On my last day in Amsterdam I fell “victim” once again to a certain trend in Europe—the trend of stores being closed on Sundays. Now, I’ve frequently heard that the United States is a lot more “religious” and “conservative” than the “liberal” and “progressive” ole European Union. But in the U.S., save maybe some small towns, you will NEVER find stores closed on Sundays! Of course, the closures might have more to do with shorter work weeks than reverence of the Sabbath Day, since Europeans aren’t workaholics like Americans are, I’m really not sure. The real point of this is not their reasons for being closed on Sundays, it’s that I always forget that stores might actually be closed for an entire day (oh the nerve!) and find myself expecting to shop and instead wandering around the streets of Europe quite aimlessly.
That’s exactly what happened Sunday in Amsterdam. I heard about a shoe store that only carried large sizes, so Alexander and I grabbed a cab to head over there. As we were on our way I started realizing that most of the shops were closed, and I glanced at the brochure… sure enough the shoe store was closed. So I had the cab driver drop us off near the flower market (in the city center) where stores were open. It was a beautiful day in Amsterdam—less cold than the day before, sunny and for the most part cloudless. I was very excited to be outside in the SUN after our rainy, cold day before. (Plus, as you know, I’m pretty obsessive about taking pictures and rainy/grey/gloomy days don’t make for the best photo ops when you’re in a city). The thing that made Sunday so amazing was really just the weather—it made for great photo ops and made it much more enjoyable to stroll around the city.
We got breakfast at a cute little café. I’ve had this really bad habit of eating really, really badly while out and about in Europe. I’m pretty much croissant-and-pain-au-chocolat-ed out at this point, but I’ve probably eaten enough of them to feed an army at this point. They pretty much have a kajillion calories and even more grams of fat in each one… but they are just so delicious! I always find myself losing weight while I’m in London walking all of the time and being super busy with school, and then I gain it all back and then some on the weekends while I’m traveling. So much for all that weight I planned to lose while in London 😉
Anyway, the breakfast was delicious. From there we walked to Dam Square which is apparently where Amsterdam began. Basically, someone put up a dam to block the water and BAM, a city was made. Somewhat like New Orleans (I think?), Amsterdam is built on marsh land. I’m pretty sure that the major train station is built on a giant pile of wood that is submersed in water. Apparently as long as the foundation stays below water, it’s ok. But if the foundation gets above water, it causes the foundation to warp and makes any buildings built on the water tilt. Before I learned that fun fact, I had noticed that a lot of the buildings looked kind of slanted forward around Amsterdam. I guess that’s from air exposure in the foundations of those buildings. Crazy!
Another thing I didn’t know about Amsterdam is that it has lots of canals. Sadly, I have not been able to make it to Italy at all yet (and won’t while I live here… I’ll have to come back!) so I haven’t experienced Venice yet, but I felt like Amsterdam gave me a similar canal-city experience. Alexander and I decided to take a canal tour for 10 euros each, and it was amazing! We had a really funny tour guide, and with the exception of smacking my head repeatedly on the roof of the boat it was a really fun experience (I was wearing a hat that day, and my ears have been pretty plugged up for awhile so my sense of balance and distance really sucks right now! Ow!). This was my second canal tour while in Europe (I went on one in Strasbourg too), but I think I might have loved this one even more. Amsterdam is seriously such a pretty city. It’s definitely a place I hope to visit again in the future. Apparently while I was in the bathroom, we passed some really messed up homes where the foundations had shifted, and they call them “drunken houses” or something like that, at least that’s what the tour guide said 😉 But people still live in them anyway!
After the canal tour, we went back to the Wok place we’d had lunch the day before because Alexander hadn’t been able to try it, and then we went across the street to an Australian Ice Cream place to get some ice cream. After that, the clouds had returned and it had started to sprinkle at that point, so we headed to our hotel to pick up our luggage and make our way to the airport. As it turned out, our flight home was delayed by about 3 hours, but it wasn’t too bad hanging out in the airport 🙂 I did, however, realize that I was pretty tired of traveling at that point and would just like to stay home and not travel for awhile.
I don’t remember if I mentioned this already, but bikes are extremely popular in Holland. There are people on bikes everywhere. Whenever you come out of a shop or anything, there are so many bikes just “parked” there on the sidewalk, not even locked up to anything. (Apparently there is also a major bike theft problem in Holland… but your bike gets stolen and then you just go to the market and buy another cheap one which is most likely one that was stolen from someone else… I guess that’s just the way it goes!). Also, bikes have the right-of-way just like cars do. And then they’ve got the train/tram things similar to the MAX that occasionally come through the middle of the walkways too so essentially you’re dodging cars, bikes, and trains all day. As much I hate getting stuck waiting in my car while a slow pedestrian meanders across the street in the U.S., I’m excited to (1) be the person in the car again so I’ll feel safer on the road; and (2) have the right-of-way again in the event that I’m a pedestrian. I swear to you it’s like people in cars TRY to hit pedestrians here. It’s nice being able to walk everywhere (when it’s not raining) but the whole nearly-getting-killed on a regular basis thing gets kind of old 😉
For the rest of the photos from my final day in Amsterdam, click here!