I met a traveller once, in the world-renowned Flying Pig hostel of Amsterdam, who seemed pretty cool. Well, actually he seemed to be high as shit, but I figured that was cool, I mean it was a hostel in Amsterdam, after all. Our conversation went something like this:
Me: “So what’s up? How long you out for?”
High as Shit Guy: “Uhh, ‘bout a year. Left Australia like six months ago.”
Me: “Oh cool! So where’ve you been? Must’ve been amazing!”
HSG: “Oh. Uhh, yeah. Well, uhh, I’ve been like, here?”
Me: “Oh. Uh huh. So like, Amsterdam?”
HSG: “Nah, nah, like… here.” Gestures to our seating area.
Me: “Oh.” And I just can NOT let this one go. “So you haven’t made it off the floor of this hostel in six months???”
HSG: “Nah. Keep thinkin I should, but like, I like it here. And if I like, left, or whatever, how would I like, know where to get my drugs? I mean, I got the dude down the street I see every morning. Like, what would I… do?”
Me: “Yeah, that’s a toughy, man” [“Yo,” poke poke to my brother, “we gotta get the fuck outta this hostel, dude, before we’re sucked into the vortex…”]
Now I’m all for Amsterdam. In the hypothetical, that is. Drugs are cool, especially when they’re legal. Flower markets are cool, I really like Van Gogh, Anne Frank, blah blah blah. But once my hypothetical Amsterdam turns into reality, things do not tend go so well. I’ve been to this city five times. Five! And I have seen exactly 2 things, one of them twice (the latter).
a – A super awesome, I mean like fabulous micro-brewery that somebody built in a windmill somewhere on the river. Also it serves cheese. http://www.brouwerijhetij.nl/index_en.htm
b – The cheese / wooden shoe factory that my bro and I biked to shortly after meeting HSG, in a vain attempt to culture ourselves / get the fuck out of our opium den / hostel.
To sum up my trips to Amsterdam:
1) High school band trip (I know. And I don’t want to talk about it.). At the tender age of, 14? I first encountered the famous red-light district, as a half-glimpse around the disappearing back of our band director and his cronies, running free from their wives, straight towards the hookers. Also our hotel had a beer machine on every floor. Kinda like a coke machine, but for beer! Sadly, I was not cool at 14, and I did not have any.
2) High school band trip, take 2. 16 years of age this time (I know. And I still don’t want to talk about it.), resulted in my first trip to the cheese / wooden shoe factory. I got a picture of me in a wooden shoe! Woo!
3) So my best friend and I were bartending in London for the summer, and travelling weekends (I love you, Ralph!). She’d never been to Amsterdam, and rather than, say, fly like regular people, we decided to pop on over via: a bus to a boat to a train. This started going downhill when we got on the boat. The North Sea is rough, the boat engine was actually located inside my skull, and we were both, clearly, hungover as shit. Ralph fixed this situation with Bailey’s and coffee while I, as far as I can recall nothing whatsoever about this, passed out prone on the floor. So we landed, somewhere in the land of the Dutch, and moved our fiesta to a train. Which we passed out on. And learned, upon waking, had been bound for Rotterdam, not Amsterdam, owing to a mysterious complication that I cannot explain, as it was given to me in the Dutch. So I guess I actually have seen another city in Holland, for about 10 minutes. It was sketchy and we left.
“Finally! Amsterdam! As an adult! Gee, this’ll be fun. Hum. Dang, but Amsterdam is expensive, I’m real glad we decided we’d just party all night and come home the next day, avoiding pesky things like paying for hotels. Yeah man, we are SO smart!” 5 hours pass… “Wow. Amsterdam is soooo much fun. I really enjoyed that I could purchase the marijuana cigarettes pre-rolled in that cute café. They even had a pot menu! And how nice that they put the hookers in little boxes on the street so you can view the merchandise before making a purchasing decision! Perhaps I need another joint.” 3 more hours pass… “OMG we’re going to die. It’s fucking 2 degrees out in JULY, we have no hotel, we’re certainly not getting one now, and why is everything shut? I mean, it’s Tuesday, man, can’t we keep partying? Or at least go inside??”
It all turned out ok in the end, as it always seems to do, although I’m pretty sure the employees at that 24-7 internet café were a little confused as to why we really wanted to giggle inanely at a couple of their computers from 2 until 7am…
4) As part of my Grand Post-Ph.D. European Tour. Met my brother in Amsterdam (I love you, Jarrod!), which we had decided would be a fabulous place in which to spend five entire nights. Oh god. An actual extract from a journal I was keeping, circa 2007:
Enter the Flying Pig. http://www.flyingpig.nl/hostels/flyingpigdowntown.php
Now this is not the cheapest place in town, but it’s cheap. It’s not the nicest place in town, although it certainly is… acceptable. The one thing that the Flying Pig has going for it is that it is: The Only Place I’ve Ever Gotten to See a Chick Fucked up Enough on Shrooms to Lock Herself in the Bathroom, Cry Hysterically for an Hour, and Finally get Rescued, via Hatchet, by Hostel Employees. They’ve also got a truly unique sorta atmosphere. When one first enters the Pig, there’s an immediate sense of… what the crap is that smell? Is that pot? I didn’t know pot could smell so… abundant? Permeating? Jesus, is that a raised dais upon which to lounge, enveloped in cushions, while one ingests one’s pot? Much like… an opium den? We’re in a bloody opium den! Ooo, and there’s a bar as well? Sweet!
