Nate found a great deal on Megabus.com for bus tickets around Europe for super cheap. Tickets were only 4 pounds a person! That is about $6.40 in dollars. But there is a price to be paid besides money. What you do is load a bus full of a ton of strangers, usually not with the best of habits or language, around 9:30PM, travel all night, and then get to your destination around 8AM. It is a tiring, sleepless, long night. But very cheap. So we decided to do it and sacrifice our comfort. At least we were able to sit by each other this time unlike when we went to Scotland. The bus drove to the coast of England and then we hopped onto a ferry. The buses were loaded on the bottom level of the ferry and we were allowed up on top where there were couches and restaurants. Besides the rocky boat and feeling sea sick, that part was quite nice. Then we jumped off the ferry and back onto the bus to drive to our final destination.
We went to......AMSTERDAM!
Some people say it is in the Netherlands and some refer to it as Holland. Either way, you are right.
They sell these shoes in all the gift shops but in normal sizes. But I thought the bigger ones that I found were pretty cool and I just had to get a picture. Dutch children put out these wooden Dutch shoes for Father Christmas to fill with goodies on Christmas Eve instead of stockings like we do in the US.
So let me just tell you.....Amsterdam is a little on the CRAZY side. It is the most unique European country that we have ever been to because they have some aspects that most other places don't have. It was eye opening and actually very fascinating in a weird twisted sort of way. Let me just show you what I mean by posting these next two pictures. You will want to see this. Trust me. Take a look for yourself and see if you were as shocked as I was........
This is known as the Red Light District. Pretty much to sum it up.....prostitution is legal in Amsterdam. There is a huge red light district where guys can "shop" for the girl they want to do that night or whatever else. The girls are standing in glass store front windows in the most skimpy clothes imaginable, shaking their boobs at everyone that walks by. They are trying to sell themselves and get the guys to choose them so they can rake in the cash. They just stand there and act all sexy, showing off their thong wrapped butt, and major cleavages. They bat their eye lashes at all the guys and point to them and tell them to "come here," with their fingers. Then when they "choose one," the curtains get closed, and they do whatever was agreed upon for the agreed upon amount of money, for the agreed upon amount of cash. There are beds in the back of each small room. I saw them. Crazy huh? In the first picture you can see the glass windows on the left with guys standing in front of them looking in. These pictures aren't the best, because we read that if you take a picture of the prostitutes and they see you, they will run out of their "cages," yell at you, maybe break your camera, or worse. So I didn't take that chance.....
We witnessed this whole Red Light District thing for ourselves and were shocked. The first girl I saw in the glass "cage," I just couldn't believe it. It was like she was this object for sale instead of an actual human being. I felt like it was so degrading. But they think it is normal there and just see it as a way to make money to support themselves. I felt bad for them. What a crazy life that would be. Some of the women were pretty old and not that attractive. And some were very young, like 18 looking. There were some cute ones and some not so cute ones. But there are tons of them! Street after street of windows lined in red lights full of pretty much naked women. And of course along with that, everywhere you look there was signs for sex shops, and porn shows, and anything else you could imagine. Makes Las Vegas seem not so bad. It was a city where evil seems normal and it was fascinating to me. A huge eye-opener. I had never seen anything like this.
The other fascinating thing was the "coffeeshops." They aren't your regular coffee shop like a Starbucks or a Roosters Coffee. They are a bit different......
These coffee shops are where you can go to buy weed, or marijuana. Like prostitution, smoking weed is legal in Amsterdam. You buy it at these coffeeshops that are all over town. Even though it is legal there, they still can't completely sell it openly. So you have to go into one of these shops, say the code phrase, "Can I see your menu?" Then point to what you want to buy. On the menu is all the different weed options and amounts. They even sell weed brownies! They were actually quite tasty......haha.....just kidding. We didn't try any. :)
But we sure did breath a lot of it, not on purpose. Seriously, everywhere you walked, you could smell weed being smoked. It was everywhere. In London, you have the constant smell of cigarettes, well in Amsterdam it is weed, with only a hint of cigarette smoke. I am surprised we didn't get high just walking around there with all the weed that we inhaled! So these coffeeshops probably do sell coffee, but it is likely that when you go there, you have a much greater purpose in mind than to just buy a cup of coffee. Crazy huh?
Well enough with the prostitution and the smoking weed stuff......lets get on to the more wholesome part of Amsterdam! :) It actually is a very beautiful city!
