Our flight from Budapest to Amsterdam took a little detour through Copenhagen (hello, Denmark), and both Madison and I were delighted with the efficiency and organization of literally everything. Which makes more sense? Taking two hours to go through the horror that is airport security or the same process taking merely ten minutes due to having multiple unload-your-life-into-this-bucket stations? It was lovely and TSA should take lessons. Food also learned that she apparently likes hot dogs, but only if they’re purchased in Danish airports, and we both discovered that the plane issues we’ve routinely had in Spain and the United States seemingly don’t exist elsewhere.
We arrived in Amsterdam at midday to an overcast day, which we were later informed is to be expected. So were the intermittent showers throughout the next day and the random snow flurries at 11 AM and 40° F (4° C to the rest of the world). Food’s stomach is a bottomless pit, so, despite eating two hours earlier she was hungry and insisted on a quick luggage drop. We made our way to our hostel, the Flying Pig Downtown, which was a hostel in the traditional sense. 32 people to one room. Heaven help us. Having lived in a family of nine, you think I’d be used to sharing my space, but nothing prepares you for people clamoring in at 6 AM. Or being the one trying to tiptoe and get ready for bed in a room full of sleeping people.
We went to Jacketz for some massive potatoes stuffed with lots of good stuff and then made our way to the Anne Frank House for a late night walkthrough, only available if you reserve online in advance, and learned a bit more about one of my girlhood heroes. I’ve probably read The Diary of a Young Girl ten times, the first time in fifth grade when my parents informed me that Judy Blume wasn’t acceptable as my sole reading material. When I was younger, I’d dream of being brave enough to go through something so terrifying and stressful, and concluded that I’d likely not be as calm or kind throughout it. Older me stands by that and adds that I’d have an attitude problem and anger issues to top it off.
Our night was concluded by wandering through the canals until we decided to go back to the hostel, or at least we thought it was going to be concluded. Two hours later, we’re still seated in the hostel’s bar, talking to a group from Australia (one of whom seriously looked like Björn from Vikings – haircut included), and we get invited out, and, of course, say yes. We soon discover the guy we’re with has a bag full of candy, so, sorry Mom, but we broke the cardinal rule and ate approximately all the stranger’s candy. I don’t feel too bad – we bought him a beer to sort of make up for it.
The next morning was an early one; given that we only had one full day in Amsterdam, we needed to make it count. Our first order of the day, much like in Budapest, was a full walk-through of a bunch of places, much to Food’s chagrin. She was hoping we could hit up the seven restaurants she’d flagged as being decent in the one day we were there. I think she actually made it a goal to gain at least a few kilos. Our first stop was a ten-minute walk from our hostel, Dam Square with the Royal Palace where Louis Napoleon Bonaparte declared himself the Rabbit of Holland (konijn = rabbit, koning = king). We then proceeded past the world’s first ever stock exchange, which was slightly less exciting than Wolf of Wall Street, and to the old building that housed the Dutch East India Company, one of the first companies to ever have an almost complete monopoly on trade (until their collapse due to bankruptcy – sound familiar, Kanye?).
We took a little detour through the Red Light District, learned that the blue lights meant it was a woman with a “surprise” (it means the individual is decidedly not female), and then decided to go to church. Several churches actually. Oude Kerk, or the Old Church, was the first church and oldest brick and mortar building in Amsterdam, but there are several hidden churches throughout the city as Catholicism was prohibited for a good long while following the Eighty Years’ War. Two super cool ones were Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder or Our Lord in the Attic, a church hidden in the attic of a residential building, and the Begijnhof Convent and Chapel, where an apparent miracle was witnessed when a host (that white cracker thing that tastes like cardboard, and, in the Catholic belief literally Jesus’ flesh) refused to burn. It’s hidden in a large square behind a bunch of homes – an excellent place to play hide and seek.
Our tour was concluded by walking along the widest bridge in Amsterdam, through the Jewish quarter, and, in general, wandering through the streets and canals until we happened upon one of the restaurants on Food’s bucket list, and she stopped in to ask the owner if he had an opening. He urged us to come back at 3 PM, so we hopped a tram to the Rijksmuseum to fill our time and take some snapchats in front of the famous sign on the Museumsplein. We went through the Rijksmuseum as planned and weren’t quite as impressed as everyone else evidently has been – there were some excellent paintings and a vast range of work, but I wouldn’t call it the greatest gallery in which I’ve ever been.
We hustled through rooms of art containing lots of big names and, then spent an inordinate amount of time looking at some model boats (I picked one out, and fully intend of building a replica – when I become a multi-billionaire, ya know?), and had to catch a tram back to Gartine for our mid-afternoon tea and lunch. My favorite quiche on this entire planet is made by one of my aunts, and it’s fabulous and fluffy and oh so good, but Gartine gave Aunt Chrishelle a run for her money. The tea was perfect, the quiche was delectable, and the open-faced sandwiches and savory puffs were delightful. We were thoroughly stuffed, and then the owner, probably after seeing us debating the pros and cons of each piece of heaven he served up, decided to bring out four slices of different types of cake. Bless him and all his family.
By the time we left it was close to dark, as the sun went down at around 6 PM. We got lost on the way to the hostel and ended up wandering through the Red Light District, which looks a bit more seedy at night, and being offered a multitude of interesting substances by people promoting different coffeeshops – code in the Netherlands for places that sell cannabis, not coffee – but opted for a sugar high instead. I’d promised Food candy earlier in the day if she dealt with my touring, and so she got it. And ate it all within the next hour.
Right now we’re touring Italy with our younger sister, we’ll call her Fiasco, so get ready for some Medici magic and maybe a few hot gondoliers. XoXx Fernweh & Food