Interrail 2015 – Amsterdam

This was to be my second time in Amsterdam. I set my self one goal for this trip, and that was not to repeat the same mistake as last time, i.e. falling in the canal.

Wednesday, August 19th

Amsterdam was the first stop of our journey. You can’t in good sense start a trip around Europe without a bit of relaxing in the ‘Dam first! It made sense as we could take a flight straight from Bristol to Schiphol airport. Easy we thought! It should have been, had EasyJet not delayed our flight by a good 3½ hours that afternoon. It was an annoying start to the holiday and one which ate into our first evening in Amsterdam, but in hindsight it was a God send. Flights delayed over 3 hours entitles the ticket holder to 250 euros compensation, which, now our trip is over, our banks are very grateful for. Nice one EasyJet.

Getting into the centre of Amsterdam from the airport is a piece of cake. You can catch a train from Schiphol to Central station direct which takes about 20 minutes. The ticket was pretty steep at roughly €5, however depending on the time and how much you like to flirt with danger, you could probably get away without buying one as there was not a ticket inspector in sight. One thing we found all across Europe is that paying for public transport seems to be optional. Unlike the UK where transport is privatised, most of Europe enjoy public transport ran by the state, making it efficient and much less costly. We did see the odd person buying or validating a ticket, but the majority seemed to hop on and off without batting an eye lid. Something to consider when travelling on a budget. Another thing to bare in mind when using an Interrail pass is that each travel day you use entitles you to free transport on things like metros and trams as well, so you can be extra covered in case the ticket inspector comes a knockin’.

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Central Station

Once in the centre we took the number 2 tram out towards Museumplein (the museum  quarter, which is where our Hostel was situated. We stayed in Inner Amsterdam hostel. We chose this place mainly for its location; the Museum Quarter is a great spot if you want to be close to the centre but still have big open spaces to relax in. The Museum Quarter is where the famous ‘I Amsterdam’ sign is. Surrounding that area is the Van Gough and the Stedelijk Museum, as well as the concert hall on the other side. In the middle is a large park space which is perfect for lunch or a few beers in the evening.

The location is the only thing Inner Amsterdam had going for it. Read my Trip Advisor review here. 

Despite our late arrival into Amsterdam we were determined to make the most of the night. We dumped our stuff and headed North East into Leidseplein where we found a jazz bar called Café Alto. Here there was a 4 piece band on stage headed up by a wicked female vocalist. We were too fatigued (and sober) to get up and dance so instead we admired from our seats clutching our €6.50 pint of Amstel (I know..) After almost reaching our daily budget from one drink we decided to head elsewhere in search of cheaper drinks. The street we were on didn’t really offer many alternatives to night clubs and so we went for a sports bar at the top of the road where prices were marginally less soul destroying. Wednesday night wasn’t a big one, we decided to call it early so we could be totally refreshed for our first full day.

Thursday, August 20th

We awoke to the sound of Jamie moaning about the several bed bug bites he’d been bless with in the night thanks to the high standards of hygiene that Inner Amsterdam provide.For breakfast we headed over to Albert Heijn, the local supermarket which was cool simply for the fact it was underground. We went for the standard go-to meal when you’re travelling: a baguette filled with cheap ham and shit cheese. It may not be glamorous but it fills a hole. We enjoyed our picnic on the adjacent park whilst watching the world go by and laughing at the unfortunate souls heading to work.

It didn’t take more than 10 minutes walking towards the Red Light District before Jamie got mugged off by a local. This man overheard our conversation about the Heineken Museum and offered us some ‘advice’ that we hadn’t really asked for. In return he was asking for some change. Whilst Martin and I were able to look past his endearing smile, Jamie caved in and grabbed the first coin out of his pocket he could, a €2 coin. Peak

You know you’ve arrived in the RLD when on the same street you can buy both delicious Dutch pastries and toilet brush gimp suit attachments. We perused some of the local wares but decided we weren’t in the market for any butt plugs or sex dolls at that moment in time. One thing that did catch my eye was the sneaky little Dominoes Pizza squeezed in between a head shop and a cafe where you could buy BY THE SLICE. Genius. Take note Dominoes UK. Anyway. We strolled about for a while whilst childishly pointing out every prostitute we saw as if in some kind of real life Where’s Wally? book (if Wally was a sex worker heavily clad in make up and illuminated by UV lights.) After our eyes tired of canals and fleshlights we decided it was time to find a coffee shop. Weirdly enough you seem to see coffee shops all over the place when you’re not after one, but as soon as you’re in need, they’re mega scarce. We found one on the main drag of the RLD playing Dre’s The Chronic and jumped in.

We emerged 45 minutes later from the dimly lit coffee shop to be met by the blinding light of the mid day sun and the overwhelming hustle and bustle of tourists. We opted to go on the hunt for a park where we could laze about with a bit of peace and quiet. The little spot we found was a true gem and I urge anyone looking for a good sit down to come here. It was a small verge on the bank of the canal on the opposite side to the Heineken Brewery. A large old willow tree gave us the option of shade should we have needed it. We must have sat for a good two hours just watching all the different boats float past. Definitely come to this spot. If it was on Trip Advisor I would give it 5 stars.

