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Thursday, April 7, 2011

Departing Amsterdam

INTRO

A lot of this may strike you as 'stream of consciousness' - it is, a bit. I'm assembling notes on scraps of paper as well as in a new book. I've bought a new small book to write notes in much like Pete has. Copying Pete's good ideas and all.



TRAVELER'S TIPS

Falling into 'my money is worth their money'. When I got 250 euros out of the bank, it cost me $358. However, all of the prices are in Euros and you have euros so you begin to think of them as dollars. Hence, you think you've got 250 dollars. Not true! In Western Europe, plan on double the money you thought you'd need because the dollar is amazingly weak against foreign currencies. You have been warned.

Another traveler's tip that I've never seen written in any of the travel experts guides that Pete is completely responsible for coming up with: Bring a power strip in addition to the power adapter. Many of the rooms you will stay in attempt to limit your access to electricity. By having a power strip with multiple plugs in it, you can charge up all of your gizmo's at once.



JANA FROM THE CZECH REPUBLIC POSES IN FRONT OF HER FAVORITE RESTAURANT OF ALL TIME PS: I know it was you that put my hat into the fridge...

For more Amsterdam photos, be sure to look here.



SOME LAST THOUGHTS ON AMSTERDAM

Amsterdam by day vs by night is very different.

In Amsterdam, getting a bed in a dorm is a scary thing because you've got a lot of people you don't know that you will be bunking with. Chances of them trying drugs they are not familiar with and such are very high. If possible, go with some friends (you'll need them if you try 'sandwiches') and get a room. Much safer feeling.

Tourists on bikes - natives feel they are reckless. I didn't see many of them. According to some natives I talked to, they said the tourists looked 'at the handlebars' - I am guessing the tourists are not use to cobblestones and are looking at them right next to the bike's front wheel. Given that everything within the city center (where you will probably be on your first trip) is within walking distance - even for Logan - you really don't need a 'it will probably get stolen' bike - just walk. Chances of getting into an (or several) accidents on a bike in this chaotic city are high.

I talked to several natives of Amsterdam as well as several people who moved there (due to the Schengen Agreement) and all of them said they really 'didn't mind' the tourists. The tourists pretty much stay in the city center and the natives are pretty laid back. Amazingly laid back. If the city of Amsterdam had a personality type, it would be Phlegmatic.

One of the natives I spoke with was a retired Amsterdam native named Hans. I had asked him 'what is best about Amsterdam'. [I know you can't wait till I am in your country and ask you that...] He said he liked the culture the best. It was one of the first places where musicians and such really started the avant garde atmosphere. He also said that as a result of European cities becoming homogenized that many people are starting to swing the other way - national pride and such is making a reemergence. More people are wanting to express their cultural roots for both national and regional identities.

Pete and I had placed a bet (1 euro) on whether Jana would still be around after her bus was suppose to depart. Pete won and from her posting on the HC boards she made it back OK. I thought for sure we'd be saying 'well shit, lets just take her to Germany then.' I was wrong. Startling, I know.

The Dutch love to smoke. I mean, really love it. It is illegal to smoke in bars in Amsterdam. However, some bars allow smoking anyway. Here's how they do it. You ask for an ashtray and pay a euro for 'the fine'. Should the bar get fined for allowing smoking, they pay over that fine money. Otherwise, I suppose they just keep it in a kitty. I think that's a pretty good method. Personally, I'm OK with having bars that allow smoking and those that don't. If you don't want smoke in your bar, fucking go to a bar that doesn't allow it. If you don't care or smoke go to one that allows it. It's really a 'no brainer' as far as I'm concerned.

In fact, on rail lines, the Netherlands has an area marked 'rookzone'. This is a 'smokers zone'. There is a 'butt disposal device' surrounded by a red border. You can smoke within the red border.