We had the best breakfast that we have had yet in Europe. We just happened to stumble up on this little place too. So good. Here is Nate and I before we dove in....
What made it the best breakfast you ask? Well, the jams probably. They had homemade passion fruit, raspberry, and pear ginger jams. We at this on fresh cranberry scones, croissants, rye raisin, and sourdough bread. We also had an amazing tomato zucchini quiche as well as yogurt with granola. And the hot chocolate.....wow. So good. It came out with the chocolate chunks and the hot milk separated and you had to stir it together yourself. So yummy.
Here was my favorite part of the whole weekend. Something that I have been dieing to go to ever since I was young......
They have bought the house next door to Anne's house and turned it into a museum. Then the office where Anne's Dad worked and owned was there and the secret annex was hidden up on the top levels. We went through the museum and explored through the secret annex. The most interesting part was seeing the bookcase that sat against the wall and was the secret doorway. They would move the bookcase forward like a door, and then go through to their hideaway. No one knew they were up there except for the few people that agreed to help them. They lived there for 2 years until someone told on them and turned them in. To this day it remains a mystery on who told. If they could have just hidden for 1 month longer, they would have been freed. But they were captured and taken to different concentration camps and everyone died except for Anne's dad. He lived to the age of 91.
Throughout the house and museum, they had quotes printed up on the walls from here diary. It was so touching to read them and then to be right there where it all happened. They weren't allowed to open the blinds to the windows, not even an inch. They had to wait and flush the toilets or run the water until a certain time of the night that they thought no one would hear. Then had to constantly walk in a tip-toe and speak in a whisper. People would bring them food, magazines, and news from the outside world. Anne decided to make her room seem more lively and beautiful by cutting out pictures from the magazines and pasting them all over her walls. They are still there today. There is also a wall there with the markings of Anne and Margot's heights in pencil as they grew and changed over the 2 years that they were there. I can't imagine 8 people crammed up in that small apartment for 2 years. Fascinating! I can't wait to read her diary again!
Doesn't this look good? Well, it was. It is Dutch apple pie which is suiting for the country that we were in. This place, "Winkel 43," is famous for their apple pie. It was more of a deep dish apple cobbler than a pie. Kinda like a Dutch oven cobbler.....which is probably where they get that name from.
The Pancake Bakery. Of course while we were there, we wanted to try Dutch pancakes. There are pancake shops all over. So I was thinking they would be like the puffy egg-like Dutch Babies, sometimes called Swedish Pancakes. But the waitress hadn't ever heard of that. Their Dutch pancakes are a bit like a crepe but thicker. For dessert, we had a traditional Dutch dish called profiteroles, which are like a cross between ebelskivers and American pancakes. Everything was excellent.
Aren't the canals beautiful at night? I love how they turn on the lights to line the tunnels. Also, notice the lights from all the bike wheels that are parked around the edge of the road. Amsterdam is a bike land! Everyone bikes there and there are bikes everywhere. We almost got ran over a few times by some serious bikers.
A fun part of our trip was the Raypenaer Cheese Tasting session. Raypenaer is a famous cheese making company that has been around for 100 years. They still make cheese the old fashioned way. They offer cheese tasting classes where you sample different cheeses and learn about them and how they are made. As you cut the different cheese, you first smell them, and then taste them. They gave us a sheet to document our thoughts and describe the taste, smell, texture, color, age, etc. Then they gave us a certificates as official cheese tasters! :) Funny, but super good. Wine was also offered with the cheese, and we were the only ones who didn't partake. Some say the cheese tastes different with wine and that you eat them together to get these special unique flavors to come out. People would say that with the wine, the cheese would taste like vanilla and chocolate......is that really true? Seems unlikely. But we still had fun with just our plain cheese.
There is a authentic pizza place there called, "La Perla," that we decided to try. They ship in all their ingredients from Naples, Italy. It was dang good and so fresh. They bake it right there in front of you in a huge wooden over. Yum! We finally got our "real" pizza from Italy instead of the bruschetta that I talked about in my Italy post.....
After dinner, we hopped back onto the Megabus and got ready for the long drive back. It was a very long drive, but worth the price yet again. We were so glad that we got to visit Amsterdam.....a unique charming, yet evil but fascinating city that I will never forget. :)
Let me know your thoughts about this place! I am dieing to know.