I'd Never Been to Amsterdam

by - 6:00 PM

1 hour and 17 minutes. That's approximately how long it takes me to travel to Amsterdam by train. Yet for some reason I'd never been there. I'd been at the airport, sure. Dozens of times. The football stadium counts, I guess. In 2016 I visited a high school friend who studies there. And 10 years ago I went to the Van Gogh Museum with elementary school, but didn't see much apart from the backs of other visitors. So I'd technically never been to Amsterdam, to the touristy center, to the place we jokingly call 'Themepark Amsterdam' in the Netherlands. Until last weekend.

Last Saturday I dragged my boyfriend to Amsterdam because I wanted to go to a Banksy exhibition. That wasn't my only reason though. I also wanted to go to the American Book Center and see the canals so I could take some pretty pictures. I needed that tiny little trip. I'd been stuck in the Rotterdam area since I came home from Cuba and it was getting on my nerves. I was so happy to get out of my city, to see the endless farmlands of South Holland, then North Holland pass by until we got off the train right in the middle of Amsterdam. I was immediately taken aback by the extreme amount of people there, at the station. I got this sinking feeling, as if I'd made a big mistake...

There were even more people outside. The architecture distracted me for a good 30 seconds, then I realized I had to navigate this huge mass of people to get to the museum I wanted to visit. Sure, the canals and houses were as pretty as I'd imagined them, but with this many people around, there wasn't even a point in taking my camera out of my bag. Too many people, too little space to point my camera and take a picture of anything more than a tourist's back...

If I'd been there alone, I probably would have turned around. I don't handle crowds too well, especially not when they're made up of tourists. But my boyfriend pulled up Google Maps and soon we were walking to Moco Museum, which is near the famous Rijksmuseum. I almost lost my boyfriend multiple times because of the crowd pushing us away from each other or not letting us walk side by side. The smell of weed and urine attacked my nostrils more often and more viciously than I'd like to admit. I'd heard about all this, mostly about tourists flooding our capital and turning the city center into pure chaos, but I hadn't expected it to be this bad. Tourists were constantly blocking entire streets with their suitcases and quick breaks to take a look at their map.
'I feel sorry for the people living here,' my boyfriend mumbled. I couldn't agree more. Then I gave myself a mental slap in the face. What was I thinking? I'd been the one who wanted to come here, I'd been the one who wanted a break from the Rotterdam life. And now that I finally was in Amsterdam, I wasn't even trying to enjoy it. So I tried to enjoy it. I bit my tongue when I wanted to say 'I hate people, I hate crowds' for the billionth time and focused on the buildings and street art around me.

Things calmed down a little when we reached the Rijksmuseum. There was a talented group of musicians playing there and even though I couldn't see them (again, big crowd, tiny Envy), their music cheered me up. Then Moco's Banksy exhibition made me truly happy that I did go to Amsterdam that day. We spent two hours there without even noticing that time was flying. Once we were outside again, it was 2pm and we were both hungry as could be. Then we made a huge mistake: we decided to walk to the place where we wanted to have lunch.

I have no idea why we decided to walk, after the way I'd hated walking through the masses from the train station to the museum. I have some pretty dumb ideas every now and then.
My boyfriend had picked a vegan restaurant and I really wanted to go there. Despite my carnivorous habits, I was curious about vegan food. I had to taste it, at this particular place, even though it was 40 minutes away (note to boyfriend: never put ideas like that in my head, we'll both suffer). So we started walking. Within minutes we were both cranky, him because he was hungry, me because I couldn't take one more tourist rolling their suitcase against me. Once we reached the Vondelpark, things did get better though. I saw the first ducklings of the year and also showed my ignorance by thinking a piece of art was a sandbox and calling a statue demonic. Oops.

The Vondelpark was the opposite of the busy streets in the center. The pond was full of ducks and porta-potties, people were hanging out and working out, dogs were running away from their owners. Normal park stuff like that. I was almost sad to leave the park behind, but by that time my stomach was completely empty. It didn't help that when we'd thought we'd found the right street, we'd taken the wrong one after leaving the Vondelpark. Luckily we arrived at the Vegan Junk Food Bar not long after.

