Learning About The City

Learning About The City

I didn’t write a single word on Wednesday because I was having too much fun and learning so much. The day started with a waffle hunt. I’d missed the hostel breakfast of cheese sandwiches (I found the toaster checking out!) so went searching for waffle places that I’d seen everywhere. But Wednesday morning, they’d all disappeared. I eventually found one and had a quick sugary one before setting out to the Amsterdam Museum. I had planned on hitting museums hard in an effort to get a good amount of bang for my buck. Waking up late and yet still tired, I decided against that and set out to learn about the city I was in.


As the name suggests the museum was about Amsterdam’s history, how a dam was built on the river Amstel and then it all got interesting. Amsterdam is a strange city; it was ahead of its time but also stuck in its way. When it was given to Napoleon to sort out, before he fobbed it off to his little brother, he was disgusted by their lack of street numbers and surnames. Both were established in the rest Europe 150 years previous. Despite the French, it never lost its liberating acceptance; Catholics may have been driven out by Protestants but they turned a blind eye to the odd hidden church if it kept the forgien merchants happy because those merchants made money. If there’s one thing Amsterdam loves almost as much as equality and freedom, its money and everyone’s freedom to make money, as long as they paid taxes. As well as an ancient wooden pile, an example of one of the millions of piles that support the city on this marshy land, Amsterdam Museum also had real cocaine on displays, as well as a donated spliff. Clearly too perfectly rolled to ever be lit. Amsterdam truly has it all. I have fallen in love.

I found myself leaving the museum around 1.30pm after spending about two and a half hours there, thankful that I took my time there rather than rush. In 45 minutes, a free walking tour of the city would begin in Dam Square, named so because that’s where the dam was built. Fuck it, I thought, let’s check it out. I have been to the museum and I am writing this post canal cruise Thursday morning, and I have to say the walking tour was the best way to explore and learn about the city. Our guide Paul added personality and humour that reflected the city.

For example, the oldest church in Amsterdam doesn’t happen to be in the centre of the Red Light District, the Red Light District grew around the church. Being a thriving harbour, Amsterdam saw its fair share of sailors; sailors with needs. They would visit the ladies and then repent their sins in the church which specialised in selling forgiveness. You’d hate to be called back to the sea after visiting a lady only to die and find yourself in hell. For efficiency, the church also sold forgiveness in advance.


We also learnt about trade, drugs, architecture, politics, a house 1.8m wide, drugs and canals. The tour ended at a restaurant where I started making conversation with an Australian couple doing an epic 6 week European city bonanza and an American pilot that came on a whim and was here for less than 24 hours. I ate a giant meatball on a bed of mashed veg, given the chill that was in the air that day, it was perfect.

The Australian couple then said they were off to an ale house they found on the internet and I joined them. I drank ale! I tried IPA, I know what IPA is, and I appreciated it and could tell the difference (ish). We bonded over Doctor Who and Joss Wheaton. I tried to describe where Essex was with coasters. We took the American to see the Red Light District at night and paid €2 for a peep show. Well, a peep show and a shift change, I should have asked for a refund. I then headed back to my hostel where my bunk mate was asleep and for the first time, I had to sneak in. Slightly wobbly after 2 glasses of wine and 2 glasses of ale, and my locker too noisy to open, I slept in my dress. Fuck it, I was going home tomorrow. Sniff sniff. I was going home tomorrow.


Despite the water pressure, I thought about trying to wash my hair tomorrow, the narrow alleyways of the Red Light District had left my hair smelling of weed.