The road to Rotterdam began with an early morning rise and a plane to Amsterdam, the capital city of canals that’s infamous for it’s red light district and legal marijuana. By the time I had snaked around the endless airport, taken the tourist photo in front of the I amsterdam sign (the small one at the airport) and had miraculously wandered onto the correct train I figured I had a good few hours to explore this world known city and to get a glimpse at what all the fuss was about.
From the second I stepped out of the station I must have looked completely lost because a tourist information lady came up to me and asked me how she could help me. I, slightly befuddled and confused, simply asked which way the city was. She pointed towards some buildings and simply said “go that way”, and so I simply went ‘that way’. Where I was just in transit, I had with me my 20kg backpack and my guitar and had nowhere I could leave it, so began to explore the historic streets with all of my travelling possessions. I felt my stomach grumble, and realised it was also lunchtime.
I found myself on the main shopping street and immediately decided I wanted to be somewhere else, so dived into the nearest alley that could accomodate my big backpack and I and re-emerged somewhere a bit quieter by a canal. The next hour consisted of me waddling around, trying not to look like I was dying from crippling back problems, feeling my stomach consume itself, and wondering if I would ever find my way back to the main station to catch a train to Rotterdam later. I felt dazed and confused, surrounded by flashing neon lights, glass bongs and British “lads on tour”. The smell of marijuana and the British accent seemed to follow me down every alley and little street like the shadows creeping across the wall at night, and all I wanted was that elusive sandwich.
The first real canal I saw was beautiful and awesome, so I stopped, (still hungry) swaying slightly and feeling unbalanced, on a bridge to take a photo. The second canal was also pretty, so I stopped, (slightly more hungry) nearly let my backpack drag me to the ground, and took another photo. The next canal was kinda cool, so I took another photo. About six million and twelve canals later (and now starving), I had decided I had seen enough canals and that I was quite lost. What’s more, I was hangry as a fat kid dribbling on the cake shop window.
I looked at a few menus on the walls and tried to find a place that wasn’t too touristy but still reasonably priced and I struggled. My stomach continued to try to consume food using my eyes and growled at me when it realised that it was impossible. I felt my bag grow heavier and heavier with every step, and felt the eyes of a thousand Dutchies judging me for crowding their tiny historic streets with my international obliviousness and giant luggage and started to panic. The buildings started looking too commercial again so I took another side turn down the side of a large canal before capitalism could consume me and walked past a spray painted sign, which made me double back. It told of great eatings to be enjoyed at the end of a conspicuous alleyway, and while my wallet said ‘no’, my inner hipster-foodie screamed ‘yes’ so I measuredly followed the signs through what felt like an abandoned car park with stylistic graffiti, into a dodgy elevator and up a few floors. When the doors opened, I realised I was out of my depth. The restaurant before me was very sleek, modern, contemporary and of a fine dining nature and I was there, unshowered, cheaply attired and with a huge backpack and guitar. I panicked and, instead of darting for the door, asked if I could sit down for a sandwich. They responded “certainly” and timidly led me over to the third floor window looking out over the city. I had to move my backpack a few times for the two people behind me to be able to sit down but they were very polite about it, despite the fact they were dressed in very formal attire and obviously there for a business meeting and there I was, smelling of airports and poverty.
My spicy chicken sandwich arrived and was, in fact, not a sandwich at all, but a huge mound of intricately prepared salad atop some toasted brown bread, decorated with puddles of mango sorbet, and my stomach celebrated barely allowing me to sample a single flavour before the entire dish before me was devoured and ceased to exist. It was beautiful, it was fantastic, and unfortunately it was gone. I paid, more than I was initially anticipating (but then again, the menu had also teased me with local witbier so really I had no chance), threw on my backpack in front of the entire restaurant’s disapproving glares, thanked the waitress and waddled back out the doors I came in. I was then out on the street, still lost, and remembering just how painful that fucking thing is to lug around for extended periods of time.
I took some more photos of canals and made my way towards where I figured the train station would be. I fell asleep on the train and awoke in a place with a completely unpronounceable name and continued on to Rotterdam where my friend Janneke looked after me and showed me around her strange but homely city. I’m sure I will have a lot to say about that in another post.
In my diminished and uneducated opinion, I don’t understand why Amsterdam is so fantastic. It’s cute and historic but it’s also swarming with tourists, rather expensive, dripping with marijuana and essentially, just another city. I didn’t hate it at all, I just don’t understand why everybody thinks it’s the best place in the world. I probably need a prolonged experience to really find my place there, but until then, I am going to rate it a solid six poffertjes which I will leave up to your interpretation. Lunch was fantastic though, and deserves at least eight and a half poffertjes with an extra splodge of butter. The pop up restaurant is called ‘Baut’ (which doesn’t look to have an English translation after a quick google translate session) which fully deserves a hearty nibble at, if it wasn’t all a secondhand weed induced dream.
– Tom @ indieroad