After a three week trip in Italy, I was done. I sat in a very uncomfortable plastic chair in Marco Polo Airport in Venice wondering how expensive it would be to fly directly home to Seoul and skip my 10 hour layover in Amsterdam. To think that I had PURPOSEFULLY chosen this long layover was beyond me right now. Don’t get me wrong, I had a fantastic time in Italy, but there comes a time when you are just ready to go home.
Maybe I was not built for long term travel, maybe the long days were wearing on me, maybe the continuous encounters with certain unpleasant Italians was just too much. Maybe it was just me.
Upon arriving in Amsterdam, my mood completely changed. A very helpful staff member quickly showed me the cheapest way to downtown with a big smile on her face. Whenever I had just one more question, I didn’t have the fear I constantly had in Italy that they would get annoyed, yell at me, or give me a smart-ass response. This was Amsterdam, and that meant hospitality.
I know I know. It is hard to judge a country or even a city by spending a single day in it, but I must say that I was incredibly impressed by the Dutch. I bought my train ticket and went on my way to Amsterdam Centraal, one of the most beautiful train stations I have ever seen. This layover in Amsterdam was already worth it!
Upon exiting, I looked around with probably the most “I have no idea what I am doing” look on my face as an information volunteer spotted me immediately. If I was in a more dangerous country, my look would probably be screaming “rob me please!”
I wish I remembered her name, but all I recall is that she was incredibly friendly, gave me a map, and showed me where I could take a trip around the canals. As the canals are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the reason I booked the layover in the first place, I thought it was a good place to start.
The canals themselves were nowhere near as beautiful as the ones in Venice as the waters are brownish black, and to be perfectly honest, I don’t know why they are often compared. But for 8 Euros, the trip around the canals and the history lesson were totally worth it. One thing the captain mentioned many times was how Amsterdam residents have a real parking problem, bicycle parking that is. It almost made me want to stop a cyclist and yell, “you care too damn much for this planet!” Seriously though, Amsterdam residents are nuts about bicycles!
After that, I went for a stroll down the main street leading away from the train station. I didn’t really have much of a plan beyond the canals, so I kind of got distracted every 2 minutes. I stopped for some potato wedges and I hadn’t gotten farther than opening the bag when I stumbled upon a 3 on 3 soccer game.
I got some more snacks near the Anne Frank house (I regret not checking it out in-depth), and made a stop at the park dedicated to the famous Dutch painter Rembrandt. Here, I couldn’t help but overhear a bunch of hooligans (maybe in their late teens/early 20s) brag about how much weed they had smoked, the quality of the said weed, and their experience with previously smoked weed. While I have no moral qualms about people getting high, I do have a pet peeve against people who constantly brag about how high they are, have gotten, or will become. The follow-up high-fives after every story made my blood boil. I had to keep going.
Finally, I arrived at the Heinaken factory. What was once the main place where Heinaken was brewed, is now an interactive museum.
I felt bad for our super awesome guide Santiago who had to deal with another group of late teen/early 20s visitors. This time, they were bragging about how much Heinaken they had been drinking. All I could remember thinking to myself is “Please don’t be American, please don’t be American.”
The museum was pretty cool, and it included two beers, which tasted WAYYYYYYY better than the bottled stuff. Just kidding, I couldn’t really tell the difference, but I’m not really a beer connoisseur.
After this, I took the long way back to the station in order to appreciate the magnificent architecture. The canal tour captain told us that the houses are so narrow, large pieces of furniture don’t fit through the doors. They use hooks on the top of each building as a pulley to bring things in through the windows!
Believe it or not, these few things took the entire day in Amsterdam. I did stop a lot just to appreciate people riding by, the boats in the canals, or the little train thing in the center of town. Seriously that is that?!
The trip back to the airport took about 30 minutes or so. While I was waiting for my train, I couldn’t help but look at the train map showing that I could potentially go anywhere in Europe from here. Of course, I already knew that, but seeing the map made it real.
I arrived at the airport and boarded my 11 hour KLM flight back to Seoul. It was quite possibly the worst flight experience I have ever had, but that definitely warrants its own travel tale post.