September 19, 2012
We landed at Schiphol Airport, Netherlands and exchanged emails with Toby. He invited us to visit Cambridge where he’ll be studying. He described Cambridge as pure Hogwarts. We exited the plane and parted ways with Toby. We began our first day in Europe.
We walked around the airport taking in the details that made it European — odd shaped toilets, cheese/wine shops, and multiple languages everywhere. We eventually rented a locker to drop off a backpack, purchased train tickets to Amsterdam Centraal, and experienced our first confusing train station.
The train ride to Amsterdam was about 20 minutes. I can write about how confused we were the whole day but that would be excessive. Just keep in mind that the whole time we were perplexed, overwhelmed, and sleepless.
We exited the train station overwhelmed by the crowds and incredible architecture. We didn’t realize until we looked behind us that the train station itself was as grand as the churches in the distance. We followed the crowd for a bit until we gained enough courage to get lost. We walked through some alleys until we reached a canal. We followed the canal down until Amissa realized she needed coffee. Finding coffee in Amsterdam can be a challenge. Most restaurants open at strange times and coffee shops aren’t what they seem (marijuana).
We finally found a bar and purchased a half-filled cup of joe for €2,50. The weather was cold and luckily we brought jackets, a beanie, and scarf. We walked down various streets all were pretty touristy with plenty f souvenir and coffee shops. We spent some time these shops and Amissa bought a THC-free weed lollipop for €1. We decided to get organized and purchased a map for €1,50. We paused at a bench near Madame Tussauds to get oriented. We walked the whole day sometimes in circles. I bought the first patch, the Netherlands flag, for my collection of countries I’ve visited. Not quite sure what I’ll patch them onto but open to suggestions. We proceeded to explore the cities failing to follow maps.
The rain began. We were tired and hungry and spent half an hour looking for a cheap place to eat. We entered Snackworld because it offered free wifi. There was an Asian man behind the counter and he gave me some insight into Dutch cuisine. I avoided the deep-fried options and ate an Eggburger with Amissa. Nausea kicked in from the smells of grease, lack of sleep, and cold. I forced as much of the food as I could down. We used the wifi to open a Google map on my phone I created for Amsterdam. From this point, we decided to go see the Anne Frank Huis.
We walked over a mile heading back towards the train station. We eventually reached the Anne Frank Huis. It was a modern building like nothing we expected. We were trapped by the rain and decided to pay €9 each to enter the museum. By now my back was aching from carrying the backpack to the point where I felt I could collapse. Anne Frank’s story was presented within the walls of the house. Quotes from her journal were imprinted on the walls of every room. Interviews and footage of the period were also presented. At the end of the exhibit, we were led to the Anne Frank Huis Cafeteria where Amissa joked we can get some Anne Frank Chicken Nuggets.
Outside the house was a really nice church. I didn’t get a chance to get the church name but I did photograph it. From here we walked to a souvenir shop to buy some clog key chains we saw earlier. After we headed to the Hotel Prins Hendrik, the site of Chet Baker’s death. There was a plaque outside the hotel commemorating his death. The hotel interior was adorned with Chet Baker photographs and memorabilia. I bought a limited edition Chet postcard only found in two places in the world.
We were ready to head back but were dissatisfied having not found the Red Light District. We asked the concierge at the hotel for directions. He chuckled and gave us a simple route. The Red Light District is about two or more blocks in length following a canal. Amissa and I walked down gazing through the windows at prostitutes of all colors and sizes. Most were very unattractive. On our way back to the station, an Italian man lured us into his restaurant. He was friendly and funny. Amissa had coffee. I had tea. We regained our strength and headed towards the station. No one checked our train tickets. We could’ve saved €15. We struggled to stay awake on the train ride.
Amissa was upset when she realized we’d be sleeping at the airport. I tried lifting her spirit telling her that there might be airport hotels. She was on 50+ hours of no sleep and probably crashing from all the strong coffee. I asked what her price limit would be for a hotel room. She said €50. I agreed. We found out that the room was over €100. I said it was not a good idea. She became extremely distressed and emotional. I tried comforting her and convincing her that the price was outrageous but she continued to break down.
We sat on comfort chairs. We decided that maybe Chicken Nuggets and a Xanax would calm her down. An hour later we were fast asleep hugging our backpacks on a group of comfort chairs with about four other people. It was 9 pm Amsterdam time.