Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Leaving Madrid and Amsterdam

I never thought I'd be so sad to leave a city. With Cannes I was more sad for the people and the event, the city just acted more as a host to the wonderful experience, but with Madrid the city it was definitely different. I had grown fond of the various different aspects it had to offer. I was finally fluent with the metro (up until the strike of course) and really felt at home next to the Moncloa stop. Not only that but the people I had made friends with in the city and in the program were amazing as well. All of it was finally coming to a close. Before this moment I didn't understand how people could spend such long periods at each country. I figured a few weeks and you'd have seen everything there is to see. But after this trip I found out there is more to that. There is a difference between seeing all of the sights in the city and actually experiencing the city/becoming a part of it.

Anyways so Madrid will be missed and as most of you know the next stop for 3 days was Amsterdam. I was worried at first because I was going to be staying with a friend in his hotel but he was not getting into the city until around 6 while I was getting in at 11 am. Turns out everything worked out great though because I just kept my bags in the hotel while I was able to fully explore that interesting city. Following the Netherlands's victory against Brazil (which I missed by 1 day :() the whole city was decked out in orange attire. The streets were filled with various flags posters and whatever else you can imagine. not only that but the main street and a few others were just having ridiculous sales. Good thing I have good willpower and only bought one T-Shirt (which you can see on my Facebook page). But anyways first (and last) impressions of the city:

1. Very multi-cultural city: maybe because it's hard for me to recognize dutch, but the city was filled with people from all over. Not only that but the food outlets were very diverse and you could get whatever type of food from whatever country you want.

2. Very innovative city: in the middle of nearly every street there were river canals. All of Amsterdam is rigged with a waterway. What's cool about this is that you can literally take boats to any part of the city you want. Most people were just chilling in boats down the river. The public transportation was also very diverse. Many people bike around, but there is also driving and trams and even trains which go all over. It's very cool and you'll never be without a way to get around.

3. Very small city: the craziest part is how much those above transportations aren't really needed for the most part. You can honestly walk anywhere. Before my friends arrived I explored a huge chunk of the city just by walking around. After big cities like Madrid and Paris, Amsterdam seemed much more attainable as far as downtown and other things go.

4. Very "free" city: by this I mean law-wise. Funny thing is compared to Madrid you most likely can't get away with a lot of the more obvious crimes (drinking in public ---in madrid many youth botellon or drink in public places, or peeing in public etc.) but instead they have two items legalized which make the city famous: prostitution and weed. Prostitution I'll get to in the next part but the weed is a very interesting matter. Basically around the cities they have coffee shops and those are the only places allowed to sell it. People go into the shops and order what they want, and legally they are only allowed to smoke it within the confines of the shop. A few people smoke weed in public, but after inhaling way too much 2nd hand cigarette smoke in various parts of Europe the smoke from marijuana was far from bothersome. It's an interesting way of doing things, especially since Cali will be voting next election on this very subject. I could see from watching that the business was booming and for the most part if you didn't go into a coffee shop you couldn't even tell. But politics aren't what I'm trying to discuss in this blog haha but definitely a unique experience being in a city such as this.

5. A very bipolar city: so basically during the day I figured Amsterdam to be a very cultured quaint Dutch town. At nighttime, however, when walking down the red light district, it is a completely different feel. They call it the red light district, for those that don't know, because in windows that have red lights surrounding them there are prostitutes. They're very much on show, just waiting for someone to come and pay. Not only this but in the streets containing these everything is SEX. There are peep shows, strip shows, and really any kind of show you can imagine involving people. The shops looked intense and all of the neon signs etc. were promoting some sort of sexcapade. The people walking around, nearly all guys, would just go from window to window looking at the prostitutes (who weren't wearing much) and it was quite the experience to see this transformation. I don't know how I missed those particular streets in my tour of the city (at day time they are basically the same without the lights) but it definitely was a surprise.

So yah the city was definitely interesting. They had a beautiful park that we bike road through. We went on a boat tour of the city. We went to the Heineken factory where we got to learn a lot about how beer is made and even got to ride a virtual beer ride haha. We went to an ice bar which was quite the experience as well but a little too cold for my liking. And we watched the games at pubs around the city. Our hotel was beautiful and the city was fun. A little too touristy for my liking, but I'd definitely suggest visiting Amsterdam at least once...just to see all of this first hand.

PS: I'm really bad with timing my trip. I saw the netherlands-brazil game in Madrid then went to the Netherlands and the spain-paraguay game is on and now I'm in Berlin and the netherlands-uruguay game just ended, but tonight is the Germany-Spain game and I'm watching in Berlin so I'm super excited! Until next time.

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