Sunday, April 15, 2012

I AMsterdam

Amsterdam looks like a postcard. All of it. Every street looks the same and there are very few significant markers so it makes navigating it extraordinarily difficult. Even with a map and lots of directions and five smart college student brains, we frequently get lost. The city itself reminds me of the Harvard campus, lots of tall redbrick buildings and pretty trees and flowers, tons of bikers, and lots of intelligent looking individuals walking around. There are canals everywhere which adds to the beauty of the city with all of the water, ducks, boats, and whatnot. But it also adds to the difficulty to figure out where you are, you can't simply "follow the water" because there is water everywhere and almost every street is divided by a canal and a bridge.

The first day in Amsterdam was a little tough, we were all jet lagged and completely exhausted. We were bent on depriving ourselves of sleep so after we checked into our hostel, The Flying Pig, we headed right back out to explore the city. The Flying Pig is an amazing hostel. It's full of art work and interesting people and walls covered in drawings and writings. It's a very cool scene. We bumped into another group of ACT study abroaders: Tianna, Jenna, Megan, Meredith, and Nicole who were just leaving the Flying Pig in the morning the next day. It's so crazy to run into a handful of people you know in a different country. Oh how small the world is.

Anyways, we wandered all over the city. We stepped into a handful of art galleries-- this city is FULL of art and art galleries!-- and into some shops as well. We got traditional dutch pancakes at a little restaurant. I got apple and honey pancakes and a bowl of chicken soup. It was delicious! The waiter was a bit of a grump, but hey that happens. After some more wandering we found the I AMSTERDAM sign and all took photographs in front of it. The sign was swarming with people and it was difficult to take a quality photo, but we made do the best we could.

the sign in the middle of the day
the sign at 7 am in the morning (after we returned from London)

We then went to the Heineken Museum which just might have been the coolest museum I've ever been to. (Not counting art museums of course). It was interesting to learn about the history of the beer and see historical artifacts and trinkets, but that wasn't the cool part. The cool part was that we were "turned into beer" during a little amusement park ride, we then saw horses, and learned all about the importance of and difference between hops, barley, and water. We learned how to correctly pour a beer and the importance of skimming off the foam one time with a plastic knife at a water-dripping 45 degree angle. I feel so much more knowledgable about beer! There was a movie room where you watched commercials and a room filled with interactive video games and a recording studio where you could record a video or a song. In the last room, you were given a couple free Heinekens and were invited to sit down and chill out. Kelsey's roommate from freshman year of college has a sister that randomly met this guy, Storm, a few years back in Amsterdam. They went on a couple dates and that was that. Turns out he works at the Heineken museum and Kelsey approached him about it and they were mutually excited and he was quite kind and gave us a handful of extra beer tokens so we weren't limited to the "two-beers-free-with-your-entrance-fee" restriction. We all got an extra beer or two and enjoyed a relaxing evening.

For dinner we all wanted something ethnic since we haven't had a surplus of ethnic food options in Greece. Greece loves Greek food. That's about it. So we had Indonesian food for dinner. It was delicious and we were freezing cold so we enjoyed being warm and inside.

It was a strange day in the sense that we were all so exhausted that we all weren't exactly in the mood for conversation. Very few words were exchanged all day. Kelsey and I are both fairly ill with sore throats and hacking coughs. But it's not just tiredness and illness that made the atmosphere quiet, I think we were all just in a "funk," perhaps tired of traveling with each other or just perhaps something else. It's hard to put a finger on. All I can say is that dinner was almost completely silent, as was almost all of the day.

Due to our level of sleep deprivation and weird moods we all went to bed early around 11 pm and called it a night.

We woke up around 10 and I felt sick as a dog. I took a couple Dayquil and laid in bed for 15 more minutes regaining strength. I was debating just laying in bed all day but I just couldn't talk myself into it. The boys decided to stay behind at The Flying Pig to work on some school work and on figuring out class schedules for next semester so us girls headed off on our own. We went to the flower market and walked into book shops and jewelry shops. I had my hood pulled up the whole time and kept fairly quiet because my throat was killer. I was on a mission to find cough drops- which I finally did. And I got a bowl of hot onion soup for lunch which hit the spot perfectly.

 We went in to the "Sex Museum" which we were told was a "must-go-see" attraction here in Amsterdam. Let me just say it is NOT a must-see. It was a over the top and I felt moderatly violated just being present in the museum itself. I imagined it would be lots of 5 feet fall plastic genetalia and maybe some ancient artwork or statues? I  thought I could handle that. Oh no, it was full-on-graphic stuff. We went through the museum pretty fast and decided we HAD to hit up H&M afterwards for some post-shock shopping.

After H&M we met up with the boys to go to the Ann Frank House and Museum. It was incredible. There were quotes from her diary lining the walls, artfully placed and poignant in their childlike, simplicity and honesty. It was strange to know that my feet stood where Anne's stood. My body moved through the rooms that Anne's did. The area Anne and her family hid in was larger than I expected with a handful of rooms. But for 8 people, I imagine it felt quite cramped. We saw the pictures and postcards she hand-glued to her bedroom walls for decoration and pages from her diary itself. She has much more elegant handwriting than I've ever had. She wrote in very elegant cursive that was tight and slanted. She wrote in pencil.

We all were moved by the tour and walked in silence to get Korean food for dinner.
             Mary Oliver says that: "Silence is the sanctuary of sound."

Dinner was good, but not very filling. I ordered 2 bowls of vegetable soup because 1 didn't fill me enough. Then we headed back to the Flying Pig to gather up our stuff because us girls were catching a bus to London. The boys wanted to stay an extra 2 days in Amsterdam so they were staying behind. Kelsey, Steph, and I all knew that we would need a break from the boys and that 5 days in Amsterdam was just too many. So we broke off from the group and grabbed an 8 hour bus to LONDON.

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