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Winging it “All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” - Martin Buber, Philosopher

Amsterdam

NETHERLANDS | Sunday, 23 January 2011 | Views [811]

And so begins another assault on my liver! Paige and I meet at the train station in Amsterdam in the afternoon, although this in itself was almost a happy co-incidence. Paige was due to arrive earlier that day and after a 4am wake up, she was really looking forward to a few hours nana in the hostel before I arrived. Sadly this was not to be as she inadvertantly took the train to Rotterdam instead of Amsterdam. She realised her mistake after 30 mins of wandering around looking for the hostel and had to jump on the return train in a sleep deprived haze. I had a pretty crappy night sleep myself sharing the hostel room in Berlin with a guy who SNORED the whole night. I was seriously considering doing a 'Chief' on him (ref: One flew over the cuckoo's nest), but I figure he will die from pulmonary hypertension eventually. Karma, love you!

Despite our lack of sleep, we hit the streets in a random kind of way, looking really to explore the neighbourhood. I didn't quite realise what a bike friendly city it was, beautifully flat and compact, although the cobbled streets would be rattling a brain or two. When talking to people, they say 'oh, it is only a 5 minute bike ride away' when giving directions. The street facades consist of tightly packed townhouses which lean at gentle angles in unexpected directions. We find an amazing shoe shop (http://www.unitednude.com/) with some amazingly quirky shoes, and we now have a few more favourite shops for our repertoire, we went a bit nutso in H&M and Sissy Boy which was very cool. Food is quite expensive in Amsterdam, and after having what was touted as 'the best felafel' in Holland, a claim that I will have to take their word for as I was not game to have another, we felt prepared to tackle a coffe shop. I should point out here that my position was just to go and 'sniff the air' so to speak, as I fear that if I smoked anything, I may take up cigarette smoking again, something I have been clean of for over 3 years now and have NO intention of going back to. Europe is so cigarette friendly that it almost seems attractive to indulge, I don't want to risk it and feel quite proud that I have abstained. We thought perhaps that truffles were more our scene, and were directed to a dark and very smoky lounge. The air was so thick with smoke it made your eyes water and as there were no seats available, we bailed and entered the bar next door, Oportos, a dim and cosy cavern that felt warm and welcoming. Europe's low tax on alcohol: say no more...needless to say, we settled in for the night with a great group of people who took us under their wing and became brilliant shining stars for the whole weekend. It must have been around 11pm when we thought Japanese was a good idea - it certainly was (just very expensive) and by some strange accident, this restaurant was opposite our hostel so we didn't even have to think about how to get home!

Being narrow, the hostel also has some crazy ass spiral stairs which are half the depth and height of your usual stairs. I can't even imagine how we managed to ascend the three flights of stairs in our drunken state, not to mention get our kit off and into jarmies, clean up, open another bottle of wine (a rose, which was, that evening, tasting surprisingly good), eat some disgusting chocolate coated waffle and make it to bed. The next morning, Paige asked me if I had eaten some of her chocolate donut as a large chunk had been taken out through the plastic wrap to which I answered 'No! of course not!'. She thought it was rats, however a few hour later, the thought came to me that yes, infact it WAS me that had a ferral midnight snack and forgotten about it. Oops.

The next night I was invited to join everyone for dinner and meet another lovely guy who cooked a delicious paneer and spicy chicken dish which were SO GOOD! his mama would be proud! It was such a fun night, joking, laughing and singing to Rammstein(!), I felt totally welcomed as an old friend - so lovely. We went to a few bars after this and then ended up in the red light district for a bit of a perv really. There was no need to see a show as some dodgy backpackers had been fucking in our room. I am always happy to take a top bunk for this very reason- much harder for them to get up there and less likely to be hit in the crossfire!

It wasn't all a drinking binge, and a sobering experience was had at the Anne Frank house. After the annonymity of the victims at Sachsenhausen, it was appropriate to put a personal perspective on events. I remember reading her diary at school when I was of a similar age to Anne and remember feeling that you knew how she was feeling so well she was almost like a friend. I have to say that the house was larger than I expected- I had visions of being a closet. At the end, there was an interactive video which provided scenarios dased on ethical dilemmas. For example, one story was about a woman who campaigned to have the crucifix banned in public schools as it was taking away the rights of the parent to choose if their child should have a religious education. You were then asked to vote based, well, the information given and your own point of view. These votes were then collated for the viewing group and compared with all voters on a whole. Granted, these scenarios was a little biased, but it was in nteresting activity none the less.

Hostel

: Hotel hostel Melvena: free wifi, cafe and mini shop in foyer, good location, clean, comfortable beds. Cons: kinda costly, cramped rooms, those dodgy stairs!!!

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