Lunch was just what we needed. Neither one of us was cranky when we left the place. We both chose one more place to visit. My boyfriend's pick was a store called A Space Oddity, a store that specializes in toys and action figures from tv series and movies. My wallet was a whole lot emptier when I left that place, because I couldn't resist a nanoblock Squirtle. I couldn't just leave my favorite Pokémon behind in big scary Amsterdam, right?
At that moment in time, I was loving my country's capital. Our next destination was only 12 minutes away: the American Book Center, a place I've wanted to visit since forever. My legs were starting to hate me for walking literally everywhere since morning, but the rest of me was enjoying Amsterdam. Even the crowds. Except for the crazy Frenchman on a bike, who took a wrong turn without looking and almost crashed into me. That's wasn't so great.

It was my turn to navigate and we actually made it in one piece. There were a few raindrops every now and then, but the dark clouds above the canals made everything look beautiful. Somehow I even managed to take a few pictures without tons of people in it. I loved the views and wished it'd been less crowded that day. On the other hand, I should have seen this madness coming, going to Amsterdam the day after King's Day.

I don't remember how much time we spent at the American Book Center. Probably more than it seemed. I spent way too much money there, not just on books, but also on postcards. When we left the store, I was kind of done with Amsterdam though. Especially when we couldn't find the pizza vending machine my boyfriend had seen when he went to Amsterdam in December. I threw in the towel. I'd had enough of being pushed around, not being able to walk at my own pace and not having time and space to take pictures. I realized I was missing Rotterdam.

Before I knew it, we were on a train back home. I was contemplating my extremely mixed feelings on my country's capital. If only it'd been less crowded, if only I hadn't walked everywhere... Even though I once used to complain about the same things in Rotterdam, I realized how much I preferred that city to Amsterdam. Maybe it's just because I grew up in the Rotterdam area, maybe it's in the genetic makeup of people from my area to prefer Rotterdam over Amsterdam, as some people here claim. Either way, Amsterdam wasn't really for me. I understand why people love it. I understand why people keep coming back. The architecture is awesome, the street art is amazing and there's something interesting on the corner of every street. I appreciate that, and one day I'll go back to see it all again. But for now I'm staying in good old Rotterdam, where the tourists aren't as numerous and the gems are still hidden.

x Envy

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10 Fellow Ramblers

  1. What an interesting review! I went to Amsterdam years ago and my abiding memories were of the fabulous Rijksmuseum and all the barges decorated with tulips. And cats, hundreds of cats, which made me very happy! I also remember eating a bag of chips with a beer and just people watching. Funnily enough, I found a tiger top in my wardrobe last week, which I'd bought in Amsterdam, so your post has brought back happy memories all over again! X

    Lisa | www.lisasnotebook.com

    1. I'm really glad you did enjoy Amsterdam. It has changed over the past couple of years though, because of mass tourism. Still it makes me happy to read about your awesome experiences there!

  2. I hate people too, it's the worst thing about going place. And yeah but that statue IS demonic though! Eek.
    It sounds like you had a great time at the Banksy exhibition :)
    Cora | http://www.teapartyprincess.co.uk/

    1. People really are the worst. I still don't know who the boy from the statue is. It makes for a pretty great internet horror story.

  3. Finally someone says it: Amsterdam isn't fun! Well, it can be fun but it mostly isn't, especially during tourist-season! My brain loses all function when trying to navigate through the hordes of people who -I'm convinced- are consciously blocking the way for others so we all end up agitated, lost and bruised. I'm happy to trade our capitol city for my in-the-heart-of-the-country village any time, any day! ;)



    1. It's not fun at all! Rotterdam is way better! :P
      I have no idea how I survived a day in Amsterdam, I was so glad to come home to my small town with its silence and only 28000 people to annoy me.

  4. Looks like a very interesting place to visit !!

  5. O my god, I know what you mean by tourist crowds. I have special place of hate in my heart for that situation. I always try to flee, because it tends to make me so tired!
    I do feel the same way about Amsterdam as you do. One time I went for a day, and i ran back to the train within 1,5 hour even. It has it charms of course, but I do prefer lots of other cities so much. Have you ever been to Haarlem? I really like it there!! <3

    1. Even when I'm a tourist myself, I don't like other tourists. I try to stay out of the way, not block entire streets... and then others decide they have to ride a bike because the're in Holland and pose a threat to everyone around them!
      I've never really been to Haarlem, just to the athletics track.


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