Skip to content

Amsterdam, Angst and Dan Part 2: Surprises

December 27, 2012

The driver that was hired to take us to the hotel was late, so we got plenty of time to stand around and do nothing. From just about as soon as we landed I was being tested. I had no idea where I was, what to expect, what our driver would look like. He eventually showed up and led us outside, and within seconds we were being herded into someone else’s taxi, which I walked toward assuming it was the driver’s taxi waiting for us because its door was open. The driver thankfully came back from his marching to his car to redirect us, and explained some taxi drivers did that to tourists so they could charge them loads of money. Great, seconds out of the airport and I’m already looking out for scams. It wasn’t to be the last, but I think only three other people bothered us (though one of them twice in the same day.)

About fifteen or twenty minutes later we were at the Hotel Slotania, situated in sunny Slotermeerlan (which I would refer to as Slaughter Meerkat as a mnemonic) which was conveniently situated opposite an Aldi store. When we got there it was fairly late though, so we were directed by the driver to the night shop just up the street, where I bought two bottles of water (sourced in Canada!) for 5 euros. Just when I thought I was done being scammed for the night, but whatever, I’d been warned against drinking the water and wasn’t about to take chances. The hotel had a gorgeous wooden lobby with huge pillars made of polished wood, or marble, it was difficult to tell. Off to one side is the kitchen, and to the other a bar called the Dutch Oven (which I’m told refers to heating a drink inside a barrel of hot water until the alcohol evaporates, then lifting the lid and inhaling the alcohol vapours, and not farting in bed and holding the duvet over your partner’s head!), next to an imposing staircase of solid wood, which has two pillars with Lion Dogs at the bottom, because the owner of the hotel is Chinese. Each one was carved in one piece with a ball in its mouth which balances on its tongue. Apparently if there’s an earthquake the ball will roll off, and depending which direction it rolls will indicate which direction the earthquake is coming from. Nifty idea.)

My brother bought a few things to drink for himself, then went out for a walk, leaving me alone. In the entire day I’d eaten a six-inch sub roll and a cookie, and had a 500ml bottle of water to drink. I was badly dehydrated and post-anxiety. I was pretty worn out and very hungry. Conveniently, two doors down from the hotel was a fast food place. I Forget what the chain is called, but it has the option of simply paying at a vending machine-type affair. I only had notes on me though so went to the counter, where luckily they spoke English. I grabbed myself a burger and chips and a bottle of diet coke, and went back to the hotel to devour it like a starving man. My brother got back not long afterward and went to the same place for his supper, and then we called it a day.

We woke early and ambled down to grab breakfast, which was dire. The eggs were green which frankly put me off eating anything else there. I think I had a little salad and a coffee. Then we caught a bus into Amsterdam and the adventure really began.

I don’t like feeling lost. I feel very uncomfortable not knowing my way around, where to eat, where toilets are, how to get to something worth seeing, so I had to trust my brother to know where we were, as he’d been there before. My guts were unhappy with anxiety but I was mostly ok, only uncomfortable at being lost. We walked through the city and I did the touristy thing of photographing freaking everything. It was weird to see a church of scientology and an Apple store. I didn’t see a library, but there were plenty of touristy shops. It seemed every fifth shop sold souvenirs, and always the same things: mini clog keyrings; shot glasses with windmills on; mass produced little metal pipes to smoke weed in. It was a constant reminder that this wasn’t somewhere people went to live, it was just a tourist trap, and that made me feel sad and conformist. I’d come here to face my demons and expand my horizons, but I felt like just another punter. That said, the place was beautiful, not a scrap of litter anywhere to be seen (in three days I picked up a carrier bag off the floor, that was all I saw!), it was a sunny but cool day, and the energy was very positive.

After a couple of canals, I thought it would be nice to get a picture of me doing tai chi with the canal as a backdrop. That picture remains my favourite of the trip and has become my profile picture on several sites since. I’ll get round to putting that picture in tomorrow when I’m less tired, as well as other appropriate pictures.

