Amsterdam wanderings

Okay kids, we’ve got a lot to go over, and all of it in pictures. Comfy? Good, we’ll dive right in.

In my last post I kind of laid into the Dutch language a bit. I feel I should expound upon that some. For instance, many of words are super easy and logical.  For example, here’s a store that sells really old things:

Actually makes much more sense than the English spelling, which should be pronounced “Antikweh”?

Heck, even whole phrases are pretty easy to figure out:

If you plug this phrase into Google Translate, it comes back with “Really, Einstein? Really?”

And once you can figure out phrases, every day directions start to become clear, such as #1 and #4 here.

“Steek da kaart een da doooor” I’m basically a native speaker already.

However, I still find some signage either interesting, frightening, or just plain noteworthy. Examples:

Warning: bongos, trumpets, loudspeakers and… covered picnic tables. You really gotta watch that last one… it’s always the quiet ones.
Rather… aggressively named, no?
So, the police will spray you with their DNA. I’m not really sure what that entails, but no situation I can imagine ends well.
I don’t know what this means. And I don’t want to know. It’s just SO MUCH FUN TO SAY.

So let me just conclude with the language here to point out that much of the words seem to have a heavy basis in both English and German, and I would assert that if you just walk around speaking English, while pretending to be the Swedish Chef who is trying to sound German, you’ll basically sound like a local. You can probably get by that way for a couple weeks, easy.

Now, most of my travel has been stumping around in my moonboot. This will change soon, but more on that later. I took time to visit the museum district, and take in the local sculptures. Impressive stuff.

Oh, your town has sculptures? Isn’t that quaint. We’ve got giant freaking nails, twisted around each other, then COVERED IN PINK TIN FOIL AND FLOATING IN WATER. That’s right.
And there’s more where that came from.
More sculpture. Like this piece, which is symbolic of the artists desire to get paid.
And this one of “reclining woman”
Followed quickly by “reclining, bisected, Loch Ness Monster”

Along with the sculptures, there’s an interactive art / water fountain that was fun to watch for a while:

OMG! You’re all soaked!
Kidding! You’re actually just a designer’s play-thing. Dance, my monkeys, dance!

Since I was already in the museum district, I had to stop by the Van Gogh museum. Now, I haven’t really been a big fan of his before. I have to say that this trip changed that. And actually, I have to blame a lot of my new-found appreciation on a graphic novel I read in their gift store:


This tells the story of his decision to become an artist, and the mere ten years he spent devoted to it before going mad and dying. Awesome art, great story, highly recommended.

After that, exploring his works and especially seeing the chronology of his work and how it progressed over the short time span was really cool. Theoretically you weren’t supposed to take photos of the pictures, but people were doing that all over the place. I tried to be a good little tourist and just took pictures of the building and surroundings.

View from inside Van Gogh museum.
WP_20130704_004 (1)
View from inside, OF the inside of the Van Gogh Museum.
Massive park outside of the museum.

Moving on, you will invariable run into the Flower Market:

They take their flowers seriously in Amsterdam. There’s an entire market devoted to flowers.
Flower market
What can you buy there? Oh just about any bulb imaginable.
Seriously. Any bulb. Except maybe a light bulb.
Oh, standard flowers aren’t your thing? How about the most colorful cacti this side of Arizona? Yep.

You can literally spend days just walking around, and especially in summer, you’ll constantly be running into new things as they pop up and change day-to-day.

Book fair out of nowhere. The next day this become an art show.
filled with the classics.
…and more classics.
Random Thai festival out of nowhere!

And then there are things that are there every day, but still awesome to stumble across:

Some of the coolest stencil art. Covers an entire block.
It’s awesome all the way down.
Rembrandt is, like, at least twice the size of all these soldiers. He’s gonna deliver a mighty whuppin.
Soccer (err. sorry, “football”, or “futbal”) + cage match + street attraction. Good times.
Beautiful, ancient architecture. Not necessarily straight though. They didn’t invent rulers until later.