So we had a blast, lounged in the opium den, acquired a really decent contact high every morning upon waking, just from the shit penetrating the walls in our room, and made some friends. This lasted for about three days, before we turned to each other one evening and declared our manifesto:
There are pot people and there are alcohol people, and never shall the two overlap. Furthermore, we are the latter.
Hence the trip to the brewery in the windmill, which I will reiterate was AWESOME. Really good beer. Unfiltered, unpasteurized, cheap as dirt. Cozy little windmill (watch the stairs though, total death trap…), only a 3km hike, in the freezing cold Dutch wind, and very nice selection of free cheese. I love cheese J We were so thrilled we decided to try one of each beer flavor. Each. I think we were just so excited that we were imbibing something other than the weed, for once? Anywho, and then we were drunk. Success! Back at the hostel, our success turned out to be short-lived. I mean, what’s the point not smoking the pot when you’re high from smelling your bed-sheets anyway? So we decided to accept our fate and… Shit, now we’re drunk and high, that’s never good. And that is how I lost my brother in Amsterday at a drum n bass concert approximately NEXT DOOR to our hostel. But I hear he had a good night? That’s if walking around every canal in the city, in a circle (cause they’re built in circles, you bloody idiot!), in the fucking freezing cold Dutch wind is your idea of fun. Hearts to you, J-balls J
The next day, we again attempted to extricate ourselves from the pot predicament. This would be my second visit to the cheese / wooden shoe factory. Basically we were both broke and ventured out on the cheapest activity we could find, a bike ride to a cheese factory. I mean, what sort of museums cost 20 fucking euros and don’t take student ID’s? Ignoring the fact that neither of us are technically students, what the shit? So we biked. It was awesome. Bicycling is like a contact sport in the Netherlands. Apparently they pull more bikes out of the canals each year than actually exist in the city? True story. Or that’s what I remember bike dude saying anyway. But he was probably high. Or maybe I was high. Who can say… And then… utter failure again. Bike dude mighta mentioned something about this really sweet shop down the way, and we should really try it out and… next thing I know it’s the next morning? That’s my story anywho, and I’m totally sticking with it till I die.
5) After swearing off this city in its entirety, and I mean I was DEAD SERIOUS about never returning to the Netherlands EVER, I ended up back there a couple years ago. A lovely Christmas holiday in Morocco went slightly awry when my friend and I tried to fly back via Schiphol airport. Yeah, so we’d got a little tipsy on the plane from Casablanca, whatever. It wasn’t our fault the dang thing was late and the dang Air Maroc people wouldn’t check us all the way through! So we had seat assignments on that last flight to the States, I swear, but no matter. One concerted effort away from working up to a real good joint fit, we were appeased by the following, magical, and heretofore un-heard-of words:
KLM agent: “We are so very sorry.” Hum. I’ve surely never heard that from an airline employee, either before or since… “We would like to make it up to you.” DITTO. “We would actually like to fly you back tomorrow morning, direct, and put you up for the night in a 4-star hotel.” Am I actually significantly drunker than I think I am?? ”Also, in recognition of your inconvenience, we would like to offer you both a free drink ticket, a free dinner voucher, and €300 each. Cash.” Yup. The world has ended.
So clearly we took the money and ran. Ran right to our, indeed, 4-star hotel room. From where we said, “Fuck it, I’ll get the cab down to the city, you get the cab back, we’ve still got €250 apiece to buy drugs!” The flaws in this plan were myriad. 1) We’ve been in Morocco for two weeks. I’ve managed to misplace my jacket in an unforeseen and entirely self-instigated bag loss incident. It is now early January, and Amsterdam is FUCKING COLD. And while I do have shopping money, those shops are indeed all shut, because it is midnight. 2) Our new flight is at… 9am? Really? That seems harsh L 3) Goddam it, I said I’d never come back to this city of doping hell! Fucker!
Yada yada yada, it was awesome. I think. I definitely remember getting to the airport the next morning and using my free drink ticket on an airport bloody mary (gross). Sadly, my friend in no way remembers this happening, even when I show her photographic evidence of hers being sucked down at 7:30am…
But all’s well that ends well, yeah? This one ended with us drinking approximately 9,436 mini-bottles of wine on the flight home (we’d developed a really neat trick where, even though they’re free, you can swipe them off the drinks cart while the stewardess isn’t looking, and then no one can tell how many you’ve had!), the last 4 of which were spilt down my pants (NOT by me, let me just mention. And yes, that sure did kill the purpose of our really neat trick), being mauled by a drug beagle in IAH (so cute! I just hafta pet you, lil’ puppy!) for the mandarin orange I seem to have forgotten had been in my backpack for a week, and learning from the (VERY bitchy) customs official that “No. The bag of questionable Moroccan “substances” that you tried to check through FUCKING AMSTERDAM will in fact not ever be found. Nor will your jacket. ”
Grand total of my sightseeing in Amsterdam: Riksmuseet, nope. Anne Frank House, nope. Van Gogh museum, nope. Floating flower market, nope. Canal tour, nope. Heineken brewery, nope. Anything at all? Nope.
But still, in summary: Amsterdam is just lovely. Enjoy. And leave your will-power at home, it won’t do you any good anyway.