I’m sorry I’ve kept you all waiting anxiously to hear about Days 3 & 4 of my trip. I’m clearly no good at obeying self-imposed deadlines. I was planning to write yesterday, but it was too nice out to sit inside, so I went for a long bike ride. So, belatedly, I present:
Or, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Weather
Despite a very odd night’s sleep, constantly rolling off the three pillows I’d arranged into a mattress, alternately bumping into the radiator or the girl sleeping next to me, I woke up raring to go. Cassie et al needed to figure out what they’re doing with their lives, so I set off on my own.
First stop: Rembrandthuis.
I don’t usually care much for classical paintings of Jesus and bowls of fruit by dead white men, but I tend to enjoy little, manageable museums and a trip to the Netherlands wouldn’t have been complete without checking out one of the masters of whom they are so proud.
Unlike most artists, Rembrandt was financially successful for awhile. He married a well-connected heiress, so for many years he had plenty of patrons. During that time he spent a fortune on a fancy schmancy house. After his wife died, his art went out of style, so he went bankrupt and had to sell the house and everything in it. Some years later, though, it was restored to its once glory and turned into a museum.
Rembrandt spent his final years in a cheap apartment, drawing self-portraits of faces he made in the mirror. I consider it a testament to the Dutch sense of humor that one of his funny self-portraits is the logo for the museum.
From there, I headed to the Central Library upon my friend Nic’s expert recommendation. Nothing restores my faith in humanity quite like a crowded library, especially one that looks like it’s from the future. If Amsterdam’s a-omg-MAZing library is any indication, libraries aren’t going anywhere this century; they’re only getting better.
And at the top, there’s an amazing café. I sat at the window to enjoy the panoramic view of Amsterdam while I ate my yummy lunch: two pasta salads and a bowl of split pea soup.
The soup tasted a lot like one my daddy makes, but apparently it’s a very Dutch thing, according to the man seated beside me who struck up conversation. We ended up talking for a long time. He explained a bunch of stuff about Dutch politics and told me about a documentary he’d seen about when the Dutch settled what is now Manhattan.
Yet another thing I loved about the Dutch: they talk to strangers. I love talking to strangers. In France that just gets me a lot of weird looks, especially from women, but in Amsterdam it worked well.
I loved the library and my lunch and my free conversation with a stranger so much that I left feeling euphoric. Unfortunately, the rest of the day was not so wonderful.
I met up with the others in the De Pijp neighborhood, where we had planned to wander around the Albert Cuyp market. If there’s one thing I love more than a library, it’s a good market.
Sadly–oh, so sadly–the weather intervened. It had been grey and windy all day, but as we began to walk around the market, it got even colder and windier. After five years in Minnesota, you’d think I could handle a merely Europeanly cold day, but there was a gale force wind coming at my face. Worse, my stupid fingers with their stupid circulation problem got so cold and hurt so badly that I couldn’t stand to be outside at what would otherwise have been a fun market. The only good part was a warm stroopwaffel. I wish I had a picture of it, but that would have involved removing my fingers from my gloves, which was out of the question.
That’s when the day turned bad.
We walked back to the hotel, where the owner told us he knew what we were up to. Funny how he could count to six when we passed by the reception desk…and then noticed the sleeping bag on the pillows by the radiator…So of course it was perfectly reasonable of him to tell me to leave—and I must say, he was very nice about it—the Dutch are an easygoing people—but it left me without a place to stay and the prices in Amsterdam skyrocket on the weekend.
My previous hostel didn’t have any rooms available, but the guy behind the desk gave me the name of a place around the corner that had a room. I thought it was nice of him to draw me a little map. Oh but wait. His directions were actually really unnecessarily complicated, so I ended up wandering around needlessly, in the cold, with a heavy bag on my shoulder, only to discover how cruddy my absurdly overpriced dorm room was.
That left me in a foul mood, so I decided to treat myself to a nice dinner. I was out of cash, so I specifically chose a place that had credit card logos in the window. Oh but wait. Theirmachine wasn’t working. No big deal, the waitress said. There’s an ATM across the street. Oh but wait. My card didn’t work in that ATM.
I’m really lucky that the Dutch are such an easygoing people. They were nice enough not to call me a pathetic loser when I explained how embarrassed I was, promising that I had money and just no access to it. I was hoping they’d say, “Eh, whatever,” but alas. I had to leave my ID and train ticket as collateral with the promise I’d figure something out and come pay the next day.
With all that bad luck and a gale force wind still blowing, I’d had enough. I went back to my crummy hostel, sent a pathetic e-mail to my parents to ask them to bail me out of that embarrassing situation, and went to bed before 9:00.
Stay tuned for Day 4, in which I will finally tell you about my experience in the Red Light District.