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Bit By Bit Spending some months in Europe. Let's see how it goes... Check ya later, Barry.

A Little Bit of Amsterdam

USA | Thursday, 25 February 2010 | Views [328]

Our time in Amsterdam has been a series of ups and downs, with the ups being nice and mellow, an easy and secure ride, and the downs being the kind that really get to you.

The first night began as an up, interwoven with the initial anxiety and adrenaline rush that comes with arriving in a new place, and needing to find somewhere to stay before the nighttime comes. We started out knowing where we wanted to go, and even getting there without travelling in the wrong direction first. When we saw it, we praised the Lord and high-fived. But what we hadn't anticipated, or done so far on our journey, is show up at a new country in the middle of a weekend. Expecially to a city like Amsterdam, where apparently everyone wants to be on their time off. Because our hostel, our home away from home, was booked full up...

So that quickly became a down. The sun had fully set, and Amsterdam was crawling with people. We stood outside for a bit, under the sign, and Michael made the wise choice of going back in and begging for mercy. Just kidding: he asked if they could recommend any other places to stay for cheap. From the papers they gave us, we headed out again. Everywhere was full. And so we ambled on. At last we came upon a place called the Backstage Hotel, with an available room! Sweet relief, and in an environment that was intriguing and comfy. A pool table stood next to the bar, signed by all of the bands who had played at the famous Milkweg venue that had stayed under their roof. They were set up for Rock Band, and from the ceiling light shone through upside down drums. We got our key, and hit the stairs. They weren't so much stairs as they were a ladder, and the Mount Everest of ladder-stairs at that (we would find this to be the norm in this part of Holland, but at the time it was very extreme). We have pictures to prove the need of hand over hand leverage. Of course we were at the top floor, and we dreamed of a shower and a few quiet moments. But as we opened the door we stumbled into an already inhabited room. Luckily it was empty...

Rebecca said: "We're going to be out on the street."

Michael descended to talk to the receptionist. She waited for him, and waited a little longer. Had he passed out on the second flight? She heard him before she saw him, staring over the railing to the dizzying twist and turn of bannisters below. She saw his hand, grasping, white-knuckled as he heaved himself six inches higher. When he made it to her, there was a moment of silence before he could break the news. "We're out on the streets..."

It wound up being a clerical error the previous shift had made due to being overworked, but the girl behind the desk hooked us up with a room at a hotel they refer to further down the road. We weren't ready to leave the Backstage Hotel, not with its rock 'n roll vibe and its stairs. Michael asked for a drink on the house, and the girl was more than willing to comply. We sipped vods and coke and then talked to her for hours, the other hotel calling three times, wondering if we were dead on the street. We talked about service at restaurants, the Dutch in general, Americans and our country. While our conversation was very cool, the first time really connecting with a local, it was sad to find out what people think they know about America. Although she agreed Americans are always so polite and friendly. And after just barely a month in Europe, you're darn right we are polite! Almost to the point of a fault, sometimes putting our own well-being at risk, but for goodness sake there is awareness of others!

It was not hard to find the place she hooked us up with, and right at seven AM the breakfast room directly outside our door became all abustle. It was the worst set up of a room, L-shaped, the shower not separated from the rest of the bathroom, and right outside the breakfast room. We were glad to be rid of the place.

The fog hung low over Amsterdam, and the only sounds were those of our wheels. All around us, lining the streets, lining the canals, are bicycles. Amsterdam has roughtly 750,00 people, and the majority of them own bikes. It is estimated there are four to a household. Parents push their children in small boxes set up in front of their handle-bars. They are good for groceries, too. People ride side saddle on the make-shift seats across the back tire, or across the midle bar, or across the front tire. They ride down their own two-sided lanes, talking on their cell phones. They ring the bell from behind you and almost run you over. It is even the job of the police to go through every so often and erradicate the city of the abandoned bicycles. It is said that most people own two bikes. One, a bit nicer, for longer journeys. One, a bit more beat up, for inner-city transportation, hoping to deter theifs. There is a two story parking garage outside of the train station for bicycles, and that is still not enough space.

Just as there are bikes, there are boats lining the canals. Some of them no more than dingys, some just a triangle sticking out of the top of the water, straining against the rope holding it up. House boats are popular here, and as we walk the streets they seem cozy and far away from the rest of civilization, though they draw their power from large generators along the road. The other day we saw a crew lifting out broken down, abandoned boats by a crane attached to their own. They already had two by the time we saw them. We knew there were many more.

It is nice to wander the streets and look into the shops. The guide books, and most of the people we talked to, said Amsterdam is not the best for touristy attractions, but for merely taking it in for what it is. The shops are full of art galleries, full of clothes and funky home decor, and cafes. We wandered for some hours on our way back to the Shelter Jordan Christian Hostel. We were mostly alone, it being a Sunday morning, and the fog kept what was up ahead a secret.

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