As you walk around, you also notice that not only are flowers taken seriously here, but Ice cream is as well.  This is an attitude I can get behind.  The most ostentatious local example of this is the Magnum Ice Cream Bar Shop, where you can decorate your own Magnum bar with your choice of a wealth of toppings.

False advertising: jewels and gold filigree were not topping options.
Ever wonder what bulk nougat looks like? It’s the bowl closest to you.

Now, the people in front of me were choosing safe bets like “marshmallows, coconut and caramelized sugar” or “strawberry sugar, crumbled cookies, and chocolate chips”. Please. Amateurs.

I stepped up and proudly announced my concoction would be the recipient of:
– crushed pistachios: a nutty compliment to the sweetness of the ice cream and chocolate shell.
– Goji berries: add something chewy and tart to the mixture
– Sea salt. At which the lady exclaimed: “oh, gosh, feeling adventurous!” Then she had to search for the salt bowl, leaving me to suspect I am the first to actually order salt. She asked me before assembling the whole thing if I was serious about the sea salt. I nodded gravely.

I don’t joke around where ice cream is concerned.

Assembling my work of genius.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but I pretty much hit it out of the park on the first try.

So, full of ice cream (not a day has passed without sampling the local wares), more wandering is to be done. You can’t avoid the canals here, and that’s a good thing. In addition, on the weekend, so long as the weather holds, it sees like the entire town comes out to the center.

On a sunny day, this town is pretty hard to beat.
Pretty much everyone comes out to play.
Which means every square inch of space gets filled with bikes and scooters.

Now, I’ve mentioned bikes a few times. However, I discovered not all bikes are created equal here. For example, since bikes are such an intrinsic part of life here, people have evolved the bike to be a carrier of things. They do this by combining a bike and a wheel barrow.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you: the cyclebarrel.

Anyway, I resume my ambulation with the canals:

Seriously. The canals here are just fabulous.
Yah for pedal boats! In the canals! At this speed you should be finished with your tour by autumn!
Betcha didn’t expect another canal shot, did ya?

I randomly stumbled on a huge park, which took me about 40 minutes to walk from one end to the other. Since it was a sunny day, pretty much every part of the grass was full of people sun bathing, bbq-ing, or just chilling. This pictures doesn’t do justice to the sheer mob of people at the park.

acres and acres of park, covered with humanity.

But even as crowded as it was, the park was large enough, and diverse enough, to offer places that somehow had no people.

peace amid chaos.

near the center of the park, there was a bandstand set up, and I got to watch what I assume is a local band (Cirque Valentin) put on a show:

A mix between punk, rock, and manga
synchronized dancing! There’s nothing this group can’t do!

Now, after all my days of wandering, I’m pretty much in love with the city.  What I’m NOT in love with, however, is the hostels here.  I suppose I’m spoiled by my experiences in Spain, but each hostel I’ve been to here has been more hurried and impersonal, and doesn’t lend itself to the cool communal atmosphere I experienced in Spain.  Plus, they are so busy that I was having to move almost every day, which was getting old.

So, I’ve splurged on a hotel room now.  And boy did I forget how nice it was to just have your own room.  Plus I have a balcony with a view.  Life is good.

I have a view of a canal. Your hotel is inferior.

9 thoughts on “Amsterdam wanderings

  1. If you are interested in linguistics at all, there’s a cool Podcast I’ve been listening to called “History of English” (link:, which could probably tell you better than I could how close Dutch and English really are to one another!

    The ice cream looked awesome, I was’t sure about the berries, but all the rest of it sounded PERFECT. But was it just vanilla inside the chocolate? Were there options?? THE READERSHIP WANTS TO KNOW!

    1. Sadly you have no choice about the interior of this concoction. But as any good spiritual leader will tell you, it’s what is on the outside that matters.

  2. If you have a chance, try to check out some of the villages outside of Amsterdam, such as Volendam, Edam and Monnickendam. I promise you will see so many picturesque sights that your eyeballs may literally start to bleed by the end of it.

    Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor and cannot be held responsible for profuse eyeball bleeding due to excellent travel advice.

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