Breda: Wednesday

When I first arrived in Amsterdam on Saturday morning I immediately bought a train ticket to the Amsterdam Central Station, which is where all the fun starts. It was the first thing I purchased in Europe. I put my card in the machine as it requested and then removed it, because it seemed to be that kind of machine. I put in my pin code and after a few seconds… was denied. I tried again, and tried again. Denied, denied. “Oh!” I thought to myself. “I’m in Europe with 80 euros in my pocket and I can’t get any more money or buy anything. Perhaps I’ll cut my wrists!”

Panicking, I ran down to the nearest ATM and easily pulled out a fat pile of euros. So I went meekly back to the train machine and tried again. This time I noticed it wasn’t really indicating I should pull my card out, so I left it in, bought my ticket and was on my way.

That’s one example of a dumb tourist thing I’ve done.

Another, which is more applicable to this evening’s festivities is that the ticket I bought for that train was 1st class. I could have chosen 2nd class but I had no idea what that meant. Would I be riding with sheep? Cows? Would I have my kidneys stolen if I fell asleep? So I bought the 1st class ticket and hopped on the train when it arrived. I didn’t realize until after I had gotten on that the train cars were labeled 1 and 2 on the outside. I was in the 2 train. Turns out the only difference is that the seats are a bit more comfy, and the 2nd class seats are in the top of the train where the 1st class ones are in the bottom. Whatever.

What the hell does that have to do with anything? I’ll get to that.

Today was another work day. Once I got ready I went down to the hotel lobby for breakfast. They had a pretty standard assortment. I’ve been having cereal for breakfast a lot, so I poured some into a bowl and hit the milk tap. No milk. Well, there was a pitcher of buttermilk sitting there so I said what the hell, buttermilk. I’ve never had buttermilk. Oh God, please let me never have buttermilk again. I’m pretty sure someone left their yeast infection in it.

Jeroen picked Anjali and I up and we headed to work. Then we worked. Yea.

Dinner was Indonesian with Heinreke and Kees. It was great. I’d never had Indonesian before so I let them order. We got this thing called a rice table where they put these candle powered heaters on the table and brought out about 20 small dishes of different types of food, and three types of rice. I had all kinds of good stuff. Beef, chicken and something curry. Maybe lamb. Fried bananas, some kind of sweet, fried weird little crunchy things that I probably wouldn’t have eaten if I knew what it was, lots of rice, crunchy bread with peanut sauce. Yum.

Something that surprised me was that Kees ordered a beer. That’s it, just a beer. Not Heineken, or Duvel, or Miller Light. He said “I’d like beer.” and they brought him the house beer, which was Jupiler. Aparently that’s common in Europe, so that’ll come in handy when I don’t know what to order.

After dinner they walked me back to my hotel and were off. I came upstairs and started trying to decide what to do tomorrow but got sick of trying to navigate the train sites so I took a walk to the train station. I’ve gotten to know the ticket machine pretty well. We’re tight. So I walked about 15 minutes to the train station and browsed tickets there. You remember all that talk about 1st and 2nd class. Here’s why! The ticket I decided on for tomorrow, which is to Brussels via Rosendaal is EU 12 for 2nd class or EU 27 for 1st class. That’s a $987 difference! (Have I worn that joke out yet?)
So, since the seat seemed to be fine and I arrived previously with my kidney’s, I’m going 2nd class baby.

And that’s basically it for Breda and The Netherlands. Tomorrow I work until noon and then try to find my way to Brussels, Belgium. There I hope to visit at least one brewery, but if not I’ll at least go to the beer museums and try some Belgian beers.

I posted a few pictures of downtown Breda to Flickr. It’s very much like Amsterdam but much more quiet. The park is beautiful and people really use it. There were groups of people just hanging out, chatting, making out and just generally being out on a nice day.

Goodnight, talk to you soon!

Breda: Tuesday

It’s time for a whole new numbering scheme!

