I officially filled up my first journal while I was in Amsterdam and I just bought a really cool new one from a little bookstore up the street from where I live that is handmade...fancy. Anyway, Amsterdam was awesome. We actually flew into Eindhoven and then took a train to Amsterdam where we accidentally sat in first class with a bunch of older woman and when the ticket collector came around he kicked a bunch of teenage boys out of first class and I was about to get up and leave before he kicked us out when I realized the 7 Dutch women sitting next to me were cracking up. They had 2nd class tickets as well and somehow or another they convinced the ticket guy to let us stay in first class. It was a really relaxing ride with beautiful scenery. Lots and lots of canals. A little saying I learned on my trip...God made the world in 6 days and on the 7th the Dutch created Holland. Which makes sense because the would country is below sea level. The Dutch basically dug out their land to live on and they have so many canals because that is where the water drains and then into bigger and bigger canals and then into rivers and blah blah.
Ok enough about that...We got to Amsterdam around noon on Friday, March 5. I went with my friend Gina and after we checked into our hostel (which was located very near to the Heineken Factory, who knew it was in Amsterdam? Not me.) went to the Anne Frank Huis (House). The Diary of Anne Frank was a book I read and reread many times when I was younger so actually being in the house where she wrote her diary was surreal for me. I actually stood in Anne Frank's room where there were still some posters she had pasted to the wall. I looked out the same windows she had to peak through because no one could know they were living upstairs. It actually gives me the chills to think about it. After that Gina and I walked around a bit in the rain and then I headed to the Van Gogh Museum to check out some arte. We were pretty exhausted from such a long day of traveling so we grabbed some dinner and drinks and then headed to bed.
The next day we got up around 8 am and though it was about 35 degrees it was sunny! YAY!! So we walked around and got a good look at the city, I can only imagine how gorgeous it must look when all the flowers are in bloom. Now for my favorite part of the journey...we went on a bike tour. Now I absolutely love riding bikes, but in Amsterdam, in my opinion, it is the only way to travel around the city. On the streets there are lanes and street lights for cars, the outside of the sidewalks are for people walking and then for bikes they get their very own lane and stop lights..it is so cool. If someone gets in your way, you just ring your bell and they scatter. Which makes me wonder how many times these people have been hit by a high-speed bicycle. Anyway, the country side tour took us to a cheese/clog making factory, where I did purchase a pair of real wooden clogs that I plan on hanging on my wall. It was really interesting to watch them make shoes and I tried on a pair and they are surprisingly very comfortable...could be the next fashion trend, though the guy wearing them did look a bit like a clown in them.
We also biked passed a windmill, farms, more canals, HUGE mansions, and through Vondelpark where I saw one of the three statues in the world by Picasso that you can see for free.(Interesting fact about Vondelpark at one time you were allowed to be naked in the park and today after lots of changing rules in the park, I believe today's law is you can have sex in the park, but you must have clothes on.) The Dutch are very interesting people with very very open minds about everything. After the 4 hour country side tour, Gina and I headed to a restaurant to devour the most delicious pancakes I have ever had. They were actually mini pancakes with cherries, whip cream, and powdered sugar. Mhmmmm. After that I decided I hadn't had enough of bike riding for the day yet, so I went back to Mike's Bike Tours and rented a bike for 2 hours. I just rode around the city, which is pretty small to be honest so a bike is the perfect means for transportation. There are literally bikes everywhere in the city. They are chained to trees, posts, or just laying on the ground. Everywhere.
So yes marijuana is legal in Amsterdam along with prostitution. The Red Light District was rather interesting. I didn't really know what to expect before I got to Amsterdam, but it wasn't too sketchy or anything, our tour guide told us it is actually one of the safest parts of the city because there are usually lots of police officers around. Anyway, you are definitely not allowed to take pictures and if you are spotted taking one, someone usually throws your very expensive digital camera right into the canal. I feel like it is basically window shopping for women. Again our tour guide was telling us that the government sees it as prostitution was happening in the Netherlands and instead of some guy taking a woman to a sketchy hotel or some other place, they have a safe room with a panic button that the women can hit if anything goes wrong. So yeah, just another way to look at the scenario.
As for smoking, you can just walk into a coffee shop and buy whatever kind of weed you want. It seems to be a very big tourist attraction though. It's not like all Dutch people are walking around high all the time...The tour guide said because its legal there, there's not really the thrill of doing something that is illegal and he said that there are plenty of people who live in the Netherlands their whole lives and never even tried smoking. So again another way to look at something. I think this is what I like most about travelling. There are so many ways to see things, but if you take yourself outside of your comfort zone, away from people who think like you, it is nice to see the other side and you might even realize that the way you have perceived a topic your whole life is not the only way. :)
As for more recent news I am leaving for Roma tomorrow with API. I think there are around 32 of us going so it should be really fun. I'm excited. We are only there Friday to Sunday so I have a lot to see in a little time.
As for life in Madrid, it is still cold here. Everyone here keeps saying how it hasn't been this cold for this long in like 50 years...perfect timing on my part. haha. I actually kind of feel like a freshman in college again. Going out on random week nights and then having to get up at 7 for class the next morning. This week I ended up going out on a Monday night and Wednesday night until about 4am. Monday night was one of my friends 21st birthdays so we celebrated it at an Irish Pub called Dubliner's. Last night I went to this chic Spanish discoteca called Pacha. It was free for some reason to get in, but its usually pretty pricey and I think famous people go there...well atleast that's what I heaarrdddd. 16 euro to get in and I think 8 euro for a drink. I had a lot of fun and even managed to drag myself to school this morning for my 10:00 class.
Welp, I think I'm going to pack for Roma, I'll be in touch when I get back.