Hello readers! I know you've all been DYING to hear about my trip to Amsterdam and Belgium to visit my friend Marta! I'm going to split my trip into two posts---this one about Amsterdam and the next about Belgium. That way you don't have to read my post for fifteen minutes and you'll know which country my pictures belong to! I will have the second part of my trip posted before Wednesday this week, so keep an eye out for that! Anyway, let's dive into my trip to Amsterdam!
On Tuesday afternoon, I started my departure to Amsterdam. I took a bus to Edinburgh, since flying their was cheaper than flying through Glasgow. The flight from Edinburgh to Amsterdam was only an hour long, so it wasn't too bad (even the guy snoring next to me wasn't horrible). Once I landed in Amsterdam, I figured I would take the train to Amsterdam Central, since an Uber was going to cost around 20 Euro. Let me explain how trains work here in Scotland. At certain stops, you don't need to get a ticket because when you get to the central station, you can buy one before you have to go through any gates and they have people walking the train, so you can pay one of them also. So I got on the train in Amsterdam, without a ticket, because I thought that I could just get one at the central station. WRONG. Turns out you have to buy one before you leave the airport--which how was I supposed to know? You shouldn't be able to go to the platform without one if that's the way they are going to do it. Anyways, I got to the central station in Amsterdam and literally walked around for about a half hour trying to find someplace to buy a ticket because you cannot leave the station without scanning your ticket. Finally, I just went up to a worker and was like, "How can I leave? I don't have a ticket." He gave me the weirdest look and was like, "Where did you get on?" I told him the airport and he still gave me a funny look. I told him I didn't know I had to have a ticket before I got on the train and I'm sure at this point he was thinking, "Stupid American." But he let me go through the gate, but told me to go to the stand and buy a ticket, which I proceeded to do. Technically I could have just walked away, but that wouldn't have been the right thing to do. At this point, I was not trying to mess with public transportation anymore, so I called an Uber to take me to my hostel so I could check in. After that process, I went to see my friend Marta who was in Amsterdam with her leadership class from Iowa State University. I had a small supper, then we all went out to a karaoke bar! It was so much fun! After watching a couple of rounds of karaoke, Marta and I decided to give it a shot. Yes, you read me right. I did karaoke at a bar in front of a ton of foreign strangers. It was a lot of fun though (even though I sounded like crap). We sang Hollaback Girl by Gwen Stefani. We were way to confident we knew the words before the karaoke started...halfway through we realized that the words we were saying was not matching the lyrics. Regardless, we powered through and had a great time! Now if you know me, you know that I'm not a partier and I don't stay out late. I think every night of being in Amsterdam I was out until 1am. It's completely destroyed my sleep schedule, but regardless it was a good time. Now my experience in a hostel...that was less than a good time. I tried telling myself that it was like a cold air (for those of you who don't know what I'm referring to, my sorority has "cold air" sleeping style, so all the women who live in the house sleep in one room with bunks that is always cold and dark). The room was SO hot, the bathroom didn't have a sink, and the bed was super squeaky, to the point where I didn't want to move because I didn't want to wake anyone. It was so awkward because I felt people staring at me and I didn't want to look back and just overall it was an uncomfortable experience.
Wednesday morning I met Marta at her hotel to make our way over to the Anna Frank House. We walked to all the places we went because everything was close enough and we wanted to see the streets of Amsterdam. The Anne Frank House was absolutely amazing. I would 10/10 suggest visiting it if you ever find yourself in Amsterdam. It is an audio guided tour where you scan a code to listen to the information in that specific room. It went a lot more into detail about who helped the Frank family, how the discrimination against Jews had evolved prior to concentration camps, and finally showed the exact rooms that the people in hiding had to share. Otto Frank, Anne Frank's father, wanted to leave the rooms exactly how they were left, empty. The German's removed all the furniture and belongings from the hidden rooms. Walking through Anna and Margot Frank's bedroom, I didn't know or realize that Anne had plastered pictures onto the walls. The pictures that Anna glued to her walls are still there, in the exact place where she put them. Sometimes I think it's really easy to disconnect from the monstrosities that had happened, so seeing firsthand the tiny living space and to get into the mindset of actually living in those hidden rooms for so long was very humbling. In the end, she was just a teenage girl---like me. I ended up buying some postcards from their gift shop, one of them being a very moving picture of Otto Frank standing along in the middle of the hidden empty rooms. After the Anne Frank House, we went to the Royal Palace of Amsterdam. There we also received a self-guided audio tour. It was very interesting to learn about the architecture and the meaning of the statues. I'm a huge mythology nerd, so I liked hearing about the Roman mythology sculpture pieces. I included some pictures of the interior of the Palace at the end of this post! Another interesting fact is that the palace is still used today for the royal family. Obviously they shut down tours and whatnot when it is in use, but it's still pretty cool to see the rooms where people currently stay. After the Royal Palace, Marta, myself and some of her other friends that were on the trip with her decided to explore Amsterdam a little bit more. We wandered the streets, then found ourselves in the Red Light District. If anyone knows one thing about Amsterdam, it's the infamous Red Light District. In Amsterdam, prostitution is legal, so they literally have windows with prostitutes working, trying to get customers off the street. Words cannot describe how uncomfortable I was. It just makes me sad that people think of intimacy like that as a "business transaction." Later that night, we went back to the Red Light District to check out the Museum of Prostitution. This was also a self-guided audio tour, where you learned the point of view of the prostitute and what being a prostitute really is. Needless to say, I did learn some things. Like apparently a lot of married women are prostitutes and their husbands are their pimps. Don't ask me how that works, I am truly mind-boggled by that. Also a "lover boy," is a boyfriend who manipulates and makes their girlfriend become a prostitute. Either way, I saw a lot that I really didn't want to see and learned a lot that I could have gone my whole life without knowing. It's all part of the Amsterdam experience though, right? After, we started walking our way back to the hotel. On the way, we had someone ask us if we wanted to buy coke---literally he said, "You want some Coke? Cocaine?" Don't worry, we ignored him and kept walking (we were still in a pretty populated area, so I wasn't too concerned. Of course though my google maps has to take us down less populated areas, but we were a pretty big group, so we just walked briskly. After our group made it to the hotel, Marta and I decided to go to a bar to just drink and chat. I found out that I really like apple cider beer (I was about three beers in, which is the most I've ever drank). After our chat and beers, I made my way back to my hostel for another awkward, sleepless night. This time, someone was above me, on the bunk above me. This person was literally spasming the whole night which scared the crap out of me. I tried to ignore it though.
Thursday started with a tour of the Vincent Van Gogh Museum. Luckily I was able to hop in on the tour Marta's group was getting. I learned a lot about Van Gogh. He started painting when he was 27 years old, then died ten years later. When he first started painting, he only had about four month of "happy" times, then he was hospitalized. They section his work off with his pre-hospital paintings, hospital paintings, and post hospital paintings. He was also completely funded by his older brother, Theo. Overall, Van Gogh was ahead of his time, with the only selling one painting during his life. We learned about his painting style and how to tell what Van Gogh's mood was in his paintings. Afterwards, we ate lunch then got ready to catch our train to Brussels, Belgium which left at 5pm! We walked our way to the central station and stopped in some gift shops along the way. I luckily had some self-control, and did not buy any souvenirs! Very proud of myself with that one. Like I said earlier, I am going to split this post into two separate entries. I will post about my Belgium adventure sometime before Wednesday! Until then, enjoy these pictures from my time in Amsterdam!