Wednesday, 29 January 2014

An Amster-dam good time

Title credit goes to Chase, unashamedly pinched by me, since I am obviously unable to resist a good pun.

So, in true year abroad fashion, and because I am currently in the grips of oh-wow-I-only-have-a-month-left-let's-make-the-most-of-it syndrome, this past weekend involved an impromptu (for me anyway!) trip to Amsterdam, courtesy of the ever-efficient-and-reliable Deutsche Bahn. On Thursday night I (along with a sizeable group of other language assistants) threw caution to the wind and hopped on an evening train to the Venice of the North, fully equipped with appropriate supplies of the snack and beverage variety and enough classic British (and American) banter to see our train carriage gradually emptying throughout the journey. Stereotype fulfilled! (Oops)

When we arrived, I was pleasantly surprised by the hostel (Flying Pig Uptown Hostel, in case anyone's curious), which boasted what felt like several thousand flights of stairs, and its own cat (among other things of course!).
Hostel's cat was unimpressed by our hilarious prank.
Good advice in the hostel's stairwell.
I think this was about 4 flights up

On Friday, our first full day, we wandered around for what seemed like eternity trying to find breakfast, before settling less-than-reluctantly for the Hardrock Cafe (no regrets). It was good. In the afternoon we went to a torture museum, which was pretty much just a display of torture equipment and explanations (and artistic interpretations) of their usage, all accompanied by bizarrely soothing music. Gruesome. That afternoon was just filled with general wanderings, visits to touristy souvenir shops (naturally), a brief perusal of an impressive cheese shop, and, to top it all off, a visit to Wagamama's (Yeah, Amsterdam has Wagamama's! Take that Germany!). As you can see, we fully embraced the culture of... er... Japan.
Some clogs in a touristy shop. I think these were about my size.
Saturday was a day filled with culture and that associated smugness which comes with having spent the day looking at art, history and architecture and actually enjoying it. First off was the Van Gogh museum, which, while bringing back happy reminiscences of a certain Doctor Who episode, was also really interesting and insightful. I absolutely loved looking at all the paintings and learning the story behind them, seeing how his style developed, and (of course) buying copious amounts of postcards of the paintings from the museum gift shop. (I have a postcard-buying addiction. It's a serious problem. But hey, these postcards were really nice!)
Just a small selection...
After a second round in Wagamama (don't judge us), we embarked on a boat tour of Amsterdam's canals, which took us the scenic route through the city, giving us beautiful views of the city's unique houses. The boat trip even came with a recorded accompaniment in the form of a cringey 'couple' (definitely actors) telling us all about the local history and architecture, as well as certain random details of their lives. Bonus!
Pretty view of some houses
I took about a hundred identical pictures to this... Seriously, this place is so beautiful!
Our day of culturedness was topped off with a visit to the Anne Frank house, a tour of which we had thankfully booked beforehand (the queues were massive!). Though I'd read the diary of Anne Frank years ago, the story had never really struck me quite as much as when I could see all the rooms they lived in, hear details of what happened to them in the camps, and read extracts of the diary in context. The museum is so beautifully done, letting the rooms in the house where they all lived and the diary extracts speak for themselves. It's so moving and I highly recommend a visit.

That evening we mostly just wandered around getting soaked in the rain, trying to find a supermarket, missing our tram stop twice (that's a skill right there), seeing the red light district (it's not a nice place), and playing the Rennie/country game (don't ask) into the small hours with hilarious results.

On Sunday, after a bit of shopping, wandering around sighing about how we all love Amsterdam and want to move there, and a visit to the best hot chocolate shop in the world (it's official), a very tired bunch of language assistants got back on a train bound for Minden (city of dreams), and were greeted by SNOW(!!) when we got back to good old Deutschland. The icing on the cake of a fantastic long-weekend!
Bis zum nächsten Mal, liebe Kumpels!