At some point someone walked past me whispering offers of cocaine. That was surreal. I’ve only known the people around me at home to smoke weed, one idiot did solvents, but that was about it. Cocaine always struck me as something that happened far away from me, but here I was being offered some in the street, in full daylight. That left me shaking. My brother went into a coffee shop and I went into an Irish bar opposite. I was hovering in the doorway trying to gauge the kind of place it was, the bright daylight making the interior seem dark and broody, when a guy came out and merrily told me to go on in and join the party. I liked him immediately. I went in and ordered an Irish coffee because I’d never had one before, and with my wallet three and a half euros lighter, I sat down in the corner. The Pogues were blasting from hidden speakers and I loved it. I took a sip of coffee and did that thing that people who aren’t used to drinking do, where you try really hard not to have a coughing fit and look like it tastes amazing. I found myself grateful for the darkness of the place.

My brother came back as I was nearing the bottom of my cup, so I let him finish it. Well worth the money, that was, had a lovely kick to it. On the way out, the man who had welcomed me in shook my hand and I told him it was good to meet him, because it was. I thanked the pretty lady behind the bar and told them I’d stop by again someday. I felt a little sad to be leaving, that guy seemed like such a decent bloke, and despite the moody lighting the place was very welcoming and positive, but I know what I’m like, my social anxiety would kick in if I stuck around long enough to get chatty, and it’d stop being fun. I thought it better to leave while I was enjoying myself, and hold on to a positive memory.

We walked a lot. We found our way to Dam Square, a huge place with beautiful architecture. There was a man there doing contact juggling, with a flaming ball. It looked awesome. He gave his name but I don’t remember it. He sounded British, so I’d be interested if he shows up in Cardiff someday doing the same thing. I felt bad that I only had thirty cents to put in his hat, but it was that or a ten euro note, and his act wasn’t THAT good. At the far end of the square were some horses and carts. I danced Gangnam Style next to them, because why not?

There’s a class in Cardiff I’ve been meaning to go to for years, that teaches capoeira. I’ve never seen it in person, but I was about to. I heard some music coming from just around the corner of a building. I don’t remember what I thought it was, but I wanted to see it quite badly. When I found a group of capoeiristas doing their thing, I felt such a plunge of regret in my chest. I was feeling very positive and adventurous, I suppose, and I knew that had I gone to that class in Cardiff and known enough capoeira, I would have handed my bag to my brother, and run up and joined in with them (the rules of the “dance” are that anyone can “tag in” if one of the people agree to leave, so I would have been welcome.) They spoke no English, but they put on a little demo for me. I felt bad I had no change to give them, and when one did a handstand spin and his phone fell out of his pocket and flew apart, I felt terrible. He’d put it on for me and I didn’t even give him a donation.

Not far from Dam Square we found the Erotica Museum. It only cost about four euros fifty to get in. It was more funny than interesting, but then sex usually is, to me. You have to admire the creative lengths people have gone to through history to pleasure themselves and each other, though. There was a section done out to mimic the red light district, all dark doorways and cobbled floors with windows around with various displays going on. As I passed a dark alcove, out of the corner of my eyes I saw arms outstretched, reaching for me. I pivoted, and with one hand gently parried the outside arm away from me and with the other readied to strike the face. As I engaged my hips for more force, I realised it was just a dummy of a naked fat ugly woman, and proceeded to feel somewhat foolish.

I guess I was jumpy and on edge being in a strange unfamiliar place. As it got dark we took a stroll through the red light district and I’ve scarcely been so uncomfortable and creeped out in my life. It was like a human zoo, it made me feel sick. Then the path narrowed to less than a metre wide, with two lane foot traffic, so we had to walk sideways to pass by people. As we emerged there was a window immediately on my right, and the change of light and colour from plain wall to red glow made me turn my head, and there was a face a few inches away from mine, and I almost punched it. Lucky I’m not so willing to eat people, all I did was flinch. I’ll never go down there again, it was utterly abhorrant to me. Though on the way out I did pass a hemp shop so I bought myself a couple of hemp bracelets.

I was starting to feel increasingly ill and nauseous, neither of us had eaten since breakfast, or had anything to drink, we’d spent about five hours walking around. We grabbed some subways and then got the tram back to the hotel. where walking past the coffee shops took its toll on me, and I spent a night of extremely fitful sleep trying to ignore the voices I could hear amid the white noise app on my phone that I listen to to sleep. I don’t know why people mess with their brains like that deliberately, I found it surreal and disorienting, and extremely uncomfortable.

Who would have thought that marijuana would ruin an otherwise enjoyable trip to Amsterdam?

Advertisements

From → Empowerment, Personal

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: