Post Christmas 2011 in Amsterdam
I used to have a travel blog for a very short period of time. Have no idea why it didn’t last very long even though I have tons of stories and pictures. Possibly because I spent too much time on one post that it became too tiring. Will try a different style now. Brevity is key! (update: since I started this post I have actually abandoned it for a while, so much for brevity -_-)
So our Europe trip started in Amsterdam. I bought a package months before including flights, so we flew there, flew back to London, then the next day went to Paris onwards to midland.
Flights are so stressful. It takes a lot of time and probably money to go to the airport, you need to spare so many hours ahead, the luggage regulations are so strict, etc, while train stations are usually in the middle of the city, no worry with luggage, bring whatever you want, no stupid one piece of hand-carry (Europe is surprisingly strict in this! – couldn’t even carry a small bag together with my pull luggage), no liquid in hand-carry, and oh your luggage is too heavy, or oh you don’t actually have allowance for check-in luggage because your budget flight is so cheap! In short, I would take train anytime over flight in Europe.
Our flight to Amsterdam was especially painful because we flew from London Gatwick. Warn to anyone traveling from London. Do not take any other airports apart from Heathrow or City airports because the others are really REALLY FAR. (London has 4-5 airports) Except if you have lots of time to spare. Morning flight from Gatwick? Bad idea! Especially when the train people decided to go on strike on the day…
Picking Amsterdam was a no brainer for me. Indonesia was occupied by the Dutch for 350 years. The two countries share food, words, and culture. It’s like a meeting point between Europe and Indonesia. And it did not disappoint. There were Indonesian restaurants everywhere (or Chinese/Indonesian), we found lots of familiar words, some people even tried to talk to us in Indonesian. We felt very welcomed, people seem nice and happy (unlike the miserable Parisians, but more on that later). In fact, after I read an article somewhere after that, that statistically the Dutch are the happiest people in the world!
Amsterdam as Netherland’s capital is actually smaller than I thought. We spent 4 days there so it was relaxing and leisurely, since there are no iconic landmarks that we MUST see (unlike London or Paris for example). So we largely spent our time enjoying the city, walking around the canals, explored, and ate.
The food there is GREAT. It just caters to our Indonesian taste, very tasty, unlike the usual blandness of Western food (generally speaking). Even though we only had one chance to eat at Indonesian restaurant, they were at every other block, so it was nice and reassuring.
Also unmissable is the Dutch pancake pannekoeken and the small pancakes Poffertjes. The best ones we had were at the Pancake Bakery. They were unbelievably good!
One of our favorite place was Febo, a fast food chain with the irresistible novelty factor. They have rows and columns of transparent boxes, each with one portion of food (which in itself was very interesting because the food is mostly familiar to us Indonesians like kroket and risoles – but with a European twist, e.g. cheese risoles). You put coins as much as the labeled price, then you can open one box and take the food. Sort of like giant vending machine with hot food in it. But you can see people in the background, cooking and filling the boxes with hot food. Also, they sell fries with peanut sauce! Only in Amsterdam I’m sure!
You can’t miss the red light district when you go to Amsterdam, which is a stone throw away from Amsterdam Centraal (the main train station). We were quite surprised to see how free the drugs are sold. I kinda knew it before, but still it was quite an experience to see it yourself in some random normal-looking shops and souvenir shops. To be offered drugs by the shop attendants in the most nonchalant way, as if they were selling… beauty products (?). I asked them, which ones I can bring back to London, which seemed to be a familiar question, and they could quickly show me quite a few things. There’s certain substance that you can’t bring into the UK so some of the labels say no “…” (can’t remember the name). (No we didn’t buy drugs at the end, but I bought cannabis cookies and tea.)
At night we finally saw the real red light district, indicated by rows of red lights (doh!) at certain lanes. Again it was quite an experience for me, to see all these buildings with front glasses where the women display themselves in their undies and you can see the room and bed in the background. I was actually quite distraught. It’s like a human zoo! It wasn’t late enough though so the glasses were mostly empty when were there. Again, only in Amsterdam!
Apart from exploring the city, we went to Anne Frank House, Van Gogh museum, Heineken experience, and Amsterdam palace.
I didn’t know that Anne Frank was hiding in Amsterdam, so it was a surprise! It’s a very heartfelt place since it was the actual house the family was hiding in during German occupation. It reminded to read the Diary of Anne Frank, which has been sitting on my shelf for years now.
There are two famous painters from Amsterdam: Van Gogh and Rembrandt, both have dedicated museums. We picked Van Gogh museum. Very interesting and unique strokes. I’m sure from this point on I can recognize Van Gogh paintings anytime anywhere.
I never quite connected Heineken with Netherland so that was a nice surprise too. Heineken experience took us to the history and process of making Heineken beers. Rendy really likes the beer and insisted until the end of our Europe trip that Heineken beer is the best of them all! (we have since drunk beers from Germany and Belgium, both also famous for their beers) Remember kids, the best beer comes from barley, which is what Heineken is made from. Wheat beer is the cheap one!
We spend the last day in Amsterdam Royal Palace, which is located in the middle of the city. But it now seems miss-able after seeing so many other cool palaces in Europe. Especially if you have limited time in the city.
Will try to be more brief for my next post!