Monday, June 9, 2008

Things I learned while travelling to Amsterdam

1. The Deutsche Bahn is not as reliable or nice as everyone seems to think and is not above having you miss your connection, get stuck 3 hours in Oberhausen and ruin your plans for the evening. They do compensate you for your time, with a whopping €5 rebate off your next trip. Great, that's enough money to buy dinner, while I wait for my next train to arrive.

2. For all those who say German is a caustic language to listen to, they clearly have not heard enough Dutch. However.....

3. English with a thick Dutch accent is hilarious, and very hard to take seriously.

4. People get very angry when you try to take pictures in the Red Light District. Now re-read #3.

5. Never believe travel time estimates that hostels give you. When the 30 min Metro + 15 minute walk turns into 40 +30, causing you to waste 2 hours that would be much better spent enjoying the city, it is time to ask for your money back.

6. Check that luggage lockers in train stations will be open when you need to get your luggage out or risk spending the night without them.

7. When very thirsty and dehydrated in a European city you are unsure of the tap water quality of, pass up the €0.45 1.5L fruit juice enriched in vitamin C and spend the €2.00 for the bottled water instead. The human body has a limit for how much of the nutrient it can handle. Think horrible hangover without the previous alcohol consumption. Makes for a rough day touring the city and train ride back.

8. Amsterdam was not built for tour groups. Be it the crabby residents who hate tourists, narrow sidewalks with mopeds and bikes zipping by with 6 inches clearance, canals without railings, trams that stop for no one, or small posts that seem just the right size to miss seeing but bash a kneecap off extremely painfully, the city seems to conspire against tourists.

9. It is obvious in a city known for legalized marijuana that the local restaurants cater to the munchies. Along any one street you can find 5 or 6 places serving pre-cooked pizza that they briefly heat for you, all for a cheap €4.

10. Traffic on canals parallels that on city streets. Your canal cruise boat can get cut off by someone taking his boat too fast and almost cause an accident, and yet have the audacity to yell at your boat for almost hitting him. Your captain also doesn't mind getting out of his seat to go to the door and yell something back while the boat drifts sideways towards the side of the canal. A saving grace is the lack of land to walk in between, meaning canal-rage is restricted to the old-fashioned means of firing cannonballs back and forth rather than fisticuffs.

11. People aren't kidding when they say the trams stop for no one. I almost saw someone die.

12. Even if you don't do drugs, particularly care for prostitution or live sex shows, or even drink while there, the party atmosphere in the city is contagious. Just being around it all, regardless of all the problems your trip may have had, makes for a great experience. Highly recommended to all.

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