Backpacking Europe: Amsterdam

Pictured above: Amsterdam Flea Market

Being in a new city is such an awesome feeling! The first thing I always do is take a deep breath through my nose to see what the air smells like. Maybe I’m convincing myself there’s a difference where none exists but to me each city’s air smells different. Amsterdam smells sort of fresh and open, with some rain smell thrown in. It makes me think of New England a little bit, perhaps city smells are related by latitude?

My stay in Amsterdam was 5 nights in total, and my husband and I spend a lot of that walking around. We stayed in Hans Brinker Hostel which was a great financial decision because A. they offer free breakfast, and B. they have a bar that sells food and drinks for really cheap.

I should mention that my husband and I are trying to stick to an average daily budget (total, not per person) of €42. We’ve got a month of travel ahead of us, and we have to make our funds last, so that’s what we decided on. That amounts to about $50 a day. That doesn’t include international transportation, rooms we’re staying in, or our souvenir budget (possibly about €63 or $75 a person?).

Did we stay at/under budget this time? Nooooo, we did not! For five days in Amsterdam we were aiming to spend €210 and we instead spent €335.5. Not the greatest, but it could have been worse I suppose. I think we’ll probably get better at this as we go, and Amsterdam is on the more expensive side.

The first day in Amsterdam we noticed a lot of wonderful places to see art and decided to look into an iAmsterdam card. The iAmsterdam card is a card for purchase from various ticket kiosks that offers free entry to a vast amount of museums and tours, and offers discounts on a variety of other experiences in the city. It’s a great value if your main goal is to see just a ridiculous amount of museums.

In hindsight I think I maybe shouldn’t have gone for it. It’s a great deal if those museums are already on the list but we ended up squeezing a lot more museums than we even really wanted to see into our schedule in order to get the best value. We might have been happier wandering at a slower pace and only stopping at the museums that really mattered to us. It wasn’t a terrible mistake by any means, and I think that we broke even when adding up the entry fees for all the museums we actually wanted to see. No harm no foul there!

After quite a bit running around taking advantage of the free canal tour offered with the iAmsterdam card was really lovely, I don’t care how touristy it was! We got to see the sights of Amsterdam from the boat perspective which was pretty appropriate. I think it would have been a crying shame to come to Amsterdam and not get on a single boat.

Happening across graffiti is an integral part of any visit to a new place, and here I am serving “I badly need coffee” realness underneath some.

Pictured above: a piece of art created by Jana Euler at the Stedelijk Museum

The second to last day in Amsterdam it rained pretty enthusiastically all day, which resulted in a lot of hiding under overhangs. It also resulted in our clothes and shoes getting soaked and me spending a large portion of my evening holding my jacket and my husbands sneakers underneath the hand dryer in the women’s room hoping they would dry. As you know if you’ve checked out my packing list post, I only packed one jacket! It turned out fine and everything eventually dried (for those of you on the edge of your seats wondering…)

Pictured above: Amsterdam Jewish Holocaust Memorial

We took that night to relax and recuperate, and had some comfort food pancakes. They’re a pretty cost effective way to eat well, albeit very rich. The pancakes being sold in Amsterdam are closer to what US citizens would know as crepes, with similar toppings offered, both sweet and savory. Here I chose pear and aged Dutch cheese, and Erik chose sliced beef and Gorgonzola. Ten out of ten. Would eat again.

The pancake restaurants are everywhere in the area we stayed in, so it was easy to wander down the road and choose which place looked the coziest!

The Moco museum was one my favorite museums, seeing so many Banksy works was pretty incredible! When we were shopping for museum bundles the guy helping us at the ticket kiosk told us that “Moco” is slang for Amsterdam. Definitely a neat fact, I’m glad he shared it.

What trip to Amsterdam is complete without a trip to the red light district? Turns out, this one would have been. The red light district is by far the most congested part of this city as I have experienced it so far, and walking down the ally with on duty sex workers was a lot like running into traffic on the highway caused entirely by people slowing down to gawk at an accident that happened on the other side of the road.

I know, I know, we were there too, we were gawking too, we contributed to the traffic. My point is that perhaps it’s not a must see part of Amsterdam for everyone. I think we would have been just as happy spending our time hanging out in the hostel bar making friends with other travelers.

It was still an interesting sight, but it was definitely a lesson in not mindlessly checking things off a “must-see” list.

That’s pretty much it! Now that I’ve told you all about all the cool stuff we did I think it’s time for some real talk. The working title of this post was “Why you shouldn’t book the first leg of your stay in a hostel mixed dorm if you have social anxiety”.

This first leg of this trip was a very difficult one for me because we were staying in a mixed dorm with four strangers. It’s difficult to basically live with total strangers and immediately see them as roommates if it’s not something you’re used to, I think. The first night I think I got like four hours of sleep because I spent about three hours after everyone else fell asleep panicking, an hour of which was devoted to trying to find the courage to go to the bathroom because I needed to pee but closing the door/flushing was gonna wake everyone up. If there had been other women staying in the room it might have been easier but instead it was me and five men sharing one bathroom. Only some of them had good aim.

It got better from that first night, but I have to say I’m learning a TON about how to travel at my happiest. For example: for the hostel experience without the social anxiety, maybe next time I’ll book super far in advance to get private rooms at awesome hostels for good prices.

Stay tuned, Berlin is next and I’ve got even more observations about travel coming your way!

This isn’t goodbye, it’s see you later,

Michelle

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