Last night I had a nice, quiet night in my awesome hotel in Schipol. At Schipol? I don’t know if it’s a city or just the name of the airport. I was starving and originally outraged at the price of room service until I ate. I didn’t expect to eat the best burger and apple pie of my life in Holland. Mmmm…

Uneventful night. The hotel is in the middle of nowhere so my only option was to sit in and watch porn. I mean sleep. Sleeping is what I did. The reciept reflects that! I did have a nice long shower, wash my socks in the sink, steam and iron some shirts and just generally lounge around.

This morning I got up super early and took the shuttle back to the airport to meet Anjali (my boss) and head for Breda, where I’ll be working for the next few days. We had a driver take us to Breda, which is about 95km from the airport. The driver had this really badass GPS / road information thing that told him when he could pass people on the shoulder and all kinds of other shit. Very efficient. I also got to see a few “real” Dutch windmills and lots of sheep on the way. Very authentic.

When we arrived in Breda we went straight to work, had a meet and greet and got to work. I met lots of people who I had only talked to on the phone before which was cool. Then my coleague Kees (pronounced Case) and I got down to geeking.

Lunch was interesting. The office has a cafeteria and everyone seems to eat in it. I had orange juice, some fruit salad, a roast beef and cheese sandwich, a little cup of tuna salad and a Kroketten. A bite of Kroketten, really. A Kroketten is a fried thing with some kind of meat paste substance in it. It looks like a really thick mozzarella stick except instead of fatty goodness inside there is… something terrible. Not my thing at all. Also, my roast beef appeared to be raw. Good though.

After lunch we took a long walk around that part of town, which is aparently the normal thing to do after lunch. Can you imagine? Excersize? Weird. Jeroen kept looking back at me to make sure I wasn’t going to croak over with a massive coronary. Not too surprising, I guess, considering I am about as thick as three dutch guys, or 47 dutch girls. Let me tell you something. If you are fat, do not come to Holland. It’s not good for your pride.

Then it was work, work, work till Jeroen took us to check into our hotel. The room is very nice but it has tricks! I couldn’t figure out how to turn on the bathroom light. Jeroen took us out to dinner and walking around town and when we got back Anjali asked me if my room had soap in it. I said I didn’t know cause the light in my bathroom didn’t work. Just as this went down we were walking up to the counter and the gorgeous receptionist giggles. Anjali asked me if I stuck my key card in the slot. I hadn’t, and we all had a real nice laugh at that. Aparently there is a key card slot inside the door. You put it there to use the lights and it’s supposed to remind you to take it with you when you turn out the lights. Stupid fools! I’m American! I haven’t turned off a light since I moved out of my Mom’s house in 1996! Sometimes I turn on EXTRA lights, in the middle of day! Then I sit back and just breath in the dinosaur fumes.

Dinner and walking was very nice. We got to see the whole city center. It’s very much like Amsterdam except with no people, or hookers, or drugs. The roads are all cobblestone, the buildings are small and very old and it feels “European”. We had dinner at a nice little restaurant. I had pork medallions with a pepper cream sauce and some kind of little moist pastry stuff. I think there was corn and onion in it. With the presentation of the food and all I would have considered this a “gourmet” restaurant… until they brought out the giant bucket of french fries. I guess you eat your food and then use the fries to fill in the empty spaces. They were served with a little tray of a bunch of different sauces. I had some kind of sweet and spicy ginger sauce with my fries and it was great.

Now it’s 10:30 and I’m back at the hotel and bored. And there’s no free Internet access. I paid EU 5.95 for 60 minutes and I’ve probably used most of that typing this. So, I’m off! Talk to you tomorrow! If you’d like to see the room I’m staying in tonight check out Flickr. That’s the only pics I took today.

Oh, have you figured out the whole Dutch, Holland, Netherlands thing? The country is The Netherlands but everyone calls it Holland. The people are Dutch and that’s also the language they speak. No one actually calls it The Netherlands. I have no idea why.

