Yesterday, I had an all-you-can-eat breakfast at my hostel in Brussels for €7,90 around 10AM then checked out and went to the Bruxelles-Zuid station around 11 to catch an 11:45 train to Amsterdam. I was initially unsure if my Eurail pass would cover the train since I hadn’t purchased a Thalys reservation and was led to believe online that Thalys was the only service that went between Brussels and Amsterdam, but everything worked out just fine. It turns out that Thalys is just the high speed train and gets between the two cities within an hour and a half, but since I’m not pressed for time by any means, the regular train worked just fine.
The train ride was relatively uneventful. I ate my remaining truffles from Brugge, journaled, and took a few brief naps on the ~3.5 hour train ride. There was a little bit of drama when the ticket police came and the couple behind me had forgotten to purchase “legal” tickets, so the police made sure that everyone in the train car knew that not only would they be publicly shamed if they did not buy a proper ticket but that they would also face monetary punishment. Prior to this encounter, the couple had been very talkative. Afterwards, I managed to fit in a decent nap.
This train ride also gave me time to reflect on the pros and cons of the hostel I stayed at while in Brussels, the Meininger Hotel. The building was huge and more hotel-like than anything else with very nice and modern facilities. The bathroom was very clean—and even had a towel warming rack near the shower! There was plenty of space in the room for 6 girls. While the room and general facilities were really nice, it wasn’t a good place to meet people.
I arrived in Amsterdam around 4PM and checked into the hostel shortly thereafter. I was assigned a bed in a room on the third floor, up six extremely steep flights of stairs. I share this room with 17 other people. My bed is closest to the street and farthest away from the door, so I don’t have to worry about being woken up by people coming in and out of the room in the wee hours of the morning.
Upon arrival I met Spencer, a Canadian from Toronto who is studying Forestry in university and works in a plastic factory. He stumbled into the room with puffy eyes asking if anyone had allergy medicine, because he was allergic to peanuts and evidently ate something with peanuts. Thankfully I had a small bag filled with Zyrtec and Benadryl, so I basically saved his life. After he determined that he was fine, we walked around central Amsterdam, got stroopwafel (a honey-like substance sandwiched between two thin waffles) and went to the Tulip museum. He then began to feel the drowsy effects of the Benadryl and went back to the hostel while I continued to explore the surrounding area.
At 8PM, I met up with two Canadian girls, Ahona and Naseem, who just graduated from university and are going on a month long trip in primarily Spain and Portugal as a celebration. We went to a bar in the red light district and I had a pint of Amstel beer which was pretty tasty. I felt like a proper adult ordering a beer at a crowded bar.
We then wandered through some of the red light district and experienced all the fuss. We saw all the women in the windows who looked more like plastic dolls and less like human beings. I guess the combination of lighting and their makeup made them look almost plasticy. Walking through the area was definitely an interesting experience and I can understand why it has become so famous.
Today, I woke up around 9AM and purchased tickets to the Van Gogh Museum and Keukenhof. My reservation for the Van Gogh Museum was for 12:30, so I decided to wander around in the general direction of the museum. I came across the Blomenmarkt, which are a bunch of floating market stalls that sell tulips, souvenirs, and a variety of other things.
I got coffee and a slice of pound cake from a coffee shop near the Blomenmarkt and used their WiFi to catch up on the news. I then continued to wander in the general direction of the Van Gogh Museum and stopped in a few stores. I went inside of a grocery store and was very surprised to see unrefrigerated eggs being sold. It made me wonder why eggs in the US need to be refrigerated.
I entered the Van Gogh Museum at noon, checked my backpack, and got the audio tour for an extra €5. There were many paintings that had a headphone symbol and a number next to them, and to hear what an art critic/historian had to say about the paintings you just scrolled to the number and they would give a detailed history of when, where, and why Van Gogh painted what he did. The audio tour really enhanced my experience and I think that I will need to get an audio tour for every art museum I visit from now on. There was just so much infromation I wouldn’t have gotten from just reading the placcards infront of the pieces and I really enjoyed the artistic analysis.
I was at the Van Gogh museum for about two and a half hours. There were 3 floors of his work, the first floor being the earliest and the third the latest. I was disappointed to not see Starry Night (which is apparently housed in the NY Met), but there were countless other paintings that were very interesting and beautiful.
After the Van Gogh museum, I sat in Vondel Park for about an hour and caught up on my journalling. I watched kids and dogs chase geese and enjoyed the sunshine.
I then wandered in the general direction of the hostel and found a large street with popular stores you can find in the US. There were probably 3 or 4 full sized H&Ms within a mile radius, and a three story LUSH. I ducked into one of four McDonalds for a bit to use their WiFi to figure out a good place to do laundry, because while at LUSH, I’d gotten a fair bit of greasy lotion on the front of my puffy jacket and I couldn’t go around looking like I was covered in grease for any longer than I needed to.
When I got back to the hostel, I grabbed all of my dirty clothes and did a load of laundry not more than five doors down from the hostel. I spent about €18 to do laundry, which is a ridiculous amount of money for laundry but it was mainly so expensive because I also needed to get tennis balls so the down feathers in the jacket wouldn’t condense in the dryer. Expensive, but it worked out and now I have tennis balls to be able to properly clean my jacket for the next time I do laundry while in Europe.
After laundry, I got beers in the hostel bar with Spencer, Ahona, Naseem, and yet another Canadian named Aiden. Spencer, Aiden, and I went to dinner and got some burgers from a place a few doors down from the hostel. It was a good day.