The first stop on my 5 country spring break adventure was Amsterdam, Netherlands! Evan (a friend from Bentley also attending UCD this semester) and I met up in Amsterdam with two other friends from Bentley and spent a few days wandering along the city’s numerous canals.
First impression: This place has so many bikes. Now, when I say this city has a lot of bikes, I mean A LOT of bikes…it wouldn’t surprise me at all if there were actually more bikes than people. One might wonder how this would happen, but I don’t think it would be difficult to lose your bike amongst the thousands in the city, give up looking for it, and have to go buy a new one.
Anyway, our first day in Amsterdam wasn’t a full day so we spent it wandering around aimlessly and just trying to see some of the city. We were all really exhausted so we didn’t do a whole heck of a lot and that night, 3 of us went to a pub close to our hostel to chat and catch up for a little while before we went to bed and got ready for the full agenda we had planned for the following day.
While wandering early that day we stumbled upon a tourist office and decided to check it out to get some ideas for how we wanted to spend the next couple of days. While we were in there we ended up booking a Hop-On, Hop-Off Canal Tour (it’s essentially a 24 hour pass for transportation around the city via boat through the various canals that takes people to popular parts of the city, while providing an audio tour of some of the city history), purchased tickets to tour the Heineken brewery, and all got passes for the Ice Bar in Amsterdam.
We woke up relatively early the next morning and walked to the starting point for the canal tour. The sun was out and it was just an absolutely beautiful morning, so we knew it was going to be a good day. 🙂
One of the first stops we got off on the canal tour was near the Heineken Experience. Over spring break I did 3 brewery tours in less than 2 weeks, and I have to say that Heineken’s blew the other 2 out of the water. It was extremely fun and interactive, and my friends and I all had a blast walking through and learning about the history and the process, and seeing the various organizations Heineken partners with.
We also had a lot of fun with all of the photo opportunities….
After the Heineken tour we didn’t have any time sensitive obligations until the Ice Bar later that night, so we spent the day walking around to various tourist attractions as well as some random parts of the city. We found the “I amsterdam” sign, walked through the little market right beside it and bought some lunch, and also made our way to Vondelpark. It’s extremely difficult to get a group photo taken with any large chunk of the sign, but we did manage to take over a few of the letters for a picture… 😀
While we were exploring we also found a cheese museum, which was pretty much a buffet with various flavors of cheese that were completely free for sampling. I think I consumed enough cheese for at least a week by the time we were finished walking through and trying all of the flavors. I also think that, as a group, this might have been our favorite part of Amsterdam.
After wandering around a little bit more and finding our way back to the hostel for a little break, we went to the Ice Bar for our final stop of the day. We were all pumped and expected it to be really awesome, but it wasn’t quite what we expected…
Apparently, as we later found out, the Ice Bar is pirate themed…so we spent the hour we had in there being talked at by people dressed up like pirates speaking in their pirate voices and wearing the insulated jackets they gave us that smelled like a horrendous mixture of booze. The glasses they give you for the 2 drinks that come with each ticket is made of ice, as are some of the benches and walls, so it makes sense that it’s freezing cold in there. What doesn’t make a whole lot of sense though, is that it’s so cold that your beer freezes to the inside of your glass. And then when you decide to cash in your second drink and get a shot instead because you only actually got to drink 1/3 of your first beer, but you wait too long to do it so when you and your friends go to “cheers”, you realize the shot melted through your glass and your gloves and scarf got pretty much every drop of your shot of chocolate vodka…
Overall it was kind of cool and it was certainly an interesting experience, but it was also super weird and something that I’m pretty content with not doing again. Even though we got some decent photos out of it.
On my last day in Amsterdam I made my way to the Van Gogh Museum. I’ve been to quite a few art museums since I’ve been abroad, but this one was definitely one of my absolute favorites. Aside from an amazing collection of Van Gogh’s work, it also had a lot of pieces by people who inspired him, those he inspired, as well as artist friends he met throughout his career.
We didn’t have a lot of time on our last day, because we had to make our way to the bus station to catch our bus to Brussels and we wanted plenty of time to find the station and figure out where we needed to go, so the Van Gogh museum was the only thing I really did on that final day in Amsterdam. We probably could have fit more in considering our bus was extremely late and we ended up waiting outside in the cold for over an hour, but that’s okay. I think we fit a decent amount of experiences and sight seeing in the short time we had in Amsterdam. 🙂
Fun fact: many of the houses in Amsterdam are tilted slightly forward because of how they used to (and sometimes still do) lift big, heavy objects to the upper floors. There are huge hooks on the top of the front of the house, and they put a rope through them to hoist the big stuff up (see picture below).