I was excited to make the loooong train trip to Amsterdam this morning. Thankfully it wasn’t too early. I thought I had scored another cabin mostly to myself on the train (the posting listed only one other person who would be riding from Hannover to Deventer). But at the second stop, a Dutch couple got on and claimed I was in their seat. It was weird, but I moved and I thought for sure when the ticket guy came around he would tell them they were in the wrong seats. Nope. They asked him about the posting and apparently it was a technical glitch. I slept for about an hour and a half (seriously, cannot stay awake in moving vehicles) and around noon two other people joined our cabin. They may have been America, but I don’t want to claim them. The guy was wearing shiny black pants (pleather? Who knows), a plunging neckline tank top (shaved chest), a long cardigan, and necklaces. Oh and he was carrying a beer. She was wearing seriously stonewashed denim overalls (need I go on?), with rips in the knees, and a really fake leather jacket. These two. They ended up getting off at some random stop in the Netherlands only to get back on in 2.2. The Dutch couple asked them where they are going and they said Amsterdam. Um, and you couldn’t’ tell that this BFE train stop wasn’t Amsterdam? The female goes, he’s drunk. Ah. After the Dutch couple got off, the guy, classy as he is, pulled out his half-drunk bottle of Vodka and two bottles of pop. One swig of pop, one swig of vodka. Classy.
Upon arrival, I put my bags in a locket and set out to explore the city. First stop, Oude Kerk. The city’s oldest building, as it was built in 1306. It was very different from the other churches I have vitiated thus far. It was originally a Catholic Church until Amsterdam became a puritan city, when it was then transformed into a Protestant church. There are even inscriptions painted on the choir screen that say things like: “The abuse introduced into God’s church was reversed here in the year 78.”. The abuse? The veneration of saints, among other things. 78? 1578. The church had a beautiful wooden ceiling with paintings on it. It was beautiful because it was so unlike anything I had ever seen before. But the church did not seem to have a consistent architectural theme. It was part wooden and part cement. It was weird. The entire floor was covered in tombstones. Literally the entire floor were tombstones. It said there are 2500 tombstones, but 12,000 graves. You do the math. They stack the bodies (caskets?) on top of one another, at least 4 deep. Once the bodies had sufficiently decomposed, they were moved elsewhere, to make more graves available for the newly dead. And for the church to make money. Until the handling of remains in this manner was ruled illegal. As an aside, Rembrandt’s wife is buried there. Or at least she has a tombstone… who knows where her body is!
I then walked through the Red Light District… good thing I did so during the day! Scary! My initial thought: this is SO not my kind of city! But I need to put the whole city in context. It’s not all sex and drugs. But it was jarring to see it all out in the open like that. I did stop at a snack shop to have patat. Basically French fries with mayo (or other sauces, but mayo seemed to be the consensus, or traditional way of having them). I wish I had gone with my gut and had mayo and ketchup. Oh well.
Then I braved the metro, but not before asking for information from the nicest Dutch person I’ve met so far (you know, in my extensive time here so far). He gave me the map and when I asked for the ticket, he told me to buy it from the machine because it would be cheaper. He said he had to charge me extra for an administrative fee. So I tried the machine and it didn’t take cash and rejected both of my cards. I went back to him and said I would just pay the extra. Which is when he informed me that those machines were only for Dutch cards. HA! So he told me where to go to buy it from a machine (that would also take cash) so that I could avoid the fee. So nice!
My hostel room is pretty small, for 4 people. Thankfully there is only one other girl here. A doctor from Brazil! She invited me to get food tonight and we went out for pizza and beer. I Had a Dutch cider. Jillz. So good! Very light. We had great conversation and I learned a lot about Brazil that I did not know. Like that voting is an obligation (today is their big election day) and because she isn’t home to vote, she has to make her way to the consulate to “justify” her vote (basically explain why she couldn’t vote… she has to show her plane ticket). If she doesn’t do that she will be taxed. And if she doesn’t vote or pay the tax she can’t get a passport renewal, she can’t get a job, etc. CRAZY!! Another reason to live in the USA! Looking forward to a full day tomorrow… and who knows… my roommate and I might go out tomorrow night. She was surprised that I hadn’t been out yet in my time here!