The Chronicles of Europe #2 – Amsterdam
The thing about Amsterdam is, its a lovely city, even without you-know-what. It has a wonderful antique feeling, canals, cycles, museums, the works. But when you add to that a particularly Dutch sprinkling of liberality, worlds collide (a la Seinfeld), and in a very very good way. All of a sudden your senses are assaulted by the colours, sights, sounds, smells, wonderfully laid out roads, the symmetry, all interspersed by a myriad variety of coffee shops.
So, understandably, there was a good deal of excitement about our maiden visit to Amsterdam long before we landed up in Europe. And understandably as well, it was practically our first weekend in Europe that Amsterdam happened.
Events occur in real time:
Brussels 6 am: A single alarm rents the stillness of the morning.
“Somebody shut that thing up!”
“Dude, Amsterdam,” said a groggy voice.
“F#@! yeah, Amsterdam. Woohoo!” And just like that, 10 of the most unlikely early morning people you could think of sprung into readiness. The 0642 train from Brussels slid off the platform, with all of us safely inside.
Amsterdam 10 am: Hours of sleepy anticipation later, we arrived at Amsterdam Centraal. We stepped out of the station and were greeted by a Rastafarian lighting up. Given that it was such a public place, we expected shit to go down. Naturally, we stood and watched.
Two uniformed persons approached him. We nudged each other “Oye woh dekh, ab katega uska”. We waited as the conversation progressed, and the Rastafarian was let off with a friendly pat and a few smiles.
Knowing glances passed around.
We, ladies and gentlement, were in heaven.
Amsterdam 1010 am: We had asked around, and found ourselves at Baba Cafe (a 5 minute walk from the station, mind you. The Dutch are geniuses when it comes to organising cities.).
Amsterdam, a few minutes (give or take an hour) later: We found ourselves headed towards Dam Square, the city centre. Sort of a pit stop, since nobody looked enthusiastic about the prospect of rading a map and figuring out what we should do next. The map found its way into my hands (I had unwisely let it slip that I remembered where it was from my previous visit to the city. Damn it.)
Amsterdam 1030 am: The short walk to Dam Square was eventful. We lost RR and AR 2 minutes in (thoughts crossing my mind: Half an hour into Amsterdam, and we’re minus two ALREADY?!), but found them after a brief and misdirected search. (RR had graciously volunteered to babysit AR after reports of AR’s ability to see what was in front of him diminished somewhat, and had fallen behind.)
Amsterdam 1045 am: A brief pitstop and some failed attempts to find lollipops later, we headed off to the place with the I Amsterdam sign. (It was called Museumplein, but we weren’t in the mood for technicalities.) Nobody wanted to take the decisions, so it fell to me, once again, to be chief map reader.
Amsterdam (time starts to become irrelevant right about now): x minutes later, we found ourselves walking through a definitely non touristy area, and a few (not too polite) murmurs were heard about my map reading skills, or lack thereof. I was still resolute though, absolutely convinced I knew where I was going, and that we would reach where we wanted to go. <cough> Eventually. </cough> That and a brilliantly located pizza place saved me from further questioning. I took the opportunity offered by the lunch break to figure out if I did actually know what I was doing. It was still 50-50, but I didn’t want to be the one to tell these guys that we had walked the better part of an hour for (almost) nothing. Time for desperate measures.
“So who wants to see the flower market?”
Amsterdam: Thankfully the flower market was close, and it was well within my faculties to get us there. After a short walk around (that the flower market wasn’t impressive enough to distract those following me from the fact that our destination was Museumplein was not lost on me.) “Here we are,” I announced as I grandly gestured towards the rows of flower shops by the canal. To any tourist, it is a definite stop on a tour of Amsterdam. Our group turned out to be made of sterner stuff, unfortunately for me.
“Dude, I don’t see that I Amsterdam sign anywhere,” remarked somebody.
9 faces turned and I was greeted by steely glances, reminiscent of the Aragorn ‘one does not simply memes’. Things were going downhill, and I was looking at a dunk in the canal at the very minimum.
I decided it was in my best interests to get everybody moving ASAP.
“It’s a pit stop man, it’s on the way to Museumplein, and I figured you guys would like the colours.” No response. Tough crowd, as I said.
“Yea, so the next stop is the I Amsterdam sign. Should be close by now.” It wasn’t, but I was going to need the extra time to figure out an escape route.
This was about the time SR and DK decided they should take a more active interest in where we were going, and how we were going to get there. That was the final nail in the proverbial coffin.
SR: “Dude isn’t this the way we came from?”
DK: “Yea, looks like it.”
Me:<Brave Face> Lol no dude, this is the right way, I’m sure. We take this left, and then walk straight.
So we took the next left, and walked right into the flower market. Again.
Needless to say, there were a few very pissed of individuals, but the dopamine levels were pretty high, and I got off easy. (No dunking in the canal, or mad chase down Amsterdam’s streets.) DK took over map resposibility, and we arrived at Museumplein. To be fair to myself, it wasn’t that long a walk, and the only real mistake I made was taking a couple of circles around the flower market. But nobody seemed to be in the mood to accommodate excuses.
Amsterdam Centraal 6pm: Designated meeting spot for us to catch the last train back to Brussels. We found a muffin-ated RR, and the rest, in varying stages of sobriety. About 30 minutes into the train ride, RR switched off, and proceeded to imitate a man sleeping while standing. It was a new technique, and he was going to use the time waiting for the train to perfect it. We realised this wasn’t an argument we would win. Laughs all round, and an episode involving a newly active RR asking us to close the castle doors (aka the first class cabin door) so that riff raff (aka SR) couldn’t enter were the highlights.
“So, when are we coming back?”