I took a very early bus from Hamburg to Amsterdam and arrived in the early afternoon. I didn’t yet have a map to the city so I was relying on the one in my LP. Something somewhere had told me that the bus would arrive at Centraal Station and the hostel I had found online wasn’t far.
Now I have a kind of system for situations like this … when I don’t know where I am, but I have a map and a general idea of which direction I want to walk. Step 1 is get the name of a street, any street, and look it up on the map so you can get your bearings. Problem is none of the streets I saw were on the map. So if step one fails you have to kinda rely on clues around you that tell you where to go. A traffic sign saying “Centruum” pointed down a main street, and that kinda sounded like the “center of town”, so I walked that way. I also kept checking the tops of buildings and the density of residential buildings versus commercial ones. Typically, downtown areas of tourist cities have taller buildings and fewer houses. And I figured in Amsterdam (like most European cities) there’d be some kind of tall, old, church dominating the skyline.
I walked for a long time. I mean, I was used to it, in a way, but when you have about 60 pounds strapped to various parts of your body and you just spent about 7 hours on a bus, it doesn’t matter how used to it you are.
I kept using my method of educated guesses and landed up near a canal. I crossed it and headed into an unknown neighbourhood. I still wasn’t on the map.
I saw some businesses as well as a gathering of policemen, so I thought I’d suck it up and ask for directions. As I walked towards the cops, I checked my map one last time. I had made it on the map! But to my horror, the street I was on was on the waaaayy bottom right-hand corner of the map, and the hostel was on the waaaayy upper left.
But hey, the walk was actually educational. Since I had to cross the center of the city to get to the hostel, I got a good look at all the major parts of the city. See, now that’s some good lemonade.
When I was looking online for hostels in Amsterdam, I noticed that many didn’t have rooms available around the weekend. I though it was just a glitch with the website, or maybe they weren’t releasing them online, you’d have to show up to get a booking. I found out at Hostel Aiyvengo that most places in Amsterdam (the good ones) were booked solid during the weekends, regardless of season. And the ones that had rooms available were charging horrifying rates for them. I could only book one night at Aiyvengo, which was OK, because even though they got an A for price and wifi speed, the flunked homliness and cleanliness. But man that internet was fast …
I took a quick stroll around town and bought some bread. I had been told that the bikes ruled Amsterdam, but I think they had gone from convenience to nuisance. More times than I could count I nearly got mowed down by bikers, who up on their high aluminum horses, had little regard for the low social rung occupied by pedestrians.
That night I sat in the hostel and prepared for the next day. I had been contacted by a recruiter with Google regarding an open position, and wanted to make sure I did everything right. I’d spend the morning preparing, and then find a quiet place for the interview.
There were two South Americans staying in my 20-share dorm. They approached me with a camera in one hand and a container of psychadelic mushrooms in the other. I took a picture of them holding two enormous stalks and caps with wide grins on their faces, and then watched them eat the contents of the container. This was their first time in Amsterdam, and last night was the first time they had taken ‘shrooms. It was a good trip, so that night they got a more potent variety.
They returned later with a bag of food and a glassy look in their eyes. I didn’t bother asking them anything, for fear of freaking the poor kids out. They spent the rest of the night laying side-by-side on the lower half of one of the bunk beds, with their feet bolted to the ground and their eyes glued to wooden mattress board above them.