Amsterdam: Day Three

I just left Amsterdam and headed for the Schipol airport to check into my hotel for the night. Tonight I get a whole room to myself. I work tomorrow so I have to be presentable for that. I’m staying at the Radisson near the airport which means a nice room and some amenities I’ve not had for a few days. It also means no wild nightlife, but I’ll get back to that in a few days.

This morning I got up super early. I got a lot of sleep yesterday so I woke up at something like 6am. Caught up on some Internetting while waiting for breakfast to open at 7am and had my free hostel breakfast. More of the same.

After breakfast I said goodbye to my good hostel, checked out and headed for town. I was in desperate need of doing some laundry. I rode my bike towards the Central Station looking for laundry and had no luck. So, I headed to the Red Light District, where anything is possible!

First street I turned down I found an automat and got that rolling. Not cheap! EU 3 for the washer, EU 1 for the soap and EU 3 for the dryer. That comes to $217. I did meet a really nice guy from Mexico who’s been travelling Europe as a student for a while and got the low down on some of the places I want to go. Sounds like I am going to want to reserve my rooms in advance, if I can. He got stuck in a really shitty place in Amsterdam cause he didn’t book ahead. He had a lot of other tips too, but I won’t bore you with the things important to an international traveller like myself. (Oh, haha!)

Laundry done I went and returned my bike, then dropped off my backpack in a locker in the station. That thing is heavy as hell. Then it was off to The Rijksmuseum.

I like art, don’t get me wrong, but that one didn’t do it for me. They had quite a few Rembrandts but nothing I actually recognized. I have to admit I just sorta skimmed through. I did notice signs everywhere for stuff I did recognize at the Van Gogh Museum, so I decided to go there too. I walked around the corner and met The Line. I know Amsterdam like the back of my hand though and I don’t do lines. Fuck lines. I hopped a tram down to the info center, got my Van Gogh ticket in 30 seconds, hoped back and walked right past that whole line.

The Van Gogh Museum was much better, for me. Many paintings I recognized and wanted to see. I saw Sunflowers, of course. They also had a Rambrandt vs. Caravaggio mix up thing and that’s where all the “good” Rembrandts were. I don’t know their names but I saw quite a few paintings I’ve seen prints or pictures of my whole life. That was cool. My favorite was “Saint Somebody or the other writing in a book being held open by a skull.”

Then I went to the Sex Museum. The information said I would be shocked and enraged. Yea. Maybe before the Internet. I see shit like that before breakfast. Trannys? Double penetration? ANAL?! Oh god! Shut my eyes! *Sigh*

On the recommdation of some dude I met during the Heineken tour I decided to take a canal tour. They have these squat little boats that take you through all the canals and that was a lot of fun. Got to see the harbor, and parts of the city away from the main area that I had missed. They love them some boats. It was kinda chilly today but that didn’t stop everyone in the city from sitting on their little boat and having a party. I learned that the little fences alone the canals on the sidewalks were put there in the 60s at the cost of 100 Gilders per meter to stop cars from rolling into the canals. They said they still average about 1 car per week taking a dunk.

Not ready to leave yet I decided to head back to my favorite place in the world, the red light district! Saturday and Sunday I thought I had found the red light district. I was wrong. TODAY I really found it. Man, crazy. I found these alleys that I could scrape both walls with just by sticking out my elbows and they were solid hooker windows left and right the whole way. I really wish I could have taken some pics. The quality was also a lot higher. I guess that’s where you have to know to go, or something. I learned, by overhearing, that a blowjob is EU 25 and everything else starts at EU 50.

I also went into a few smoke shops just to say I did. I couldn’t actually figure out how to buy something 🙂 I think you have to at least have a clue to get to that part. I guess it’s all behind the counter.

So, I’m done with Amsterdam. I had a lot of fun. It’s a cool place but I think I would have had a lot more fun if I were travelling with someone I know. I had a hard time meeting people. I am shy enough to begin with; I’ve never been good at just walking up to a group of people and trying to get involved but when they are all speaking a different language it’s even worse. Oh well, I’ll be a tourist this time and plan to come back with friends some day.

