They may both start with an "A", but are by no means the same.
12.18.2010 - 01.24.2011 27 °F
When thinking of Amsterdam most people think of the legal use of drugs in "coffee shops", red light district, and drunken college students flocking to its streets. What they don't describe is the beautiful city set in the background of its craziness.
We arrived in Amsterdam after a long travel day from Berlin. We had been trying for a while to find someone to stay with but after realizing how popular a city it was we decided on a modest hostel, centered right in the red light district. We figured we'd only be staying a few nights, since we were past that prime college student age, and our trip was starting to wind down.
It had been snowing all the day and the streets were covered. After already a few weeks of snow under our belt, we were beginning to get used to it. Our hostel was an interesting one to say the least. Every room had a movie theme to it. Glad to not get the princess theme we stayed in "the wall" room. Across the street we could see the lovely ladies behind the red lights.
Our days were spent wandering the beautiful canal streets and admiring the wonderful architecture.
Amsterdam has a nice mix of classic and contemporary architecture. The city plan can be a little confusing though, especially with the streets radiating around the center. We managed to only get lost one night while there. Unfortunately the weather in the city was bitterly cold while we were there. Snowing almost every day, the streets were a mucky slush consistency, which soaked our feet.
I'm not sure how some people survive this weather. The snow is bearable but the cold feet are not. We wrote previously about our love of certain things, especially socks, but after wearing two pair of wool socks and our feet still staying cold, we were desperate for any remedy.
In the Dam Square!
It's also to frustrating how cold you can get in such a short amount of time. You have to stay inside about thirty minutes to warm back up but it only takes five minutes outside to be back to freezing. Any non-Floridians that are reading this and thinking, "that's just the crazy complaints of a typical beach bum, the weather drops below 60 and they start freaking out." Well I'm sorry but we're kinda freaking out. Enough with that for now.
We spent the evenings there walking around our part of town, laughing about the girls in the windows, as if they were plastic dolls in a display case.
We ran into an interesting character while staying at the hostel. He was suffering from a number of self proclaimed problems that he proclaimed again and again with everyone in the hostel every chance he got. I apologize about the re-use of words but I needed to reinforce his actions. Whenever leaving the common room anyone sitting there would express their annoyance with him. He was in fact crazy as a loon. He had come to Amsterdam to sort out his problems, aka get baked all day long and not think about anything, but his trip was ending soon because he had to travel home because he was running out of his "medication." After going over and over his plans for travelling back to London he left, bags in hand. I only share this story because he really shows the city in its true light. Unfortunately the city has now been transformed into this crazed party center and there's no light in sight. Maybe Jen and I are already getting too old for this kind of stuff. We love to have a good time but it just wasn't our cup of tea.
Leaving the next day we didn't quite know what to expect from Antwerp. Would there be diamonds raining from the sky? We were also staying in an abandoned hospital, our host was part of an anti-squatting program. With winter now upon us our train travel was beginning to get affected. This was the day that everyone saw all the flights across Europe being cancelled. Needless to say our first train was cancelled but we eventually made it to Antwerp with a few connections. We arrived at the station, rang our host, and met him at the hospital. Jeroen, our host, was an architect/engineer working on his own as an interior props designer. He had finished school a few years back and worked for a large architecture firm but then decided to work on his own.
He immediately took us on a tour of the hospital, showing us the dark rooms that used to be for patients and taking us to the helicopter pad on the roof where we enjoyed a beautiful view of the city.
Hurry, code blue in room 13.
Our view from atop.
He pointed out some architecturally significant buildings on the map and we met him later at a pub for a drink and some dinner afterwards. We were both excited to indulge into the many treats that Belgium had to offer: chocolate, trapist beer, and waffles.
We were pleasantly surpirsed how nice Antwerp was.
We didn't really know what to expect because there wasn't much mentioned in our travel book but Antwerp was alive with contemporary and historic architecture and since there was a fashion institute there the city was saturated with style.
We spent our little time there just walking the streets and went to Bruges for a day trip.
Bruges was a quaint medieval town with it's main square flanked by gothic and medieval architecture. We spent the afternoon walking around admiring the sites. The city reminded us a lot of Brasov's old town in Romania, with it's cobble stone streets and small roads.
That afternoon we headed back to the train station in Antwerp to sort our our Christmas Eve travel to Paris. Unfortunately the high speed train, which would have only taken 1.5 hours to get to Paris, would have cost around 100 Euro each. We opted to take the local trains with a 5 hour journey that was free. We were excited to be heading to Paris for Christmas because we didn't know when we would ever have a holiday like this one again.