Amsterdam

I reluctantly left my wonderful host family in Copenhagen and flew to Amsterdam on Tuesday the 26th of July. I say reluctantly because I was sad to leave the friendly and hospitable family I’d stayed with on the houseboat, and I had a bad feeling about the host organised for Amsterdam. Upon arriving at Schiphol Airport in The Netherlands I found a train bound for the city centre and made my way to meet this next host. When asking any customer service agent for directions or advice I had the feeling they just wanted to palm you off as soon as possible, and would simply point you in any direction to get rid of you. With the main train station undergoing repairs and works this happened a few times too many, and I was getting thoroughly annoyed and ready to yell at someone.

I eventually found the designated meeting place and within minutes was approached by the Couch Surfing host, as if he’d been waiting there for me – which I actually think he had. To cut a long story short, I knew very soon that it wasn’t going to work, and my gut feelings were correct. In hindsight I should have said so then and there and found alternative accommodation, however, I didn’t. I traipsed after him through the streets of Amsterdam while he gave me a running commentary of the city – which was basically an extended list of all the benefits and locations to indulge those benefits of living in Amsterdam. I did feel the need to clarify whether he smoked in his apartment, and his reply was ‘When in Amsterdam, do as the Amsterdamers do’. Oh boy.

After a long walk to get to his apartment (in actuality it was a student shipping container village, with rows of containers stacked one on top of the other), with me lugging my backpack the whole way, he was unable to pinpoint his location on the map, nor tell me the name of the street he lived on. I was trying to find out exactly where I was so I could find out how long it would take me to get back into the city to escape. I made the most of his wifi when I got there and looked up hostels. I had every intention of leaving that night, however, every hostel that was available had terrible ratings. I read reviews of hostels being full of smoke, mice or bed bugs. Argh!

I already had a ticket booked for a train to Brussels in two days time, and decided I’d see if I could change it for a train the next day to get me out of that place. I found my way back into the city, and was told a resounding ‘No’, I could not change my ticket as I’d bought it on a sale and it was not transferable or refundable. Despondent and wanting to cry I headed for the Anne Frank Museum, which was my sole reason for visiting Amsterdam. Everywhere I walked in the city my nostrils were filled with the unmistakable stench of marijuana smoke. In the train station, standing at the traffic lights, walking down the streets and lanes – it was everywhere. I expected it to be in the ‘coffee shops’ but didn’t expect it to be as prevalent as it was. I was gagging and the only place I found that didn’t smell of dope was in McDonalds. I sat there for a while, using their wifi to check out other train tickets and decide what to do.

If I wanted to go to Brussels the following day I would have to buy another ticket and prices were up to 50 – I wasn’t willing to spend that much on another ticket when I already had one I’d purchased on sale for only €14. It was pay the extra for the train or pay the equivalent or more on a semi-decent hotel room. For what? Why should I stay two days when I wanted to leave now? I trudged to the Anne Frank Museum while I self debated my limited options of escape. Waiting in line for 50 minutes to get into the Museum gave me time to decide. I would stay the night in the CS host’s shipping container and leave the following morning. I’d get on the train I’d booked for in two days time, and just feign ignorance regarding the date if I was questioned. I figured it would get me on the way anyhow, and if I got thrown off the train I’d work out what to do then.

Possibly because of my mood and general feeling towards Amsterdam, or possibly because I was shunted along with everyone else in the Museum, I didn’t get much out of the visit. I read faster than most people, and got frustrated when people laboured over the information boards and made me duck and weave around them to read. I didn’t like that you were all in single file as you moved through the specific areas in the house, nor that their were single boards with small print information so people stood close and blocked the view of others. I have always been interested in the story of Anne Frank and her family, but felt the museum didn’t offer anything more of value that I didn’t already know.

Back at the CS host’s place he cooked dinner (burgers) and I was a little paranoid that he was going to include something extra in the ingredients, but thankfully he didn’t. I refused his repeated offer of a drink or two, and stated that I was tired and would prefer to just go to bed rather than ‘party’ all night. He eventually left me alone to ‘visit some friends’ and when he returned at 7 in the morning I was awake and announced I was leaving that day. He asked if I was going because he’d ‘left me alone all night’, to which I stifled a laugh and said I’d seen everything I came to Amsterdam for and was moving on. He just didn’t seem to get the true idea of CS, and I didn’t feel it was my responsibility to educate him when I guessed he wouldn’t retain the information anyway. I hastily made my retreat to the train station with a few hours to spare.

Amsterdam was all round a well and truly disappointing city.

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