I could definitely live in Amsterdam.

Tomrorow I head to Breda for a few days to work then I find a new country to go to. I’ve been leaning towards Brussels and doing beer tours, but I think the Mexican kid convinced me to go to Germany instead. Travel is so plentiful and cheap it’s just awesome. You can just walk into the train station, pick a country and go. So that’s what I’ll do.

More pics are up on Flickr. I also took a lot of videos today but haven’t decided where to put them yet.

More Pics

Just uploaded some pics to Flickr of my hostel room. See how Kings sleep!
I also made a link to my Flickr page on the left side of this page to make it easier to find. I’m heading out for Sunday night partying! 🙂

Amsterdam: Day Two

It’s about 5pm on Sunday in Amsterdam. I did manage to sleep last night, and pretty well. I woke up when my bunk mate came in around 4amish.
Yea, I am totally sleeping in a bunk bed. Did I tell you that before? I was last in the room, so I’m on top. Isn’t that fun? I was like 5 last time I slept in a bunk bed.

Had the hostel’s free breakfast this morning when I finally crawled out of bed around 9:30am. Not bad, really. Toast, ham, cereal, apple juice and some kind of sweet bread.

After that I headed over the Rijksmuseum to try to get an early start on that. The Rijksmuseum is where many classic masterpieces are. Lots of Rembrandt. The line was pretty long so I decided to be sneaky and head to the tourism office where I knew I could get an advance ticket and skip the line. That kind of backfired. The line at the tourism office was longer 🙂

So instead I decided to rent a bike and try to get out of Amsterdam and see the countryside. Granny bike rented I picked a direction (West) and pedaled my ass off. I rode probably 10 miles or so before giving up and turning around. Never got away from civilization.

Once I got back to town I hit the Heineken brewery and did the Heineken Experience, which is their tour. My advice? If you want to get drunk for EU 10, take it. If you care about seeing their brewery, don’t bother. You don’t actually get to see any part of the working brewery. Just mockups. Still, you get 3 beers for EU 10, and for whatever reason I got 5 instead of 3. I met a couple from Austrailia and chatted with them for a while, and a guy from Canada who works for NATO at The Haage (The Hay-ge, not The Hog, I learned). He was able to answer some of the questions I’d come up with and it was a nice chat. He recommended hopping a train if I want to see some countryside.

While pedaling back to the inner city I saw a sign for The Vondelpark and decided to check it out. I’d seen it on my map over and over. It’s a *huge* park right in the middle of the city. I took a nice bike ride through there and discovered something awesome. Amsterdam DOES have fat people! They make them all run in The Vondelpark until they are thin enough to be seen in public. That’s okay though, cause The Vondelpark is also where everyone sunbathes. Nude. Pretty good incentive to lose weight.

I finally ended up at the touist information booth again with no line and picked up an advance ticket for The Rijksmuseum for tomorrow morning, so that’s bright and early. Not sure how I am gonna handle that. I gotta check out of my hostel by 10am so I’ll have my backpack with me. I’m supposed to return my bike at the station at 10:45 so I’m going to see if I can find a locker at the station to put my pack in while I spend my last day in Amsterdam.

Biking is definitely the way to go. I got to see a lot more of the city today in quite a bit less of the time. There are bike paths everywhere, although sometimes they are hard to see and the traffic patterns are hard to follow. On a bike sometimes you are a tram, and sometimes a car, and sometimes a pedestrian and usually a bike. You also have your own set of stoplights.

What else? Someone threw a water balloon at me from a balcony while I was riding past and some lady in the street yelled at them. Probably her kid. They missed me. I also spent like 30 minutes pissed off this morning cause I thought someone stole my toothpaste. Of all things. I have like $3000 (EU 7.50) worth of electronics in my backpack and they steal my toothpaste! Turns out it was stuck behind a panel of my bathroom back. Woops. Glad I didn’t start making accusations 🙂

That’s all for now. I have a “Got drunk at noon and didn’t keep drinking” headache so I’m gonna take a nap so I can be ready to get drunk again this evening. There’s a pub crawl/party thing going on and I might join that. The nice thing about my hostel is that it’s out of the way, so it’s clean and pretty quiet. The bad part is that it’s dead. From what I understand, if you are travelling alone, your hostel bar is a good palce to meet people to hang out with. My hostel bar last night was me and one group of guys playing darts.

