There is an Erasmus club at ULB called Erasmus ULB Brussels Express which organizes a lot of activities and trips for all the student in exchange at ULB. They organized a trip to Amsterdam for a weekend. A lot of Erasmus student were motivated to go because the price was only 50 Euro for the transportation, the hotel and breakfast. And they were also motivated for other reasons…
It was very well organized, we had an entire bus only for us and we drove until Amsterdam and back with it. I was really excited because I knew so many Erasmus people who were going on this trip. When we arrived on Saturday morning, we decided to go to the city, towards the central station and then walk a bit in the city. We were quite a big group and it was quite funny and unfortunate at the same time to lose people on our way (thank goodness for the invention of cell phones). Furthermore, while we are cruising around town it was amusing to see other Erasmus students suddenly entering the bus or while taking pictures to see familiar faces on boats.
Houses in Amsterdam are very narrow and sometimes you have the feeling that they have been built by an architect who drank one too many Heineken because they are not always very straight. Houses are very narrow because in the past you had to pay property tax according to how wide your house was. Thus there is a house 2.02 meters wide and 6 meters deep, which is ironically linked to the widest house in Amsterdam called the Trip House. The Trip House owners built it for their servant, who declared that he would be happy if his house was as wide as his master’s front door.
Amsterdam is very well known for their canals, and thus is also called Venice of the North. Some people don’t live in a house, but rather in boats or houseboats (a houseboat is meant to live in it, stay put and not to sail around like a real boat). I think it must be quite different and difficult to live in such a small place, but at the same time it must be quite awesome, the rocking of the water, the view and how many people can say that they are living in a boat??
Amsterdam at night is beautiful especially near the canals, Amsterdam’s beauty is very well sang by a Belgian singer: Dans le Port d’Amsterdam (Jacques Brel) and the city is also used in music videos Lightning Bolt (Jake Bugg).
There are also a lot of bicycles and very little cars because there are not a lot of parking spots or they are very expensive. It truly is a city of bicycles and as a pedestrian you feel that you have less rights than them, i.e. the sidewalk is divided between pedestrians and bicycles but 3/4 of the place is for the bicycles, they drive really fast and don’t slow down if they see a pedestrian, while walking you get attacked from all the directions. The worse is the fact that nobody wears helmets and at night the bikes don’t have lights. Hence, before crossing a street I looked left and right, but when I started walking there was suddenly a bike that came out of nowhere and almost hit me (I learned quite a few nice Dutch words that day…).
“My experience in Amsterdam is that cyclist ride where the hell they like and aim in a state of rage at all pedestrians while ringing thei bell loudly, the concept of avoiding people being foreign to them” Terry Prachett
We wanted to rent a bike in Amsterdam and also be part of the bike revolution, nevertheless renting is very difficult…they requested an identity card, a visa card, deposit money and then you got a bike. In Brussels there are Villo (mash-up between ville (city) and vélo (bike) ), which are bikes that are located almost everywhere in the city and are a lot easier (weirdly enough) to rent than those in Amsterdam.
The city is also well known for their famous beer Heineken (left is a picture of the Heineken brewery), the Van Gogh Museum, the Stedelijk Museum (the museum’s roof looks like a bathtub, it’s really beautiful), the Flower Market at Muntplein (which only sells flower bulbs in the winter), the Red-Light District and the coffee shops. We were all very motivated to see museums however the prices were too expensive and they didn’t even have a reduced price for students. As young eager students we were quite disappointed and upset with their view towards education and motivating the youth.
The Red-Light District and the coffee shops are very controversial places. Prostitution is legal in Holland and this district is where all these activities take place, in the evening there are lights and when all hustle and bustle become alive. The place is regulated and there are cameras everywhere, hence it’s illegal to take pictures. The other controversy is the legalization of marijuana and coffee shops serve it in all the formats you want.
“Some tourists think Amsterdam is a city of sin, but in truth it is a city of freedom. And in freedom, most people find sin.” John Green, The Fault in Our Stars
Joordan is hip neighbourhood that used to be poor and is located in the Nord-West side of the centre. This is also the place where you can find Anne Frank’s house. Anne Frank is young girl who wrote The Diary of Anne Frank (Robarts D810.J4F7131972). She fled Germany and then lived in Amsterdam to flee the Nazis during the Second World War. When the Nazis occupied Holland, Anne Frank and her family decided to hide behind a bookcase. In her journal she describes not only her life in hiding but also her life as a teenage girl. The house can be visited (short video of Anne Frank’s house), however it is mostly empty and at the end of the tour there is a section with more general information about the war and questions that make you think.
My favorite quote :
“In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery and death.”
Ghetto is where Jewish families lived during the Nazi occupation. There is gated section because people do live in some of the houses in the district.
After a very long and adventurous weekend, we left Amsterdam Sunday evening with minds and hearts full of memories. Usually I don’t like to sleep in buses or trains, therefore I brought with me the last few pages of a book for my French literature class. The book is called Keetje (hard to find but worth the search) and is written by a Belgian writer Neel Doff; the main character Keetje is a young Dutch girl from Amsterdam that is forced into prostitution by her parents, then flees this life and lives in Brussels (lol yes, I know the irony of me reading this book travelling Amsterdam – Brussels).
until next time,
P.S. Weirdest things I saw in Amsterdam: a small hut that is supposed to be a police station (picture below Politie), in the city there’s a shop where you can go to the washroom (not for free of course) and where there is a gift shop. Finally, a vending machine for hamburgers (FEBO), because apparently fast food restaurants aren’t fast enough.