After all that sitting around doing sweet F.A, we thought it best to go find a museum (or something.) We headed back towards the Museum Quarter and tried to visit the Rijksmuseum, however we quickly ascertained it was in fact not free and so instead opted for another beer and a sit down, this time in the gardens that it overlooked.

Next on the agenda was another park (can you tell we like parks?) This time it was the turn of Amsterdam’s signature park: Vondel. This was a high point of the day as we watched an absolute dude performing huge manuals on his skateboard, all whilst some other guy was blasting out psytrance from his mini rig.

if you’re getting sick of reading this post, let me help you out: TL;DR – we spent all day enjoying the different parks and foliage that Amsterdam has to offer. 

We headed back to Albert Heijn and bought caesar salads to be enjoyed as the sun went down. Continuing the Dutch bug’s vendetta on Jamie, a wasp jabbed him on the lip. Whilst he sat there writhing in pain Martin and I went off in search of a toilet. We found the WC used by the underground car park and had to sadly fork over €1 each for the privilege of emptying our bladders. Regardless, we both agreed the experience made it into our top ten pisses of the holiday.

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As night-time approached we decided it was time to stop being sober. We signed up for a bar crawl in the hope of cheaper beer and meeting some fellow travellers. We downed a few Grolsch and made our way to the starting point.

The bar crawl was ok. Nothing special, very tailored to visitors and a bit too much chanting and shouting for my liking. Never the less we had a good time and met a group of 3 girls who ended up becoming our travel companions in several other cities on our trip (big up Alex, Anna and Gina!) Ironically on the bar crawl I ended up going to 2 of the same places that my mates and I visited back in 2012…. It got to the final ‘club’ of the night, and after getting down to the sound of The Bee Gees we decided to call it a night. Not without first making a stop at the ‘I Amsterdam’ sign for some obligatory drunk climbing.

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Friday, August 21st

We had planned for an early rise to get in a full days worth of park-sitting, however due to the previous night we were out of action till about 1pm. Once we finally found the energy to make a move, we headed in the general direction of Central Station in order to reserve our seats to Berlin the next day. On our way we stopped off at New York Pizza and had a nutritious 2 slices for breakfast. We sat in Rembrandt square, named after Rembrandt van Rijn the famous artist. Here we regained our energy and our mind states whilst fending off scatty pigeons who were up to no good trying to steal our precious pizza.

Once we arrived at the station our Interrail started to feel real. We found the international ticket office and reserved 3 seats to Berlin. This is an easy and cheap process and assures that you don’t spend your journey stood between carts enjoying the unsatisfactory aroma of the train toilets. I think it was about €9 per person.

Having done our ‘work’ for the day we decide to head North side of the station to get a better view of the river IJ. Conveniently for us there was some sort of sailors parade taking place so there was plenty to look at. We were met by an array of different organisations marching through the street, banging drums and chanting incoherently. For the first time since we’d been in Amsterdam the foot was mightier than the bike wheel. Turns out it was SAIL Amsterdam, SAIL Amsterdam is a quinquennial maritime event where tall ships from all over the world visit the city to moor in its eastern harbour. I don’t know the first thing about boats but have to admit it was a pretty cool site seeing hundreds of boats storm the river.

On the way back to the hostel we made another stop in our favourite spot for some lunch and a smoke. As we sat there I got way too excited about the amount of dogs on boats there were sailing past. Here are a few of the best.

A short walk away was COCOMAMA, the hostel my mates and I stayed 3½  years ago. I can’t stress how great that place is. A little pricier than most hostels but definitely a cut above. Obviously this is based on our experience when we visited all that time ago, but if it has stayed the same then hit it up.

Outside COCOMAMA in February 2012
Outside COCOMAMA in February 2012

Outside COCMAMA in August 2015
Outside COCMAMA in August 2015

We had a train to catch early Saturday morning, so we decided to take it easy and have a few beers in the park. We bought another crate of Grolsch and found a temporary spot whilst we waited for some locals to abandon their loungers. I’m not sure where these magical loungers were coming from, but they were scattered around the park free to use to the public. It does make you appreciate the trust that the council and the public must share. If free to use seating was a thing in the UK, you just know that within a few weeks of them being put out, most of the chairs would have been relocated to Uni flats or left in the middle of the road. Fair play Netherlands. The girls arrived and we spent the evening drinking and again playing on the ‘I Amsterdam sign.’ A much cheaper night in contrast to before.

That pretty much sums it up for Amsterdam. Whilst we didn’t visit any major museums or go on any tours, I feel like between the three of us we managed to get a good feel for the city. Who needs to pay a tour guide €12 to be told a load of history that you’re inevitably going to forget 4 hours later? Wandering around and ‘taking it all in’ worked just fine for us.

Till next time,

G x

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