There’s more pics on Flickr. Check em out.

Amsterdam: Day One: The End

Yea, I know my number scheme is all fucked up. Anyway, more pics are up. I’m not gonna keep posting a link. Just go to my Flickr page and see what’s new!

After about a 7 hour “nap” this afternoon, I spent the night in the red light district and the Liedseplein which is where all the partying goes on. Plein means “square”. There’s lots of them. My hostel is right across from the Museumplein and the train station is in the Stationplein.

I also walked pretty much all of central Amsterdam and quite a bit of not central Amsterdam. I walked and walked and walked. Hopefully my feet work tomorrow.

There were quite a few more prostitutes in their windows tonight than earlier today. Surprise! So far it’s been pretty much skank, skank, skank. Then I walked past one place and it was pure Plaza supermodel. I assume that was the expensive place.

In general, I feel like everyone here is more beautiful than in Kansas. Everyone is definitely better dressed. I think I was wearing the only t-shirt in Amsterdam today. There are no fat people. None. I’m dead serious and it’s clear why. These people bike their asses off. I will try to get pictures of the bikes tomorrow but I am not exagerating when I say that every single thing you can hook a bike to in this city has 100 bikes hooked to it.
There is also no traffic laws. You can drive anything you want from horse, to scooter (lots of) to motorcycle (few of), up to a large truck in any direction you want and on anything even looks like a street. Including the bike lane and sidewalk.

What else? Everything is expensive as hell. A pint of Guinness was EU 4.90 which is something like $200. Slice of pizza is EU 3.50.
It’s basically like home except their money is worth 60% more than ours.

Food is kinda funny. There is no Dutch food. As far as I can tell these people eat pizza, fries, Chinese, Indonesian and Chinese. The only Dutch food I’ve seen is “Holland Asparagus”

When I was served dinner on the flight I swore I would eat, or at least try, everything put before me during this trip. I’m usually a very picky eater. So that resulted in me eating, so far, green beans, a carrot salad, an egg and cheese biscuit and quite a bit of pineapple. That was on the plane. In Amsterdam so far I’ve had a crusoint (oh, I butchered that word), some apple danish thing and two slices of pizza. Tomorrow I might try that unique Dutch delicasy “General Tso’s Chicken”

Wow, Arianna is a hell of a snorer.

That’s it. I’m off to try to sleep. Tomorrow it’s the Heineken Brewery and the museums. Monday I think I might take the canal cruise and maybe a foot tour. Dunno if I need it tho. I’ve covered a good 75% of the map I was given on foot already.

Goodnight, from Amsterdam.

Continued

Found the Red Light District.

The prostitutes stand behind doors with big glass windows, mostly naked. Usually in bra and panties, but not always that much. If you even glance at them they open the door and start making offers 🙂

Pretty sweet!

Here’s some pictures I snapped today. BTW, you won’t see any pictures from the red light district. I haven’t tried but Jono said they are very, very anti camera there. I don’t want someone to throw my shiny new camara in the canal. You’ll have to be happy with pictures of the diseases I bring home.

I also found the weed district. I was kind of expecting a little less hippy aspect. For some reason I thought it was gonna be like Starbucks with weed; although Starbucks has plenty of hippies. I didn’t expect the tie dye, and silly sayings and all that shit.

One thing that’s interesting is that all the cafes and really everything where you sit down has all their chairs facing out from the place. Towards the street. I guess that’s where all the insanity happens. I’ll find out tonight.

