Saturday, February 6, 2010

Amsterdam it all, part II

The remaining part of our journey was, thank God, fairly uneventful. The leisurely drive through snow-blanketed countryside was much more pleasant in the daylight (not to mention with a functional car). We stopped at a few rest-stops for munchies, read passages out-loud from one of our class novels, laughed at a dutch techno cover of "Sweet Caroline" on the radio and got helpful directions drawn on the inside cover of one of my books next to where I had scribbled Hertz numbers and addresses in the dark the night before. We rolled up to Amsterdam, appropriately, at about 4:20, parked outside the city and snagged a tram ride in. We had finally made it.

The evening in Amsterdam was magical. After stowing our stuff at the hostel we headed out to a coffeeshop to unwind from our harrowing journey. By the time we emerged to find dinner it was snowing again--fat fluffy flakes that were enough to limit the pedestrian traffic but not so much as to be overwhelming. We watched the snow through the window at a cute little Italian place, where our waiter spoke like Mario and gave us complimentary coffee after our personal pizzas. We then went on a walk through downtown Amsterdam through snow that had, by this point, changed to Dippin' Dots-sized spheres that you could catch in cupped hands or open mouths. Once we started to get cold we settled into a reggae-themed café for an hour or so before grabbing a chocolate/strawberry waffle dessert and heading back to the hostel. Back at the hostel we hung out on the balcony of our room with a pair of Portuguese girls for as long as we could stand the cold, listening to Manu Chau, Edith Piaf and Radiohead.

The new day dawned sunny and clear, making for some perfect strolling along curved streets and picturesque canals. Amsterdam as a city is pretty charming. The high rate of biking, walking and tram-ing makes for very little car traffic, and I found the Dutch to be very friendly people. Listening to Dutch was like looking at one of those Magic Eye posters that were big in the 90s--if I let my hearing slide out of focus, it almost began to make sense, but as soon as I'd get excited and really start to listen the illusion of comprehension would suddenly vanish. It definitely seemed closer to English than German, though, and I get the feeling that if I spent any significant amount of time in the Netherlands (and if I had the need, which isn't likely considering the high level of spoken English there) I could pick up a workable amount of the language without too much trouble.

We arrived home late Sunday night without any further car mishaps, leaving me drained for a full slate of classes the next day but otherwise satisfied. Considering everything that went wrong, the trip could have been a disaster, but over a pint the next night we all agreed that it had actually been pretty amazing. Despite the obstacles, everyone in the group retained a pretty laid-back, take-things-as-they-come perspective, an the end, the journey itself and the people made up for the fact that we didn't quite have the time for the Van Gogh museum or the Anne Frank house.

That's ok. After all, there's always the tulip festival in April/May. Although next time I may take the train...

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