Backpacking in Amsterdam

We leave Amsterdam after a decent 7 day stay. It has been everything we had expected and everything we hadn’t. In the same city, we have been out of our comfort zone, relaxed, exhausted and surprised.

We arrived by coach from Brussels and immediately made our way to the hostel, Hotel My Home. I can’t understand the differences between the name hostels and hotels anywhere in this world, but for the sake of this post it’s a hostel. Our dorm was probably the most average one we had stayed in so far, but everything was clean so it was fine.

To kick off our time in Amsterdam we walked down to Westerpark. Westerpark is a decent sized park on (as the name suggests) the western side of Amsterdam. On the walk we passed numerous coffeeshops, restaurants, bars, supermarkets and most importantly bike shops. As it turns out, I don’t think we could have stayed in a better location. It was central to just about everything.

The first part of our stay was spent fulfilling the almost mandatory objectives that a backpacker has in Amsterdam. On our first night we went to a coffeeshop, bought the things that you buy at a coffeeshop and then retired to our dorm. As you can imagine it was an early night for us and probably the best sleep I have ever had in a hostel. The second night we went on a pub crawl, and long story short the next day was even worse than my Warsaw hangover experience for the both of us. Later on in the week we visited the sex museum for a lot of laughs and a bit of a shock, followed by the red-light district to check out the girls, and a few men dressed up as girls. Hilarity ensued.

That was it – we had ticked everything off of the list aside from Anne Frank’s house. We thought about going, but to be honest it feels as though we are in Holocaust information overload right now.

Doing the usual backpacker thing was fun, but what made our stay better was seeing and doing as the locals. We visited Westerpark a few times, and yesterday we visited Vondelpark too. We would just walk for a bit, then sit down and watch the thousands of people ride past on bicycles, families playing on the grass, dogs playing until they fight eachother and then playing again, and all of the other things that happen when you take the time to sit and watch. It was relaxing, but it was interesting too.

During our time in central Amsterdam we were able to check out a few local bike stores as well. I love the utilitarian bikes they ride over here. Bikes are a sport for some, but they are a mode of transport to almost everyone. We also had the chance to visit a sauna called Sauna De Keiser, on the recommendation of a travel website aimed more at those looking for something different. It was different alright – it certainly took us out of our comfort zone, but it was a great experience and was actually really good for our skin after being outdoors in a winter that our bodies aren’t used to.

On the weekend, we moved to a hotel a bit further out from the city. It was more expensive than the hostel, but unfortunately we couldn’t find any rooms for the weekend at any other reputable hostels. It’s amazing how you are treated sometimes when you rock up at a hotel with a backpack, despite paying the same nightly rate as the guy that arrived in a Mercedes taxi. Our stay was ok – the bonus was that we had some more privacy, but it didn’t feel as homely as the hostel did, and we certainly weren’t as welcome. Who would have thought that we would both end up feeling more comfortable in an old hostel, as opposed to an almost brand new “dutch design hotel”.

It’s one of the many suprises that we had while in Amsterdam.

Jess and I are both fairly liberal people I suppose and maybe we view the city differently to many others. In the lead up to our trip many people talked up Amsterdam as if it was the sort of place you to go get laid, take drugs and go home. In a city where marijuana is decriminalized and prostitution is legal – it can just sound like a party town. While you could party here all year round, there is nothing stopping you from doing the same in at least half of the other cities we have visited.

While many people do head to Amsterdam to have some fun, we found it incredibly safe. The city is clean, the people appear healthy and the country as a whole appears to us as a very intelligent one. Apparently the sale of marijuana brings in $4 billion a year through tourism to Amsterdam, and I’d imagine a fairly reasonable amount from the prostitution too.  Aside from the regular whiff of a tourist smoking a joint, this city is as normal as every other city. If anything, the major differences are in my eyes positive ones.

With all that said, it’s been a bit of a long 7 days and we are both happy to be moving on. Amsterdam leaves us with many memories, but it’s not a place we feel the need to return to any time soon. Not without a bike anyway!