Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Well, this past weekend was Amsterdam. We were traveling with Anna and LC this time. Daryl was looking forward to this way too much. I’ll leave you to guess why. Anyway, we went to Amsterdam, had an okay time, and now I’m home and real tired. Matt Klein, a friend of Daryl and John’s from this summers time in Germany came to Luxembourg Wednesday. He has been in Germany teaching English and painting his host family’s house. He slept on a mattress in John’s room and fun was had by all, as he is a fellow nerd.


While checking my email and Google news before class Friday, I happened across the information that basically all of Belgium is on strike. For those geography buffs among you, going through Belgium is the quickest way to Amsterdam. They said the Brussels train station was boarded up. Anyway, that was a bad sign. John and Matt Klein left early Friday morning, before Daryl and I were awake. They did this for two reasons: first, they could get to Amsterdam earlier and have more time there, and second, and by far more importantly, John really didn’t want to go to English that day. Anyway, about half the English class asked to leave a few minutes early to catch a train to Lux City, so Kay just let us all out 15 minutes early.


When we (Daryl, Anna, LC, and I) got to Lux City, we found a route through Germany, with about an hour layover in Köln. We hopped on the train, and we were off to Köln. On the way we read fairy tales from the Brothers Grimm aloud. One of them was about a woman unbelievably stupid, it was hilarious and I recommend it, the name was Freidrich and Katharine. While we were on the train, Anna realized that she had forgotten both her Eurail Pass and her passport. The passport was not a problem unless she got into some kind of trouble, but the lack of Eurail meant she had to pay for the train ride. It ended up being €80 one way. The worst part is that she had the unlimited ride pass, so for a certain period of time, she can travel all she wants, unlike ours that only have 15 travel days of use. This meant that she basically had to flush €160 (round trip) down the toilet because of her mistake. Needless to say, she was not a very happy camper. She then went to put a sweatshirt on, and apparently her host mom, whom she pays to do her laundry, isn’t very good at it, because the sweatshirt absolutely reeks. She decides to hang it out the window of the train to air it out. That was amusing, but it didn’t work. The rest of the ride was pretty uneventful.


When we got to Köln, Anna and LC decided to find food or other things in the train station, whereas Daryl and I wanted to see the Dom, a gigantic gothic cathedral right by the train station. We were smarter. We walked outside, and right in front of the train station was the biggest and tallest cathedral I have ever seen. I took about 30 pictures of it in the space of about 15 minutes. I had thought that the St. Vitus Cathedral in Praha was the coolest building I had ever seen, but this one took over the top spot. I took some really awesome pictures, but they mostly got ruined by scaffolding. Anyway, that was really cool, and when we wandered back into the train station, and found that Anna and LC had managed to go clothes shopping inside a Hauptbahnoff. That is impressive. They had bought sweatshirts, which would have made sense if just Anna had bought one. However, LC bought one and Anna bought two. Women and their shopping… We forced them to go outside and look at the Dom, which they did, and then we had to get on our train. Also getting on the train were about 25 more MUDECers on their way to Amsterdam. This made me very unhappy.


This was an ICE train all the way from Köln to Amsterdam, so we made good time. When we got there, John sent me a text telling me he was out front of the train station. We walked out both doors of the train station and he and Matt Klein were nowhere to be found. It turns out they were in front of the building, which there is no door leading to from the inside. They had already indulged in the coffee shops, though that was long enough ago that they weren’t showing it. We found each other and took a look at a map. It was a long ways to our hostel. We looked at the shady as HELL cab drivers, and we looked at the map. We looked back at the shady taxi drivers, and started walking. It took us a good half hour to get there, and thankfully our hostel had signs pointing the way when we got close, cuz it was down an alley, and we never would have found it. We checked in, and it turns out we had a private room for the 6 of us, which was a pleasant surprise. The hostel was actually quite nice.


We then headed out for some food, since we were all hungry, but more importantly, we wanted Daryl to shut the hell up, since he had been complaining loudly for the past 45 minutes about how hungry he was. We went to the Pancake house, which was not exactly authentic Dutch food, but the pancakes were really good, and the food wasn’t too hideously expensive. Also, it was sort of a sports bar, and they had the Sox-Sox game playing, which made me very happy, and nobody else gave a damn. Daryl, John, and Matt then went to explore Amsterdam and get very stoned, and Anna, LC and myself went back to the hostel to sleep, as we were exhausted and not interested in smoking copious amounts of ganja. I told Anna and LC I would go running with them in the morning. It turns out that they did in fact smoke ridiculous amounts, getting higher than kites. How fun.


Anna and LC woke up the next morning, and got ready to go running. When they asked me if I still wanted to go, they got an emphatic NO, and I went back to sleep. We then woke up a while later and had the usual cold cuts breakfast, although it was a bit bigger this time, with a larger selection, none of which was eggs, bacon, and sausage. Anna and LC went to do their own thing, which consisted partly of going to all 3 United Colors of Benetton stores in Amsterdam. We manly men decided to hit up the Rijksmuseum first, since we knew we wanted to see that, and then we could wander without worrying about going back there to see it at some point, and leaving time for it. We paid our €9 (!) to get in, and began to work our way through. Now the Rijksmuseum normally has 150+ rooms of art. At this particular time, much of the museum was under renovation, leaving all of 14 (!) rooms open. We were not happy about this. That’s more than 50 eurocents per room, and that is very much a rip-off. Some of the art was awesome, but the quantity was severely lacking. Some of the highlights were the ridiculously well painted still lifes. They make a silver vase shine, somehow. As C-Unit said Monday when we were talking about this, I would have started with glitter-that shines right? Also there were some pen drawings of ship battles that were done by an Admiral who actually did sketches during the battles that the pen drawings were based off of.


