Wouldn't you know it? Its 11:00pm and the tourist office closed at 10:30. Such is the life of a traveler...
We didn't know what we were doing so we set out on foot to look for an accommodation. Those poor folks were carrying suitcases (a mortal sin to any backpacker) so their job was tougher.
We stopped at a few hotels, but they were $200+ a night. That didn't suit our budget. Then we came across the legendary Bob's Youth Hostel. It wouldn't have been my first choice, but at 12:00 midnight, you tend not to be too choosy...
Bob's was full. They told me they could give me a bunk tomorrow, but not tonight. I just smiled. That was par for the course.
We were getting a little frustrated and I couldn't find any phones so I suggested we go back to the train station and call places from there. We hopped the tram to save us a 1/2 mile walk. It took us right back to Square 1.
Back in the station I pulled out my "Lets Go Europe" book and started calling numbers. I'd never done this before, because I always booked accommodations through tourist offices. After calling several numbers I finally found a hotel that had rooms available for 45 Guilders ($21) a night. Hallelujah! We hopped in a cab and drove to the hotel.
The Red Light District
Now this dude (I forgot his name) talked about the Amsterdam Red Light District (RLD) practically the whole way from Belgium. It was really funny listening to him. He was absolutely fascinated by it. I thought it was odd though, because his fiancÚ was with him. She was a very nice gal and he was oblivious to her.
After we got settled in the hotel (about 1:30am), he really wanted to go down there. So all 3 of us hopped a cab and went to the main Red Light District.
I gotta tell you. The RLD was the weirdest most bizarre place I have ever seen. It was 2:00am. There were a lot of very strange characters walking around. I thought most of the ladies in the windows were not appealing. And basically, I was completely freaked out! Its a good thing there were 3 of us together.
We got back to the hotel around 4:00am. I told the couple I didn't think I was going to be in Amsterdam very long. I thought the Red Light District was the craziest place I have ever seen in my life!
The next day we had to find a new hotel, because our current place was booked. We found a phone booth and called several numbers until we found a vacancy. Man, this "Lets Go Europe" book paid for itself last night and now today again too...
We took a cab to the new hotel and while we were paying the fare, the black dude had an altercation with the cab driver over the fare. I couldn't believe it. I decided it was time to part company, so I wished them the best and walked off.
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I found a phone booth and started calling numbers. I finally found a single at Hotel Fita. It was more expensive (70 Guilders), but it turned out to be a tremendous location. It was on a quiet street close to Vondel Park in a much better part of the city than the hotel I almost checked into (which was right off Dam Square). The proprietors Hans and Maria are a lot of fun and you'll make friends fast with other guests at breakfast. I ended up staying there 8 nights.
After I got oriented I found Amsterdam to be a really neat city. The Dutch are exceptionally friendly and there's lots of stuff to do. Granted, there are places where you could think Amsterdam is the weirdest place this side of the galaxy. But there are other places where things are very calm and laid back. Over the next 8 days I did the following:
Leidseplein Outstanding restaurant and nightclub district!
Rijkes Museum Outstanding Collection of Dutch Historical Art
Stedelijk Museum Modern Art - Impressionist / Expressionist
Van Gogh Museum Trace the art of the frenzied painter
Canal Boat Tour A different perspective of the city of canals
Tram Tour You can do a good portion of the city this way
Paradiso Nightclub with International Renowned Bands
The RLD Once you get to know it, a Real Party Zone
Dam Square International and hectic
Rembrandtplein Pricier bars and gambling clubs
Bull Dog Cafe Classic Bar and Coffee Shop in RLD and Leidseplein
Well, all good things must come to an end and it was time for me to hit the road or shall I say the tracks. I'm aiming to go to Munich for Oktoberfest. But I decided to see Den Haag first.
Den Haag (The Hague) seems pretty stuffy compared to Amsterdam. But there's some interesting sights. The Binnenhof (Parliament) has some impressive buildings. Pick up a tram map and just hop the trams for an excellent tour of the city. There's a pedestrian zone right off Central Station. The beach on the North Sea is a pretty interesting sight. Madurodam is a really cool exhibit showing chest high models of every famous building and monument in Holland.
I spent 2 nights in The Hague. Now it was time to press on to Munich and Oktoberfest.
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Next Stop > Dusseldorf...