The Dutch. There is a famous quote from Goldmember: Nigel Powers: "All right Goldmember. Don't play the laughing boy. There's only two things I hate in this world. People who are intolerant of other people's cultures and the Dutch." Groovy quote just because it's a real bastard. My opinion on the Dutch folks that I've met - friendly and laid back. I think when I was there, I was a lot more concerned about my fellow tourists that I encountered. They (the tourists) were drugged out of their minds and partying with a savage intensity. I think one of the quotes I got from "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is by Raoul Duke: "One of the things you learn from years of dealing with drug people, is that you can turn your back on a person, but never turn your back on a drug. Especially when it's waving a razor-sharp hunting knife in your eye." The Dutch themselves (when you can find them in a tourist infested town) are kind, laid back and tolerant. A real pleasure.

You see some weird shit in the city center of Amsterdam - for example, groups of school children getting herded through the red light district. I'm not sure what they're meant to learn but I'm guessing the Dutch schools have a more comprehensive education than I got.

The central portion of Amsterdam is NOT Amsterdam. Amsterdam is NOT the Netherlands. Don't confuse this - they are all very different. I don't have money to go and investigate other places within Amsterdam. I've got to go east so my money has some value.

The last day I was in Amsterdam, Pete and I got shaves from a 'Turkish style' barber. I just had my face done for 10 euros. I've got to say, the barber worked his ass off for those 10 euros. I got shaved at least four times. To have your melon done as well (as Pete did) I think it was 18 euros total. As you may have guessed, we were the only tourists in that place. The place I went to is called 'The Corner'. It is on the corner of Spuistraat and Torensteeg Centrum if you're wanting to go there.

While I was in the barber shop, they had Dutch TV on though the volume was muted. I was dubbing all of the parts. While the barber (whose English speaking level I was uncertain of) seemed to think it was very funny, I noticed that Pete was staying very still and not smiling. I'm guessing his reaction might have had something to do with the straight razor being wielded near his throat and scalp.

The way they're handling shaving now (due to the AID's epidemic) is to use a straight razor like device that they put a new razor blade into every time. It seems to be a good workaround to me.

Speaking of corners, street signs are affixed directly to the buildings - keep an eye out for this.

Not including tourists, there seem to be a whole lot (in American, 'an assload') of immigrants in Amsterdam. The ones I talked to all came for the laid back lifestyle.

Jana cried a lot when she was leaving Amsterdam and kept calling Pete 'Scarecrow' and said she was going back to Kansas. Or maybe I'm confusing that scene with a movie.

One picture I didn't get is the famous 'Dutch oven'. I'm sad inside.

I forgot to ask Jana and I'm sorry. I'm sure she will either post it in the comments or gut me like a fish. I had asked Pete what his favorite part of the 'Amsterdam experience' was. He said the ups and downs were more extreme in Amsterdam. I'd have to agree though I think my favorite part (and least favorite part) was the whole surreal nature of the trip.

Pete made an excellent quote: "America made the spork so they wouldn't have to expend additional energy changing eating utensils." Damn right.

In a train station in Utrecht Centreal, you can find two Starbucks within 10-20 meters of each other. Really. Ask Pete if you don't believe me.

Hopefully, that should finish off Holland. It was an interesting trip.



READER QUESTIONS

Jamas had asked what we'd done on phones. The answer - nothing. Absolutely nothing. Jana's phone still doesn't work properly, Pete's doesn't send SMS messages right and Logan owns no phone. The way I am looking at it, I will only be traveling with Pete for a couple more weeks - after that, trying to own a phone would be problematic with all of the countries I am intending to visit.

3 comments:

  1. Not to pour oil into fire, but first food I ate in Czech after coming back from Amsterdam was KFC. But only because nothing else was open at 5:00!!!

    What I liked most about Amsterdam: There are two things: first, I liked the city itself, the architecture, the canals, the atmosphere, the combinacion of calm and posibilities of something wierd happening. Second, even though it has its ups and downs, the sandwich expirience was interesting and quite intense. Not something I would want to do everyday, but its good to expirience it.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oh oh! I have a question - how are those electronic cigarettes working for you?
    And, you probably posted somewhere in your earlier ramblings, but I can't find it...what is your plan? Country-wise I mean...I always check out the table of contents so I know what to look forward to in a good book. That is the way I'm looking at this...and I missed your TOC!

