- Capital: Amsterdam
- Language: Dutch (although many people know both English and German as well)
- Population: 17 million
- Location: Northwestern Europe
- Currency: Euro
I traveled to the Netherlands in late June of 2015 to meet a few of my friends who were already in the middle of a European backpacking trip. The plan was to spend several days with them in Amsterdam before heading off solo to Tbilisi, Georgia, but due to unforeseen circumstances that arose from the Pit of Despair (aka JFK airport) my trip to Amsterdam was cut very short and plagued by jetlag, so I didn't get to enjoy it anywhere as much as I hoped. I put up a valiant effort, but nearly all of my energy went towards fighting the urge to fall asleep in public. Anyway, here's my story of how that all went. (I will reach out to my friends to get more information to fill this page).
The entirety of my one day visit was confined in the city of Amsterdam, where I landed and took off to Tbilisi from the next day. After landing in not the best physical nor mental state, I too the train from the airport to the city center where I was met by my friend Matt, who had already been there for a few days. It was just before noon and my check-in time for the hostel was not for another two hours, so we decided to get a bite to eat in the meantime (in reality, Matt had lunch while I fell asleep in my chair at the cafe. Once that all got straightened out, however, I joined up with everyone else and set out to make the most of my already fleeting time there.
Right away, it became apparent that Amsterdam is an incredibly unique city (as was already obvious), and as I saw it, it was both a blessing and a curse. On the bright side, the city seemed so open and free to do as you please, but on the downside, this attracted some really obnoxious visitors. Before I had even made it to the cafe with Matt (roughly 15 minutes after arriving), I saw the first of them: a British bachelor party. And then I saw another, and many more after that. They were fairly easy to recognise, seeing as they tended to all wear matching shirts and would shout incredible loud in English to one another. Maybe this was historical revenge, I thought. 1500 years ago, Vikings from this area invaded and pillaged the British Isles, and now I seemed to be witnessing the exact same thing in reverse.
Since this was my only night in Amsterdam, I thought I'd try to go out and make the best of what I could, but the exhaustion and sleep deprivation was hard to combat. Before leaving, I downed two coffees hoping that would do the trick, but the buzz wore off pretty quickly. When we got to the first bar, I was hoping the energy of the night would help pick me up. I sat down, ordered a beer and drank it fairly quickly. Hmmm, I was already starting to feel the effects. I guess a sleep deprived state makes everything hit harder............................................................................... ..............................................................................
I felt something shake my shoulder. It was Matt. "Wake up, Dude. You've been out for over an hour." Somewhat disoriented, I roused myself out of the chair. Apparently I just passed out right after drinking the first beer, but maybe now the power nap refreshed me. Hopeful, I went to another bar, thinking I'd be more lively now. I wasn't. One more beer and again I fell asleep.
Unfortunately that about does it for my Amsterdam/Netherlands trip. But I guess it means I must return someday and experience the city in a state that isn't clouded in sleep deprivation, airport stress, and general disorientation. When I do, I can promise more information and stories!
Ok, so I know this is a bit cliche, but I personally really liked how everyone seemed to ride bikes everywhere in the Netherlands. Unlike most Americans, I strongly dislike the act of driving. Think about it. You're trapped in a small metal box full of flammable gasoline, have to be constantly aware of other idiots on the road, have to deal with red lights and other forms of annoying traffic regulations, and (especially when it comes to city driving) you're constantly breathing in the smells of exhaust and asphalt. It's awful. Give me the option and I'll go by bike or on foot any day of the week.
So when I actually got to see everyone cycling everywhere, it was a huge relief. In the two major cities I have lived in, New York and Moscow, you would only cycle if you had a death wish, but here, the city seemed to be built for cyclists. Bike lanes were everywhere, and there were even more cycle-only streets than there were ones for cars. It was awesome.