When we finished the Rijksmuseum, we headed deeper into the city. We eventually found a place that rented 4 person paddleboats for €7/hour with a €50 deposit. We jumped all over that, and headed out onto the canals. It was probably the highlight of the trip, just spending an hour paddling around the city, seeing the sights from the water, and trying to avoid getting run down by larger, powered boats. Daryl was being rather obnoxious, yelling “AHOY!” to both other boats and any group of people that happened to be close to the water. Regardless, it was a good time, and I parked the boat well, backing into the slip at the dock when we were done.


We then headed off to the harbor, just to see what was there. On the way, we passed a couple hundred thousand bikes. Someone said that the city has 800,000 people and 600,000 bicycles, and I believe it. They were locked to anything that could possibly lock up a bike, it was ridiculous. Once we got to the harbor, we were somewhat disappointed, as it was almost all under construction, and not really a very nice looking area. The weather was nice, however, so we sat on the edge of the water for a while. We headed back into the city and just wandered for quite a while. We eventually made it back to the square where we ate the night before, and met up with Anna, LC, and Michelle (Anna’s roommate back in Lux). We went to an Italian place despite my efforts to get us to go to an Indian restaurant. The food was good, and we absolutely destroyed it. We all ate each others’ food, and it was all gone by the end. We went back to the square, and the girls headed back to the hostel to drop stuff off, so we watched this crazy English guy put on a street performance. He was somewhat talented, but he was absolutely hilarious, and was not afraid to offend anyone. His grand finale included having a 14 yr old girl from the audience drop a lit torch down his pants. He amused us until the girls came back, and we headed to the Red Light District.


The Red Light District was surreal. It didn’t seem possible for something like this to exist. Scantily clad women behind glass doors, selling themselves on ridiculously crowded streets. Some looked like they were about 14, some 50, and some looked like they were men in drag. It was quite strange. While we walked past a building that had Sex Shows, there was a long queue, and half the line was MUDECers. The other half looked like people in their 40s and 50s. They all looked stoned and/or drunk, and were all about to shell out €30 to €45 to see people have sex on stage. This was something that I figured I did not want to see, since once I did; I wouldn’t be able to unsee it. I don’t think I would want that memory to be around for the rest of my life. Our group declined, but the rest of the MUDECers went in. We wandered some more, then hit a coffee shop, where Anna and I had brownies, and John, Daryl and Matt put a gram of weed into a single joint and smoked about half of it. We wandered for a while more, the girls went back home, we wandered some more, got lost (Amsterdam made no sense, we never got a hang of it) and eventually got back, so tired that I could barely crawl into my bunk and fell asleep immediately, resting my aching feet. The brownies did absolutely nothing to me or Anna. They weren’t even good brownies, they were really dry.


We woke up Sunday, and after breakfast and checkout, the girls went directly to the train station, wanting to hang out in Köln for a couple hours on the way back. We decided to wander through Vondelpark for a while, which was really cool and really huge. We noticed that none of the dogs people were walking were on leashes, yet they followed the people better than dogs on leashes tend to do. We eventually went back to the hostel, where John and Matt played giant chess. The pieces were all about a third to a half meter tall, and the board’s squares were probably a half meter wide. Matt beat John, in front of a few spectators, who apparently had nothing better to do that day than watch strangers play giant chess. After that we headed to the train station.


We caught a train to Köln that had three stops, since Matt Klein had to get to Köln/Bonn airport. We ended up 10 minutes late into Nijmegen, where we had 4 minutes to make a connection, had we been on time. Needless to say, we missed that one. So we spent an hour in Nijmegen; that was a blast. Wine was bought to aid in making the trip more bearable and to act as a sleeping aid. We eventually made it to Köln, said bye to Matt, and continued to Koblenz, which had a train back to Luxembourg City that got in at 23.41. The last train from Lux City to Oberkorn is at 23.50, so we made it barely on time, and got home at 00.30, ate the soup Guy left out, and collapsed in bed. Throughout this, the omni prescient Meredith was telling us what trains we could take through text messages. Apparently she had some kind of timetable; that would probably be helpful to have.


All in all, I guess I would go, if I had to remake my choice, but I don’t think I would use a weekend on it if I were only here for a semester. It was my least favorite city that I have been to in Europe. It seems to be a tourist destination mainly because of the coffee shops and the sex-related activities, and there isn’t much else to do there. Also, it was ridiculously dirty and shady. I probably heard more English than Dutch while I was there. So for those of you who may be considering a trip-unless you’re a stoner, don’t bother. Or if you like kinky sex, I guess that would be a reason as well.


Next weekend will be spent in and near Luxembourg. Perhaps we/I will take a day trip or two but not only am I traveled out, I am going through money at a ridiculous rate, and would like to avoid hostels and expensive meals for a weekend.

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