I finally got checked into my hostel about 30 minutes ago. My room wasn’t ready yet so they just stuck me in one that was. I have three roommates, who I have not yet met. All their shit is all over the room though. They’re all female, judging from the backpacks and sandles and entire bathroom of makeup. I’m sure they’ll be thrilled to come home and see the old guy snoring away in the top bunk.

There are about 200 open hotspots (holy shit, I just saw the biggest cat in the world walk past out the window) available from my hostel. I’m using one named “Surf Here!” which probably means they are stealing all my passwords as I type. Whatever. It’s the only free WiFi I’ve found *anywhere*, and I looked. Lots of places have Internet access but it’s all their own computers. Can’t upload pics and such from those.

Oh, Jono, they stamped my passport when I left Schipol 🙂

The flight really wasn’t bad at all. In fact I think I’d say I’d rather fly 8 hours than drive 8 hours. I was in a two seat section, so it was either window or aisle. I had aisle but some guy wanted me to swap so he could sit with his friend so I ended up with window. I think if I had had the aisle seat the flight would have been trivial. It would have been nice to get up stretch a few more times than I did (twice) but didn’t wanna disturb my neighbor too often.

I don’t really get the train system; it seems to be honor based. You are supposed to buy a ticket and then when you get on the train you put it in a little machine which stamps it. The thing is I’ve never seen someone actually check a ticket so I’m not sure what compels people to get them stamped (thereby using it and paying for it) except for honesty. I have a 48 hour pass and was told I only need to get it stamped once, which I did. I haven’t taken it out of my wallet since and no one has asked to see it. Maybe I am missing something.

That’s all for now. I’m gonna try to sleep a little and let the sun go down so I can hit the streets tonight. I feel like I know my way around the city now so tomorrow I am going to do the tourist thing. Museums and such. Not sure what I’ll do Monday.

Europe: Day 0

So, I’m sitting in a “coffee shop”. People are smoking plenty of the tweed.

It’s been an experience so far. I thought I would cruise into Amsterdam like I owned the place. Instead I’ve been basically lost and homeless. I can’t check into my hostel till 1pm. It’s 11am now and I’ve been wandering around since about 7am.
I’m getting better though. I know the trams pretty well now and I have located food. My hostel is out in the middle of nowhere, as far as stuff to do goes, but I can get there from everything else in about 5 minutes on the tram.

I’m right across from the museum district. I’ve got pics of that area but I have not yet located any free WiFi with which to do my computer duties. Not too important at the moment. What I really want is some fucking sleep. I’ve been awake now for… um. I really have no idea. Since 8am Friday Kansas City time.

More later. My minutes are ticking away.

Oh, exchanging my hard earned, but useless, American dollars for Euros took a little bit of pride and shit on it. I put a giant stack of thousands and thousands of dollars on the table and she gave me a few copper coins. And spit on me.

Europe: Day -2

So, I am going to try to post to this site each day during my Europe tour. I’m also going to try to put up some pictures each day.
I leave on Friday and arrive Saturday morning, so I am calling this Day -2.

I think I’ve decided on a route that I’ll take through Europe. I’ll be flying into Amsterdam where I’ll have Saturday, Sunday and Monday to play. Then I’ll be heading south in Holland to Breda where I’ll work until Thursday afternoon.

Thursday afternoon or Friday morning I’ll hop on a train and head to Brussels, Belgium and spend the weekend there. I’d like to visit the Lindeman’s brewery but I’ll settle for about any Belgian brewery 🙂
My goal in Belgium is going to be to drink as much of the best beer I can find. Mmmm…

So then I think I am going to hop on the Thalys train to Paris. The Thalys is a high speed train and I’ll get to see all the countryside in Belgium and part of France. That should be awesome.

In France I guess I’ll just be a regular ol’ tourist. Louvre, Eiffel Tower, bad manners, scary food. You know. Paris.

A few short days in France and I’ll hop a flight to London where I’ll hang until it’s time to go home. In England the only thing I really, really want to see is Stonehenge but I’m sure I’ll find a ton of other great stuff to do.

So that’s my plan at the moment!