Amsterdam to Brussels
A little sad from leaving Copenhagen, we boarded the train to Amsterdam. This was our first real international train and needless to say we were impressed. For our travels through Europe we purchased a Eurail pass. This pass entitles us to unlimited travelling on trains in most countries, but the best part is we have to travel in first class. The trains so far have been new and comfortable and the first class carriages are just lovely. On the map we noticed from Denmark to Germany we would be crossing water, bets were made if it would be via a bridge or tunnel but it turns out we were both wrong. The crossing was made via a ferry and the train just drove straight onboard. It was very cool.
We always knew Amsterdam was going to be a party town and our thoughts were confirmed from the moment we checked in. Our hotel, The Thorbeke was situated on Rembrandt square. The name eludes to an area of artists and creative types hanging around in their hemp clothes talking about paintings and sculptures. This was not the case. There are a ton of bars belting out music and revellers spilling onto the streets. When we walked into our rather modest hotel room we discovered we were situated directly above the party and our windows were wide open, giving us a taste of what sleeping would be like. There was also a bar downstairs in the same hotel that stayed open until 5am. Our intention was to go to sleep as we were on trains all day for the best part of twelve hours but instead we opted to join the party and have a few drinks.
Our first night sleeping was surprisingly comfortable, I have discovered the Sounds of Nature soundtrack on iTunes. My favourite track is “forest rainfall” but the best part is it drowns out the screams and drunken singing from downstairs. I am getting so old.
During the day we took in the sights of Amsterdam. The city itself is beautiful with canals snaking through it. The sun was shining and there were lots of little boats and canal cruises chugging along the rivers. The bike is the most popular form of transport and they love to ride fast. I lost count of the number of times I was almost collected trying to cross the bike paths. We strolled through the red light district which was interesting. It was about 10:30 in the morning and the ‘ladies’ were already out, standing in their windows waiting for customers. A few larger than life women spotted us and opened their windows beckoning us to come in. We politely declined and quickly left the red light district. Next stop was Anne Frank’s house. This is apparently the tourist attraction in Amsterdam and the queue was around the block. The tulip museum was our next spot and it was a little disappointing to say the least. I would have assumed there would be at least one real tulip, but no. We spent the afternoon soaking up the sun drinking wine like good little hobos / backpackers.
That evening we hit the town. Amsterdam is a very liberal city and there was no shortage of gay bars. Unfortunately for us it was a Monday night and a little quiet and all the gays were in Madrid for pride. Nevertheless we still met some interesting Dutchies and had a great night out.
Our next stop was Belgium to the city of Brussels to see our friend Isa and maybe Jean Claude Van Damme. We spent the day wandering the streets of Brussels and taking in the sights. It was a beautiful sunny day and lots of people were out enjoying the beautiful parks. That evening Isa took us to a market come outdoor drinking event. It is held on a Wednesday and when the weather is warm the streets are packed with people. Rose is the summer drink of choice here so we happily partook. Belgian weather is a bit like Melbourne. One minute it was beautiful and sunny, the next people were running for cover as the skies opened up. It was quite the downpour too. We figured it was time to leave but before we did Isa spoke some French to the waitress and she bought us out a round of free drinks. Apparently it is a custom, if you have purchased a few drinks from a bar, you can ask for ‘one for the house’. This basically means the house buys you a round for being a good customer. I might try that one out when I get home. We stayed the night at Isa’s very beautiful apartment. For breakfast we had some delicious croissants and a typical Belgian treat. Raw mince meat that you can spread on toast, just like jam. I jumped right in and ate it. It smelt like raw mince but was actually quite a tasty, savoury treat. It did however, repeat on me for the rest of the day. There is something to be said for raw mince flavoured burps on the high speed train to Paris…