This trip had been envisioned for quite a while…from the first time I looked at a map of Europe and found Osnabrück. Amsterdam is about 3 hours directly west (via train), tantalizingly close to Osnabrück. I decided that if I was ever going to get there for a decent price I would need to organize everything myself, which is exactly what happened. We needed six people to get the group discount (50% off) and managed to spend only 40€ apiece for the train there and back. The group consisted of me, two other Americans, two of our Swedish friends, and a friend from China. Quite worldly.
Having experienced the Netherlands twice now, I can say that it is thus far my favorite country in Europe. Their attitudes towards so many social issues align with my own. Amsterdam is well-known as the most liberal city in the world, and it was quite apparent. Prostitution is legal and regulated by the government, soft drugs are sold in shops, and pornography is almost entirely unrestricted (it’s kind of weird looking for magazines at a newsstand and seeing porno mags on the shelf). This is not to say I indulge in or even recommend such things, I just believe that individuals should have the freedom to do whatever they want to themselves. These policies were adopted for the betterment of Dutch society, and it shows. Amsterdam is a remarkably safe city with hardly a trace of the homelessness that terrorizes with an icy grip of black death the large cities of the US.
On to the adventure. We took off from Osnabrück around 3 PM or so and arrived in Amsterdam in time for dinner (I love trains). Upon leaving the train station I realized I had never looked at the directions to the hostel, just where it was on a map. No worries, I thought, and wandered around for a few blocks. Eventually I bit my pride and asked directions; on the second try we were successful and checked in to our hostel without a hitch. Next we got a bite to eat, then decided it was time to have a coffee or two. Well the coffee ended up being pretty strong (albeit delicious) and the time came to do some wandering. Unbelievably, nobody had the initiative to lead so I took it upon myself to, uh, guide us around the city for a few hours. My sole objective was finding a canal to follow; luckily, that’s not difficult in Amsterdam since just about every other street is parallel to a canal. At this point I was pretty wired from the coffee and almost incapable of meaningful communication, but somehow found our “destination.” The canal took us through part of the red light district (unbelievably surreal!) and at some point we wandered back to the hostel due to Lina’s map-reading skills. There we met up with Kevin who had been unprepared for such caffeinated coffee and went back early. The rest of the night was spent playing foosball, pool, and having a few pints of Heineken at the hostel. At some point we met a couple of coffee-enthusiast Aussies and chatted for awhile.
Saturday was a bit more tame. We had breakfast next door at this restaurant and I had a downright weird “Naturel” omelet with a cup of tea. From there we walked to the Rijks Museum, which had been recommended by an old German dude we were talking to on the train. It was expensive but I was quite impressed with the paintings on display (mostly Rembrandt and his students, all Dutch). Afterwards we got some pizza at a shady back-alley Italian joint and I elected we go to a pub and watch some football (apparently nobody else had any sort of decision-making abilities, so I was appointed “fuhrer” and sole decision-maker). Several pubs on our street were showing English Premier League games so we took a seat and watched Chelsea take on Wigan over a couple pints of Heineken. There we ran into a large group of drunk British arseholes (they seem to be everywhere, there’s even a group in Osnabrück) which started to tick me off. Why come to Amsterdam if you’re so damn intolerant and completely un-chill? After the game we wandered around a bit and found a Chinese restaurant for dinner, where Han ordered us some Chinese specialty. Twelve plates of food later we were ready to dig in. It was damn tasty, but to the flavor of 90€. Afterwards we did some more wandering and eventually ended up hanging around in our increasingly-cooler hostel, playing cards, foosball and pool. Most people were drinking coffee at the other tables, it was pretty late so I couldn’t really figure out why. I wasn’t really thirsty so I decided to have a poorly-crafted coffee-stick instead, and we lounged about until it was time for bed.
Sunday was warmer albeit busy. Han wanted to experience the sex museum, so we did. It was pretty funny, and surprisingly full of actual historic elements. We also wandered about a bit more and did a little shopping before making our way back to the train station. Then we boarded the wrong train (ours was going the same place but two hours later) so the conductor kicked us off in Amersfoort. There we sat around in a coffee/tea shop reading magazines and drinking tea until our train came. The rest of the trip went off without a hitch (well except the unexpected 1.5-hour wait in Bad Bentheim) and we were back in Osnabrück by 930 or so.