WINDMILLS & AIRPORT WOES // Amsterdam, Netherlands

Apparently the weather I experienced in Amsterdam on Thursday was a rarity. Friday morning saw the more typical Amsterdam weather emerge: overcast and grey.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESNot to be disheartened, after packing my bags I went for a ride down to the Zaan river where the iconic windmills of Netherlands reside. I have to apologise for the lack of colour in these photos, it really was dreary and grey!

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESI think I could have got closer to the windmills, but I was a bit pressed for time. I had to catch a flight to Copenhagen in the afternoon, and I wasn’t sure how I would go getting to the airport.

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThese funky apartment buildings were near Zaandam train station, the closest train stop to my hosts house. They were interesting to say the least!

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESI forgot to take a photo of it on Thursday, but here is my trusty steed for my time in Amsterdam! This style of bike seemed to be pretty typical for the area. It was fixed gear, the paint was rusting, and the bike stand didn’t work, but it rode wonderfully!

After managing to navigate my way out to the airport successfully, get Danish money, and be seated early at my boarding lounge, I discovered my flight had been delayed. The following emotions ensued:

Photo on 5-09-2014 at 3.24 pmThen they delayed it a second time.Screen Shot 2014-09-05 at 3.55.44 pm

Then a third.

Photo on 5-09-2014 at 3.25 pmEventually, a good two hours after our initial departure time of 2:40pm, we boarded our flight. The flight itself was amazingly quick – 55 minutes – but I wasn’t impressed with the wait!

Thanks to Chris’ instructions I was able to easily navigate my way into Copenhagen city from the airport. It was – and still is – quite surreal seeing Chris again. Today we are off to look around Chris’ neighbourhood. I’m looking forward to checking out where Chris’ life is now set!

– Reanna

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THAT DAY I DID NOTHING BUT RIDE A BIKE // Amsterdam, Netherlands

As the title of this post suggests, my day in Amsterdam was made up solely of riding my bike around this wonderful city. Admittedly, this is not what I had planned, but I blame over ambition and being surrounded by such a fantastic bike culture.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESI stayed with an airbnb host while in Amsterdam, whose house is in a smaller suburb Zaandam about 12kms away from the centre. My host was kind enough to have a (rather dingy looking) old bike that I could use while staying with her, so I took it upon myself to ride into the city centre, because a) I wanted to see why everyone loves bike riding here, and b) to save myself the 7.50 euro train ticket. Turns out it was a lovely ride, and I only felt lost three times.

As soon as I arrived in the city I headed over to Mike’s Bike tours. Yes, I spent an hour riding into the city then decided to go on a three hour bike tour. I am slightly insane.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESOur tour guide basically fulfilled the image of middle-aged-ex-rockstar-hippy, which he wore proudly. He used to in a band in England, but now spends the six summer months doing these tours in Amsterdam, before spending the remainder of the year being a “professional” hitch-hiker and “professional” street musician – his words!

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESI seem to have still not mastered the art of taking decent photos on my camera, despite it being a point and shoot! I’ll get there eventually.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESA Picasso sculpture in Vondle Park. In Dutch, the park is actually pronounced “fondle”. It is also legal to have sex in this park after dark. I wonder if the Dutch area aware of this irony.

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESHere, our tour is grouped together out the front of the “Old Church” in “Old Church Square” (the Dutch are very literal in naming something, even the name “Amsterdam” means dam on the river Amstel). This church, believe it or not, is right in the middle of the Red Light District. Behind us a lovely lady was displaying her behind from her room. You aren’t allowed to take photos in the area, so let’s just leave Amsterdam’s infamous area to the imagination.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESAfter all the riding, it was time for a pit stop at a brewery in the below windmill.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESI went on a Mike’s Bikes tour when I was in Munich and loved it, but I have to say I was a bit disappointed in this one. It was great to just ride around and experience the phenomenon of Amsterdam’s bike culture, but I felt like that was all we did for the whole tour. In Munich we stopped a lot and the guide informed us about significant buildings and the history of the city. We hardly did this in Amsterdam (hence my lack of interesting photos). The tour also ran at lunch time, and we didn’t stop for lunch. I was desperate for something to eat afterwards, so I caved and bought some of the famous fries:

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESMy body says no, but whatever, I’m in Amsterdam.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThe oddly phallic shaped town monument, just in front of the Red Light District. Ironic, yet again Amsterdam.

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESI wandered around the city for a couple more hours before making my way back to Zaandam. More riding! The trip involves catching a ferry, which was a bit of a novelty to me.

I must say, I am completely in love with the bike culture of this city. EVERYONE rides their bike, from kids, to business men, to families, to old ladies, to classy women in high heels. It’s fantastic, cars give way to bikes! The complete opposite of Melbourne.

– Reanna

 

CITY OF BIKES // Amsterdam, Netherlands

Country number four! I must admit, I am slightly devastated that I don’t get my passport stamped every time I enter a different country. Sure, the European agreement that allows this transition between countries does make things easier and quicker, but my inner tourist really just wanted to collect as many stamps as possible on my passport!
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESUpon arriving to Amsterdam and dumping my luggage, I literally jumped onto the first canal boat tour I found (coincidentally one of the cheaper ones I believe!). The weather was perfect, almost to the point that I was fearing sunburn.

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESBack in the day, Amsterdam had a housing shortage, resulting in many people turning to living in house boats. Some people still do until this day. Others also live in these small houses that float on the waters edge, as can seen below.

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESA former watch tower.

I can’t remember how many canals the tour guide said there was in Amsterdam, but there was a lot, and an even more ridiculous amount of bridges! As the city grew, more canals were constructed to go along with it.

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThe ‘dancing houses’ of Amsterdam. See those houses on a lean? The land on which the houses have been build was quite wet, so wooden platforms were used to create a drier service. However, due to our old enemy time, the wood is now starting to rot and give way, leading to houses consequently lurching sideways.

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSee those two tiny windows in between the two bigger houses? Yep, that is the smallest house in Amsterdam! I’m not sure if the tour guide was joking or not, but he said it was currently occupied by a student and their single bed…

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThe bikes! Everyone rides a bike! This is a poor quality photo of a huge bike parking complex near the train station. Besides this, every conceivable hand rail and sign post had a bike attached to it.

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThe city centre was packed with tourists. I had a bit of time to kill before I could head out to my airbnb accommodation, so I aimlessly wondered the streets for awhile.

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESBy streets, I really mean I walked through the Red Light District. I had heard varying stories about the area (see: watched Eurotrip), but my Lonely Planet guide had convinced me that it was a safe area. Seeing as it was still light, I thought I could brave it out by myself. It was almost laughable how sleazy it was, with sex toy shops, a ‘condomerie’ and numerous shops selling weed. I innocently cut down an alleyway to make my way back towards to the city centre and came across the sex workers on display in windows. I decided to bail before the feminist in me could start forming any over-analytical opinions on the area.

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESEventually it was time for me to try and find my way out to a suburb to check in with my airbnb host. However, as luck would have it I caught a train that went straight past my station and proceeded to travel through the country side for twenty minutes. I somehow managed to hold myself together (though flying past my station did have me on the verge of tears) and navigate my way back into the city. Well, at least I got a nice view of the country side!

Today, I’ll hopefully partake in a few tours and ride a bike around the canals!

– Reanna.

PS: My article on how to apply for exchange at UniMelb is now up on Unimelb Adventures! Thanks Daph for letting me contribute to your wonderful blog again!