Landing at Schiphol airport is always an exciting time, as well as a challenge in patience… Excited to be in a great city like Amsterdam, you’ll realize that after landing and walking off of the plane, getting into the city takes some maneuvers. First, you’ll have to grab your bags and deal with the passport folks. Always fun for international travel. Once you’re through that mess, you’ll find yourself in an airport that also serves as a shopping mall and train station. So, if you need a few things after landing, you can shop the jet-lag away before testing your dutch at the train station in the airport. Dutch is the native language of holland, which happens to sounds like drunk German. No need to worry though, as english is spoken regularly (and well) here. In fact, most children in the Netherlands learn to speak at least 3 languages before they finish grade school. So, if the signage and time change (7 hours ahead of Houston time) throw you off, its easy to kindly ask someone for help.
From the airport, the most common journey into the city will be via train to Amsterdam Central Station in north Amsterdam.
Hopping off of the train at central station, you’ll immediately notice some truly unique things. First, there are bikes and bicyclists everywhere. These folks, a kin to your typical Houston driver, have zero regard for the happenings around them. They leave it up to you to be aware of them, and if you fail to observe, it will be you who gets the bitter end of a bike-pedestrian exchange. Again, the number of bikes here is really amazing. Its an actual statistic that in the Netherlands, that there are more bikes here than there are people (17 million). On the positive side, a bike is absolutely the best way to get around the city. You can rent one for a few euros a day, which will provide a nice break from walking when your legs get tired. You will never drive here, as everything in the city is accessible via foot, bike, or tram.
A second, but no less noticeable detail about walking out of central station in the city of Amsterdam for the first time is the unmistakable smell of weed. Have you ever associated a smell with a memory or a place? Well, spend less than 60 seconds walking around Amsterdam, you’re without a doubt already priming your senses to associate the smell of sweet, legal cannabis with the city. Its everywhere, and its a normal part of the culture here. We’ll have a complete post on the weed scene here soon, so be patient.
Now that you’ve navigated into the city, you’ll need a place to drop your things and arrange a place to stay. Like most cities, the price and quality of hotels and hostels vary… You can get a bunk in a hostel for around 20 euros, and a decent private room goes for around 70. If you’re one for finer things, you can find a Marriott and other top notch hotels for higher than normal rates.
Once you’ve settled in, you’ll need to fight the time change, and let me tell you, its a bitch like no other. Most flights from Bush to Schipol are redeye, which means arriving early in the morning and fighting hard to stay up until night time in the Netherlands. Its a must to fight through the jet-lag the first day… If you don’t, you’ll spend the whole trip trying to adjust. I was up for 26 hours straight before crashing. Luckily, Amsterdam is a city of many attractions. The best thing to do on your first day here is simply walk. Walk everywhere. Take in the city, the architecture, the good nature of the dutch people. Stop every now and then for a beer or joint. Then stop again to have another.
We’ll end here for now, with one of my favorite quotes about Amsterdam, from a movie that helped me through 2.5 of the 9 hours it took to get here. Looking forward to sharing more over the coming weeks.
Jules: [laughing] Oh, man. I’m going, that’s all there is to it. I’m fucking going.
Vincent: Yeah, baby, you’d dig it the most. But you know what the funniest thing about Europe is?
Vincent: It’s the little differences. I mean, they got the same shit over there that we got here, but it’s just…it’s just, there it’s a little different.