When we arrived at Centraal Station in Amsterdam, it was rush hour and we had to fight through the crowds to find the "botel." But once we found the dock, there were over 20 boats! I guess that makes sense for a city of canals, but it was confusing for us American girls.
The gruff Dutchman that owned the boat showed us the way to our cabin (calling it a cabin is a stretch) -- and lucky for us, the way included a set of the steepest, skinniest stairs I've ever seen. Once inside the "cabin," there wasn't even enough standing room for the two of us and our bags, haha. My friend couldn't stretch her wingspan across the room without touching both walls and I couldn't sit up on the bottom bunk without bumping my head. It was interesting to say the least!
We headed out for food and exploration and stopped at the first pizzeria we saw. Bad idea. It was the worst pizza I've ever tasted. And the guy microwaved it!! That is such a no-no when it comes to pizza. We're from New York for Christ's sake! That's not to say Amsterdam doesn't have good pizza. I'm sure they do... just not where we went.
Left to our own devices without tour guides like the California guys in Munich, we set off walking and hoped to run into something fun. We found our way to the edge of the Red Light District and found a long row of coffee shops, bars and a quite interesting store called The Condomerie. Plenty of people were out and about and we were curious about the whole coffee shop experience, but our prude American nature made us hesitant to walk in. How does it work?...Is there a certain coffee shop etiquette?? Finally, we pushed our reservations aside and tried out Coffee Shop Sheeba.
Sheeba was great. The middle-aged man behind the marijuana and hash counter showed us the menu, chatted with us and joked around. We made our purchases and headed back to the boat. 3/4 of the way back, we made the brilliant realization that we lost our lighter somewhere in Munich. Damn. Amsterdam is an early city - all the stores are closed by 6 or 7pm and the bars and coffee shops close at 1am. We were stuck. Then came Funky.
Funky was a Jamaican reggaeman (and possibly homeless) that was wandering and dancing to his own beat on the dock near the boats. We went up to him, asked him for a light for a cigarette, he lit it and asked where we were staying and tried to chat... we responded far far away and scampered back to the deck to smoke our legal goods before he saw us. We then came to the conclusion that though illegal, it just might be easier to smoke in America.
We sat on the dock together, looked at the beautiful city of canals at night and smoked. A nice Dutch guy from the boat next door and his dog, Dolly came to join us. After a few struggles, it was a perfect end to our first night in Amsterdam. Then, the rain came and we had to head inside to our cubicle.
A few things to note about Amsterdam:
- A trip to Amsterdam is probably best during the summertime. Surrounded by many canals and situated in the North, it was windy, freezing cold and raining during our whole stay in late September. Plus in the summer, there are tulips!
- Go out early because most of the bars and coffee shops shut down around 1am.
- The Van Gogh Museum has an amazing collection of his work, but for some reason, it's more expensive than any other museum I've visited in Europe, and they don't offer a discount for people under 26 years old. (costs around 12.50 Euro)
- The Anne Frank Haus is a must-see. We've all read the book and it was both moving and sad to see the actual place where her family hid as she wrote her diary.
- Amsterdam has great shopping. If you're looking for funky trinkets and souvenirs for family and friends, there are tons of gift shops on every block. And if you're looking for a great piece of Euro fashion to take home, there are a bunch of cool boutiques and shops like Sacha, where I found my new favorite boots.