
7 Rolled around pretty quick and I was on my way to Prague.. or so I thought. Since I took the night train I reserved a seat in a cabin and was able to turn out the lights and had some room to stretch my legs. It was really hard for me to sleep on the train but I did manage to catch some Z’s. In between dozes I heard that one of the stops was Düsseldorf. I was super confused since Düsseldorf is about an hour from Köln. I thought I was on the wrong train and asked someone and found out the next stop would be Köln! It was then that I made the decision not to go to Prague (lame!!!) but to get off in Köln and head home. I was super tired and didn’t think it would be wise to spend 24 hours on a train and only 6 in Prague.
In Köln I had to wait about 45 minutes for the next train to Bonn and managed to get home at about 2 in the morning.
Today, Saturday, I slept till about 12 or 1 and I’m now finalizing plans with Tara, Bri and Ruslan about our adventure in Köln tonight. I can’t wait to have a little fun with some friends. I’ll get an update on how it goes! J