August 1, 2012

Eurotrip - Brussels to Amsterdam, August 1

10:59
We woke up pretty early today to the sound of garbage collection outside our hostel. I didn't mention yesterday a kind of gross thing about Brussels, and I suppose lots of big, older cities. The personal garbage pickup is just left on the sidewalks outside people's apartment buildings. Without alleys or dumpsters, the garbage just builds up all week until it's picked up. Evidently that day was today, because the sound this morning was loud enough to drive me into a sleepy rage. As a result of today being garbage day, the trash bags were piled high yesterday with stinking food and animal waste. It smelled awesome out there.

We decided to be done with Belgium a bit earlier than originally planned because Justin is really excited to go to Amsterdam. I feel like even though we only spent one day there we got to see a lot of it. The state of my sore feet and legs last night also supports this feeling. I liked Brussels, it was a more functional, less tourist-driven city than some of the others we went to. It had some real character underneath everything as well. Despite our first, somewhat intense, introduction to the city, it came out on top for me. Still, I'm looking forward to exploring the canals of Amsterdam.

17:38

Whoa Amsterdam whoa. This city is bonkers compared to the last couple of cities we've been in. I mean, France was busy too, but this is way different. I know that's not news to people who've been here before but it's news to ME!


The first thing that hits you is how difficult it is to navigate the streets. At the risk of sounding like a person who grew up in suburban Minnesota, it is hectic here. There are cars, pedestrians and a shitload of bikes everywhere. Bikes everywhere. And the bikes don't stop for anything. At least in Paris the traffic would stop for lights or pedestrians trying to cross the street, but here the bikes just blow through crowds of people while dinging on soft little bells. It's a miracle people aren't run over more often. And that is the small fish/big lake minute.



Amsterdam really is cool though. People always talk about the neat architecture in Amsterdam and they don't lie. The buildings are all very unique looking and it's nice to just walk the canals and check them out.


We visited the Rijksmuseum this early afternoon, which is a general collection of dutch artists, with big collections by Jan Steen, Rembrandt, and Vermeer. The collection was really nice and nicely presented too. It was a pretty expensive museum for it's size but I'll let it slide because of the quality of the collection.

We spent the rest of the afternoon just wandering around, stopping into some shops and taking in the Amsterdam atmosphere. I had been commenting to Justin how this city doesn't feel like the bacchanal city of licentiousness that it's been built up as, and then we wandered through the red-light district. It does reek of weed, and there are prostitutes in windows. I mean, it's not like some horrible den of hedonism. There's a festive atmosphere and there are even families walking around (which I question the good taste of) so it doesn't feel dirty. The sex shops and bars playing music are usually pretty bright and inviting as well. The smell puts me off though, and the women in the windows makes me sad. I know they're unionized, and it's regulated to keep things safer and more humane, but it all feels wrong still. There's a trapped animal feeling looking at the women behind glass, and their sad expressions don't help much. There are prostitutes on dates with their Johns in bars and on the streets, which brought the reality that much closer to me. It really left me feeling uneasy.

To be totally honest, both of us are kind of getting a travel glaze over our minds. Despite the grandeur and larger-than-life qualities of this place, it's having a hard time cracking into me. Maybe when we have a better plan of what to do tomorrow it will start to make an impact, but right now I'm just tired. We've still got tonight though, and all day tomorrow.

21:18
As soon as we stepped back out to find some dinner tonight, it started to sprinkle so we quickly found a restaurant and ducked inside. Luckily we made it inside right when it started to downpour. Amsterdam is even more beautiful in a light rain than it is in the sun. The downside of course is that you get wet in the rain. Hmmm. Well, we were pretty tired, so rather than wander in the rain we came back to the hotel and made some plans for tomorrow. Canal cruise? Shopping? Erotic museum? Who knows!?!







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