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Many Adventures of a Nomadic Poet A young poet with Asperger's makes travel his passion, and away he goes...

Rough times in Amsterdam

NETHERLANDS | Tuesday, 18 March 2008 | Views [2198]

Today was the fourth day of my so called journey in Europe. It was a rather rough one. I woke up as we were crossing into Belgium from France. Belgium's highway system is so brightly lit that it is said to be visible from the Moon. I wanted to get off at Antwerp because I could have just made my way to Brussels that way; it would be only about a 30-mile bike ride. But, the driver wouldn't let me. A big argument (in Flemish or some other language) ensued between him and the other passengers because he has been really rude to everyone. The volume was really high between the passengers and driver at 4:30 AM while others were still sleeping and I tried to calm everyone down and explain that it was alright, but they were all upset feeling like the driver was choosing where I wanted to go. But, I had the opportunity to visit Amsterdam. I pulled out my phone and gave my love, Teressa a call. I'll pay the phone bill when I get home. I miss her so much! At about 6:00, we stopped at a gas station for a break. I got a Red Bull, but my credit card wasn't working. That's scary because I don't know why! Geoff helped me out with a couple of euros. I then tried to buy a pack of gum with a pound sterling, but the clerk let me have it for free. I offered the pound because it's worth more than a euro anyway. One of the girls traveling with me is of Somali heritage, and I was talking with her about my travels. We were on our way, and we crossed into the Netherlands without any of the familiar border hassles. I was admiring the Dutch architecture and the farm fields. We stopped in Eindhoven for about 15 minutes and I noticed there are bicycles parked everywhere! The bicycle to human ratio in the Netherlands is approximately 1:1. At 7:30, we were on our way to Amsterdam. It is considered the home of cannabis and prostitutes, but I wasn't on my way there to do any of that stuff! I don't need it! The entirety of the bus ride I was admiring the Dutch architecture, and I was talking to these guys from Spain about Pau Gasol and the Lakers. Everyone in Spain seems to love Pau Gasol. He sure has helped out the Lakers big time! There are many creative buildings in the Netherlands. My friend Edana has been to Amsterdam and she loved it! A girl on the bus told me earlier that I should complain about the bus driver and they perhaps would give me a free ticket to Brussels, since I was misinformed in London. When we got to Amsterdam at about 10:15, I made a complaint, but they told me that I had to write a letter to the corporate office and all that, but I didn't have time or the patience so I just left. I was then one of the millions of cyclists in the Netherlands. The country is very flat and much of it is below sea level. It was extremely cold, but I was admiring the architecture. It is a lot like Reykjavik, but taller and less colorful. Amsterdam has many canals and is sometimes referred to as "Venice of the North." I can't say because I've never been to Venice. I kept cycling while looking for a currency exchange place. I stopped at one, but I didn't have a good rate so I went to another one right up the street. Their board had a better rate, but I didn't realize until after exchanging 100 dollars that they had a whopping 9 percent commission so I ended up wasting €6. The guy was a real asshole and wouldn't let me trade it back. The notice for the commission was written in very small print in the bottom left corner of the board as "09% commission" so that it looks like ".09", but the guy should mention it before he trades. I ended up yelling at him because he was such an ass. By then I was in tears, wishing I wasn't here. I don't think I've ever cried this much on a trip. Everywhere else I've been, I haven't had to deal with scams, broken cameras, and rude people. I stopped at a pizza place and ordered a pizza for €8. This place is much more expensive than London; contrary to what all my friends told me. I was so upset that I called my mom, but she was still sleeping. My uncle, Glenn told me that he and my father have never been to Europe and that I should be happy that I'm even here. I felt a little better after talking to him and eating my pizza. Riding my bicycle around the corner I saw posters of naked girls and smelled some cannabis on the air. I then stopped at the internet cafe and emailed everyone about going from bad to worse on this trip. Then I took some photos of the canals and the various buildings. Amsterdam is so picturesque and beautiful, and I think the architecture is often overlooked by the many thousands that come here just to use prostitutes and smoke marijuana. I went up to the Central Station to find out about a train from here to Brussels, and they leave every hour. I bought a ticket for 22 euros and figured I'd leave later. I rode along one of the main streets and I thought I'd visit the sex museum. There are so many bicycles that I couldn't find a place to lock mine. Everywhere you go, you'll bicycle after bicycle after bicycle. I wish there were that many in L.A. because the air would be cleaner! I finally found a place to lock it and I visited the sex museum for €3. I found it to be quite interesting. Afterward I wandered some of the back alleys and there was the stench of pot coming from the many coffee houses that dot the area. At about 2:45 I went to go catch the 3:00 train. I didn't know what platform it'd be leaving from, so I went to the desk attendant and asked, but this woman got really angry because the attendant was already helping her. I tried to explain that my train leaves in 7 minutes, but she responded by saying "well you should have come earlier." I told her to relax and the attendant got angry at me for yelling at her, even though the woman disrespected me right in front of her. I found out what platform to go to, but right when I got there, the train was leaving. So, I thought I'd just ride around for an hour. I rode around the narrow streets and it started to rain. I always worry about my passport getting wet. This is definitely a city that is worth spending a lot of time in, and if the laws about cannabis were a little bit stricter, the city could be appreciated more. A professor who was born and raised in the Netherlands once told me that if you're caught smoking pot on the streets, that you can get a mandatory life sentence in prison. You're only allowed to smoke it in licensed cafes. In all, it's a city of marijuana, prostitutes, bicycles, canals, and unique architecture. At 3:45, I went to catch the train, and I made it this time. The conductor told me that I had to pay 12 euros to take my bike on the train. The clerk who sold me the ticket didn't say anything about needing to pay extra for the bicycle, so I felt like that wasn't my fault. I told the conductor that all I had was about 12 euros and that I needed money to eat tonight. She responded by saying "I can let you off at the next stop and then you'll have money to eat." But, then I would have had no place to sleep. Some people are so cruel and thoughtless out here. She accepted American dollars and she charged me $15, which was in my favor because 12 euros is about $19-20. I was really tired and I felt like I was drifting in and out of consciousness. I was talking with this Belgian girl during the long train ride. Three hours later, I was in Brussels. It is the first time that I visited two capital cities in one day (Amsterdam and Brussels). It was getting dark and I had to figure out how to get to Bogdan's house, on a street called Keyenveld. He's a young man I met on CouchSurfing. It was very cold and I asked people for directions, but no one seems to know where anything is out here. Finally I stopped at an art studio and the owner printed me a map. However, I still got lost. I did see the beautiful town hall. Brussels has some very interesting architecture and is hillier than Amsterdam and London. I was cold, frustrated, and scared because I was lost. It was about 35 degrees and it started to rain. A local helped me out a little and then a taxi driver pointed me in the direction of the Port Namur metro station and I was still confused. I finally was on the right track after getting across the street from the metro station. I was lost for over an hour, and I finally got to Bogdan's house at about 7:00. There was another CouchSurfer staying there, and his name is Paul. He's studying in Copenhagen and is on a break. He's going back tomorrow. Bogdan let me have a cup of tea and a slice of cake. He's very friendly and hospitable. I told him and Paul about this trip as well as others I've taken. I took a nice, long shower and afterward I was really, really exhausted. I only slept about two hours last night and I was on trains, buses, and my bike all day long. Tomorrow I'll either head to Wurzburg or I'll stay here an extra day and then go there on Thursday. I'm going to sleep now because I really need it. I'll see you soon!


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