Thursday, August 16, 2012


The next stop on our journey was Amsterdam.  My friends and I took a train from Berlin to Amsterdam, which was about four hours. The train was crowded with many other travelers.  My friends and I stood out from the crowd, because we were the only ones lugging around huge suitcases.  Everyone else had backpacks.
Once we arrived to Amsterdam, we were able to walk right from the train station, to our hostel.  We were surprised to find out, that we booked our hostel in ‘The Red Light District’. Though, this was a very busy area, filled with many people and tourists, so we felt very safe. We chose not to eat at the local cafes, because sitting on a terrace overlooking women in windows isn’t the most appetizing scenery. You would be surprised at the number of families we saw walking through The Red Light District. Amsterdam has many other neighborhoods to visit, so this would not be my top choice for a family tour.

In Amsterdam, we took a walking tour of the city. We had an excellent tour guide.  He told us a lot about the history of Amsterdam, and why things are the way they are. The first thoughts that come to many people’s minds about Amsterdam are smoking and prostitution.  However, Amsterdam has much more to offer.
Amsterdam has a history built on liberalism and tolerance, that dates back far before the advent of drug tourism and prostitutes. This was once a refuge for Protestants and Jews in the 16th and 17th centuries. It was the center of the trading empire, which earned it tremendous wealth.
He explained that prostitution became legal, because they wanted to give women the right to choose to work, rather than having them forced into it.
 He also walked us down a nice road, which he later told us was once known as ‘Heroine Alley’, because the drug problem used to be so bad there. He said that since they allowed marijuana, the heroine problem disappeared.  He also told us that in Amsterdam, only about 20% of the residents have actually tried marijuana. 
 In The US, the number is around 50%.
Continuing on, Amsterdam really is beautiful and picturesque.  Canals run throughout the city, and people are biking everywhere.   
We lucked out, and had great weather in Amsterdam.  Before coming, I was warned of Amsterdam’s rainy, cool weather.  However, we had mostly sunny weather, with a few short showers.  It was definitely warmer than Berlin.  
We also went to see Anne Frank’s house.  I was glad we chose to wait on the long line.  It was extremely moving and also devastating to see the actual place that the Franks hid for years during war. 
We ate various cuisines in Amsterdam.  First, we wanted to try the famous Dutch pancakes. They were delicious! However, there are only so many pancakes one can eat.   We ended up eating at a Mediterranean place, and then at an Italian restaurant the next night. We had trouble finding restaurants serving Dutch food. 
I am very glad we chose to visit Amsterdam.  I was able to see past its famous reputation, to see it’s true character and beauty. 
My only complaint would be, that I didn’t get to interact with many Dutch people.  There were so many tourists!
I am pleased to write, that today I am on my way back to Paris. My friends have never been to Paris, but I happily agreed to accompany them. 
I am writing this blog entry on the train to Paris. I somehow managed to purchase a last minute, low price, first class ticket to Paris!
I feel slightly guilty, my friends had to take another train since they had a rail-pass. I know they have to transfer, and there is definitely no food offered. 
I won’t rub it in!

I’ll write to you in Paris! 

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