Lost in Amsterdam!

I’ve been in Amsterdam 4 or 5 times while I was in Erasmus and I’m still not tired to visit this amazing city. It’s the capital, a big city able to offer everything you are looking for: culture, entertainment, shopping and beautiful sceneries. Chaotic with its streets filled with hordes of tourists and residents by bike, but despite that, the city still has preserved its romantic and poetic atmosphere. From the very first moment I was fascinated by the beauty of this city and its streets in which I had the pleasure of getting lost again and again. Every time I get lost I always find little spots in which I can enjoy a cup of tea and eat a pastry for some refreshment. I love getting lost, especially in cities such as Amsterdam.

My first time in Amsterdam was with Lisa, my roommate who is really crazy about teas, even more than I am, and Aurora, a fellow university friend who came to visit us and spend a few days in the Netherlands. As soon as we arrived in Amsterdam Central Station in about 50 minutes by train from Den Haag, we got so excited and we were gobsmacked: a long wide avenue full of souvenir shops, offices that organize tours around the city and a thousand other things that were just waiting for us. We kept on walking on this main road, Damrak, and we arrived in Dam Square, the real heart of Amsterdam. Here, in addition to Madame Tussaud’s, which I personally do not care much about, there are a very high obelisk dedicated to the fallen of World War II, the imposing Royal Palace (occasionally used by the royal family) and on the side instead there is the Nieuwe Kerk, in Gothic style as usual, finally the Bijenkorf a huge luxury mall just like Harrod’s (I’m still too poor to be able to even get in).

I love art, museums and galleries so I couldn’t miss the Van Gogh Musuem! Tip: buy the tickets online, you will avoid an endless queue to get in. Once we were in, we left our bags and coats in the cloakroom, we took our guide book and we started the tour. I have to say that Van Gogh is not among my favorite painters, but I was astonished in front of Vincent’s Sunflowers. The museum itself is well organized even if unfortunately the most beautiful works by Vincent are located elsewhere. What a shame! I personally think that the paintings of a certain artist should stay in his/her native country. Give us back the Gioconda.

We wanted to visit also Anne Frank’s House; actually it is not the type of thing I like to see although I consider important to remember certain historical periods. In this case there is an online ticket sale BUT: 1. they sell a limited number of tickets according to the size of the building 2. you have to buy them two months earlier. OK, FINE. You can also buy the tickets there but believe me, if you really want to visit the Anne Frank’s house, start thinking that you have to dedicate a whole day to it; 90% of the time to queue.

We skipped Anne Frank’s house and, still a little bit dazed since we spent 3 hours inside Van Gogh’s museum, we decided to enjoy a break in the sun just outside the museum and to schedule the time we had left. In Amsterdam, near the Van Gogh museum there is the Rijksmuseum but checking on the internet I found nothing that teased my curiosity and I decided to save about 15 euro.

We decided to go to the famous coffeeshop The Bulldog, a very cool place, with cool music, cool waiters, amazing week but all a bit ‘too expensive. But if you go to Amsterdam you cannot miss The Bulldog.

The next time I went to Amsterdam it was with some of my Erasmus mates for the Heineken Experience. WOW. This place is a half hour walking from Dam Square. Bought tickets online to avoid queuing; yes indeed.

At the entrance the Heineken staff hands out to each participant a brochure and a bracelet with three “buttons” with which you could drink two beers and pick a gadget of your choice.

We started the tour and it’s really really interesting since the beginning. Initially they showed us how the beer is brewed with videos, exhibitions, all in a funny and ironic way. They explained the story of the company, the brand and how they got to be one of the best-selling beers in the world. Fun fact: If you notice the “E” in the Heineken logo, they are slightly crooked because they wanted to give a smiley look to the logo itself. Moreover you can, see the machinery by which the beer is made, touch the hops used,  and see the whole procedure .. so when you go out you can pretty much make beer at home. No, just kidding. Towards the end of the tour there is the moment that everyone was waiting for: the beer tasting. Questions are asked and who answers correctly wins another round of beers. Me and my mates, highly trained, we ended up leaving the building definitely tipsy. I came home with my sorely cheeks from too much laughter.

The Heineken Experience is definately a must!

The sun goes down, we kept on walking and chatting until we ended up in the Red Light District, an area that attracts curious people and aroused males. The Red Light District has a main street with various side alleyways. In the main street there are some ladies, those considered the prettiest, in skimpy clothes squashing their bodies on windows in order to attract customers; moreover there are at least 10 theaters, 50 shops where the theme is obviously sex. The avenue is divided into, allow me the term, “categories”: thin, curvy, white, Asian, black, trans and so on. Women behind a glass and divided by “category” as if it was a catalog to browse. The whole scenario was kinda horrible. Those women behind the windows seemed like if they were objects, rubbing on the glass of these small rooms, and they made me think about how our society can fall apart. You know I’m sickly curious, so I stopped, I stretched my ears and I waited to see how the thing worked. The skimpy lady started smearing ass and tits on the glass winking, and within fifteen minutes a guy in his thirties stopped by, and the lady, realizing that perhaps this was a potential customer, she slightly opened the door and peeping out they mumbled something and BOOM! The boy enters the room. The girl closed and locked the door behind him, pulled a curtain in order to hide what would have happened a little later. I had my jaw on the ground, my eyes bulging and I could not believe it. Because I’m a bad person, I decided to wait and see how long it all last. 20 minutes later the man is out of the room with a large smile on his face and then he started looking for his friends. Shocked together with my friends, we decided that this was the right time to get moving and go home. I’m not the kind of person who judges, and I think that everyone should be free to do whatever, but, what the heck! Idk how to express myself. I know there is a business behind the whole thing, and maybe a women trafficking from disadvantaged countries that with the promise of becoming idk… dancers or waitresses they found themselves in a real prison; you can read it on their faces staying there, just sitting on a stool playing with the phone; others definitely do it by choice, they rent the small room and this is how they earn money. I hoped that the years of hard struggle for the emancipation of women would not be thrown in the toilet in this way. But it’s a life choice.

Let’s change the topic.

One of my favorites places so far in Amsterdam is a small coffeeshop (such a old fox! lol) called Lost in Amsterdam (Nieuwendijk 19hs,1012), furnished in ethnic style, no chairs but only carpets, cushions and low tables. Water pipes scattered here and there, soft lighting and relaxing music. Perfect for recovering after a day walking in the cold!

Amsterdam remains for me one of the most beautiful places visited so far. For those who have already been there .. what were your impressions? Would you come back?

Giulia

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