Day 6: the urinal had a fly painter on it
Worth a mention:
- The urinals in Amsterdam Airport had life-like flies painted in their bowls, enough to have passengers wondering – especially if they’ve just come from a coffee shop
- Within minutes we could smell we were in Amsterdam
We left early, again. A walk, tram then bus and €4 later we were at Helsinki Airport. Travelling throughout the EU is like flying from Sydney to Melbourne; the cities are close, flights run all the time and everyone does it.
Given we’d been meeting tight deadlines the past few days, Matt and I took the day to have a few beers and enjoy Amsterdam with no rush to be anywhere at any time. Not even 5 minutes from the station and we knew exactly where we were. The smell of Amsterdam is well entrenched in the air.
We were staying at The Bulldog hostel in the thick of Amsterdam’s red light district. If you’re easily offended, keep away from this part of the city. The ladies in the window are well rehearsed in their enticing routine using all manner of alluring gestures; speaking softly, taping on the glass with their long acrylics, smiling and shaking their body. It’s oddly amusing watching the unromantic courting negotiations unfold time and time again. A few guys with British accents ask how much, approaching a brunette whose window view looks over the canal on Geldersekade. She replied, “€50”.
We asked the owner of The Jolly Joker, one of many coffee shops here, whether his place makes much money. He cheerily replied, “Between you and me…I think you can read the smile.” Enough said.
Day 7: try not to see bleak things bleakly
Worth a mention:
- The guy in the bunk next to me was passed out fully clothed with the exception of his jeans which were down around his ankles. Package concealed thankfully
- I just paid €0,50 just to use the bathroom
- Local supermarket chain Albert Heijn sells bottles of Penfolds €6,99, Jacob’s Creek €5,99, Lindeman’s €5,99 and Rosemount €4,99
Sights. Amsterdam certainly has a lot of them. A colleague back home emailed a list of suggestions for this city and I spent about 20 minutes in the bar at The Bulldog navigating my map of Amsterdam and Google maps pinpointing them all.
We first visited the Van Gogh museum. In true Matthew fashion, he approaches the audio tour counter and asks if he can have a one for free, normally €5. He’s unsurprisingly turned away. We move through to the first room and the man from the counter comes to Matt with an audio tour set, telling Matt that he could have a free one because he had the balls to ask.
When I stood in front of Van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers’ and remember first seeing it in primary school on a poster in our library when I was no older than 8. I read at the gallery about Van Gogh’s use of pointillism, the painting technique of systematically applying small strokes or dots of different colours which, when viewed from a distance, form a whole. Later in his career, he admitted himself to a mental asylum and spent a year there, writing upon his departure that he would now “try not to see bleak things bleakly”.
Matt’s haggling skills came out again that night, having unofficially joined a pub crawl at one of the many bars in this city. We’d moved with the group to two different venues before someone approached the five of us, we weren’t the only ones doing this, and asked us to buy a pub crawl ticket. The full price was €20 but given they’d been to six places already and had two left we could buy-in for €10. Matt argued that if we’d only be joining for two of the total eight then we should only pay a quarter of the cost: €5. Baffled by Matt’s fast-thinking logic, the organiser agreed.
Day 8: from Anne Frank to Kim Duthie
Worth a mention:
- Grabbing free Wi-Fi at a McDonald’s, eating our store-bought salads with Maccas’ plastic cutlery, we caught up on some news from home: Kim Duthie’s admission, and lying about lying
You really have to laugh at Melbourne’s myki system, or that Sydney has only recently made arrangements to install an electronic public transport ticketing system, when Helsinki and Amsterdam both have well-established systems that work seamlessly. We were even issued with temporary travel cards that could touch-on and touch-off, made of cardboard and obviously some internal wiring.
More sights. Today we visited Anne Frank Huis, an eerie insight into the Nazi invasion of Amsterdam. Sadly, it is easy to forget some of the horrendous acts humans inflict upon one-another. We walk through the dimly lit rooms where the Frank family with others hid with little appreciation for how difficult this would have been for them. A swinging bookcase hides the entrance to their hidden abode. It’s a high step up into the hole in the wall yet you must duck your head to fit through.
Actress Shelley Winters won an Oscar for performance as Mrs Van Daan in the 1959 movie ‘The Diary Of Anne Frank’. Otto Frank, Anne’s father, met Winters on-set where she promised if she won an Oscar she would donate it to his museum. Her Oscar can be seen as patrons exit the building.
We had planned to ‘borrow’ a bike that afternoon, they seemingly outnumber cars on every street and there is certainly no shortage of unsecured bikes around, however our conscience overruled and we hired one. We made a beeline for Vondelpark and took an hour riding around its beautiful open paths. It’s full of locals using the park to rest and have some silent contemplation, or socialise with family and friends.
As we return our bikes it begins to rain, the first drops since I left Sydney eight days ago.