Hi loyal friends, family, and other readers!
I’m sorry for neglecting the travel blog! I’ve been spending a lot of much needed catch up time with my house mates. I’ve missed them for almost a whole month as the end of February and much of March were jammed packed with out of the house activities. Anyway, I still haven’t updated the blog with all the info from my Amsterdam and Barcelona trips over spring break! Still I am virtually photo-less so I’ll try to paint the pictures for you as vividly as possible.
After our departure from Budapest, Ashley and I landed in Amsterdam Saturday March 15th. We stayed in a hostel a bit outside of the city center which was nice because we got a feel for the residential aspect of Amsterdam, as opposed to the played up tourist craziness typically found in the Red Light District and surrounding areas. We spent about four days in Amsterdam and I really really loved that city. The canals and bridges were beautiful. There were flowers and gardens everywhere. Thrift stores, book stores, and record stores lined the streets and bike riding was the main form of transportation. It was like a hipster’s paradise. I felt like I was living inside a romantic indie movie every time I walked the streets.
So after a bit of confusion in getting to our hostel, Ashley and I arrived late at night to a room of girls from America also studying abroad! One girl saw my wallet and noticed I was from New Jersey. She said she had a friend from New Jersey and so following the now memorized script I have when someone is familiar with NJ, I said “yeah, I from the Atlantic City area if you know where that is.” She said her friend was from that area too, from a town called Margate… I was in shock! A stranger in Amsterdam just said the word Margate. Just another small world event that happened while on my spring break! Turns out, after a bit of Facebook creeping her friend was actually from Northfield, but can ya blame her for lying? 😉
Our first day in Amsterdam began with a bit of exploring and then a free walking tour. One thing our tour guide pointed out as she took us around the city was the extremely logical and business oriented way of doing things in Amsterdam. There’s no judgement and no insanely strict laws. You can pretty much do whatever you see fit to do as long as it’s not causing extreme harm to your neighbors and fellow citizens. We started our tour in the infamous Red Light District and as promised, there were plenty of Naked girls on display in their storefront windows. But as much as they enjoy being stared at, apparently if you were to take a picture, they have a tendency to come out and beat the crap out of you. Just a forewarning for anyone planning on making a trip. But really readers, these prostitutes are heroes. Before you judge, let me explain. In Amsterdam’s beginnings it was huge for trading. Sailors would travel for weeks to bring their goods to trade in Amsterdam. Ships full of just men for weeks and weeks can get to be a bit maddening, putting the women of Amsterdam in harms way. So instead of having drunk, rambunctious sailors harassing and causing problems for the citizens of Amsterdam, some women found a business opportunity and that’s where the prostitute culture of Amsterdam began. In the center of the Red Light District, surrounded by prostitutes in windows is an old church. The church was strategically placed there so these rambunctious sailors would go pay to have their sins absolved in the morning. The dutch were always thinking of the best way to make business.
The houses here were really different. They were all tall and skinny since property tax was based on a house’s width. (shout out to my roommate Josie for giving me that little fun fact.) A lot of the houses were actually very crooked since they were built on marshland and the foundations were beginning to shift. Not so fun for the residents, but super cool to see. Another subculture I found to be really cool in Amsterdam is the squatting culture. Many people would buy out buildings and then never do anything with them. Because of this, a law was put into place: if a property went unused for a year, it was then open to public use, until the owner decided they were ready to do something with it. So squatters would place tape across a door, and if a year later that tape went unripped, they made their home there, free of charge. Many of the property owners actually benefitted from the squatters because they kept the homes clean and in shape and were quite friendly to neighbors. A few years back when a new government attempted to change the laws and make squatting illegal, many Amsterdam citizens began to protest in favor of the rent-free residents… I just love the way Amsterdam works. It’s so happy and care free. They don’t don’t seem to get caught up in the hyper sensitive, religious divisions, and petty complications a lot of other cities, states, and countries struggle with. A lot of their dealings are based off logic and functionality.
Of course Ash and I couldn’t leave without visiting the Anne Frank House. Growing up in such a prominently Jewish community (I counted and I’ve attended 16 freakin bar and bat mitzvah’s. 16.), and having met and heard countless amount of holocaust survivors come in and speak all throughout elementary school, middle school, and in high school even attending a survivor’s brunch where we had the opportunity to converse one-on-one with these incredible people, and of course reading The Diary of Anne Frank: being in the house where it was all written and being in a city that 70 years ago had an incredibly large Nazi presence was an overwhelming feeling. I never ever thought I’d even get close to the countless stories I had heard over the years, but there I was walking through Anne Frank’s hidden home. I’ll admit that at one point there were tears. I’ve already written a ridiculous amount so if you don’t know the story of Anne Frank, it’s not too difficult to learn, but you’re gonna have to go a little bit further than my blog to learn about it.
AANDDD Of course there were also the coffeeshops and a fun little bar crawl. Ash and I also went to an old victorian style theater turned movie theater, where we fought off tired eyes to watch The Grand Budapest Hotel. The theater was beautiful and the movie was hilarious. Of the three countries Ashley and I visited Amsterdam, believe it or not, has been voted the best place to live and raise a family. There is so much tolerance and love in that city. The homes outside the city center are absolutely beautiful and the bike culture is my favorite. Amsterdam was the perfect four days of relaxed exploring Ashley and I needed before we hit the buzzing streets of Barcelona! <- Blog to follow!
PS Special shout out to Patty Enright and Auntie Ellen. Patty especially for the card! I love love love getting mail here and I loved the photo you took on the front (I’m in the process of e-mailing you back just incase this blog was too painfully long to read all the way through). And Aunt Ellen for the E-mail update. I loved it! I’m also in the process of e-mailing you back as well! Miss everybody tons, but thanking the universe for everyday I have here!