    ReplyDelete
  3. They don't have the same kind over here that I purchased so I've just been smoking normal cigs.

    After CR there is no plan. I'll probably work my way south into Slovakia.

    TOC good for a book but I'd need a professional editor and all that to turn this into a book and I'm busy 'adventuring' right now and don't know how well yet another 'travel book' would sell.

    ReplyDelete

PICTURES

{{2011}} London, GB | Rail N Sail | Amsterdam, Netherlands | Prague, Czech Republic | Budapest, Hungary | Sarajevo, Bosnia | Romania | Chisinau, Moldova | Ukraine: Odessa - Sevastopol | Crossed Black Sea by ship | Georgia: Batumi - Tbilisi - Telavi - Sighnaghi - Chabukiani | Turkey: Kars - Lost City of Ani - Goreme - Istanbul | Jordan: Amman - Wadi Rum | Israel | Egypt: Neweiba - Luxor - Karnak - Cairo | Thailand: Bangkok - Pattaya - Chaing Mai - Chaing Rei | Laos: Luang Prabang - Pakse | Cambodia: Phnom Penh | Vietnam: Vung Tau - Saigon aka Ho Chi Minh City

{{2012}} Cambodia: Kampot - Sihanoukville - Siem Reap - Angkor Wat | Thailand: Bangkok | India: Rishikesh - Ajmer - Pushkar - Bundi - Udaipur - Jodhpur - Jasalmer - Bikaner - Jaipur - Agra - Varanasi | Nepal: Kathmandu - Chitwan - Pokhara - Bhaktapur - (Rafting) - Dharan | India: Darjeeling - Calcutta Panaji | Thailand: Bangkok - again - Krabi Town | Malaysia, Malaka | Indonesia: Dumas - Bukittinggi - Kuta - Ubud - 'Full Throttle' - Gili Islands - Senggigi | Cambodia: Siem Reap | Thailand: Trat | Turkey: Istanbul | Georgia: Tbilisi

{{2013}} Latvia: Riga | Germany: Berlin | Spain: Malaga - Grenada | Morocco: Marrakech - Essauira - Casablanca - Chefchawen - Fes | Germany: Frankfurt | Logan's Home Invasion USA: Virginia - Michigan - Indiana - Illinois - Illinois - Colorado | Guatemala: Antigua - San Pedro | Honduras: Copan Ruinas - Utila | Nicaragua: Granada | Colombia: Cartagena | Ecuador: Otavalo - Quito - Banos - Samari (a spa outside of Banos) - Puyo - Mera

{{2014}} Peru: Lima - Nasca - Cusco | Dominican Republic | Ukraine: Odessa | Bulgaria: Varna - Plovdiv | Macedonia: Skopje - Bitola - Ohrid - Struga | Albania: Berat - Sarande | Greece: Athens | Italy: Naples - Pompeii - Salerno | Tunisia: Hammamet 1

{{2015}} Hammamet 2 | South Africa: Johnnesburg | Thailand: Hua Hin - Hat Yai | Malaysia: Georgetown | Thailand: Krabi Town | Indonesia:
Sabang Island | Bulgaria: Plovdiv | Romania: Ploiesti - Targu Mures | Poland: Warsaw | Czech Republic: Prague | Germany: Munich | Netherlands: Groningen | England: Slough | Thailand: Ayutthaya - Khon Kaen - Vang Vieng | Cambodia: Siem Reap

{{2016}} Thailand: Kanchanaburi - Chumphon | Malaysia: Ipoh - Kuala Lumpur - Kuching - Miri | Ukraine: Kiev | Romania: Targu Mures - Barsov | Morocco: Tetouan

{{2017}} Portugal: Faro | USA: Virginia | Michigan | Illinois |

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