Amsterdam, The Netherlands

I still haven’t caught up with my sleep from being sick, the overnight plane ride from New York and the very late night in Paris. I have had very little time to get online and plan ahead. The plan was to book the hotel rooms in the city prior to arriving, which is ideal since my itinerary is constantly changing. But, I was very late, very tired and could not find the 20 minutes required to plan for the next stop, Amsterdam. As I was leaving for Amsterdam, I went to book a hotel and found that due to a convention, there are virtually no hotels available. But, there was one hotel that was a fifteen minute bus ride from the city center and way overpriced. I decided to suck it up and sacrifice convenience to stay on schedule and get to Amsterdam. I paid in advance for two nights. WRONG CHOICE!!! As they say, hindsight is 20/20.
I arrived at the hotel exhausted and hungry at 10:00. I checked into the hotel, looked around and decided this was not for me. I would have to find something else tomorrow or I would just leave town. Even though, the name said “Hotel”, it was more like a Hostel. My room had four bunk beds, an old and worn desk, a TV, a bathroom and that was it. No soap, no cold water in the sink faucet, no curtain around the shower, only one small towel, carpet from my grandfather’s era and no internet connection in the room like advertised. But, it was the only option.
I headed back into town to get a glimpse of the night life I had heard so much about. This city is beautiful at night. There are lights to light up the quaint houses built next to each other, side by side, four stories high in a palette of oranges, reds, grey, white and black bricks.
Everywhere, the streets are alive. There are people on bikes and people on foot. I was being pulled into at an Argentinian steakhouse by the aroma that flowed onto its sidewalk. I had forgotten I was so hungry. I had to stop, but I was so tired. Maybe they would be quick and I could get in and out real fast. The waiter handed me a menu and said with a smile’ “I hope you are not in a hurry.” It was all I needed to know that this was not going to be quick. I decided to walk on and stop for something quick when there it was, a sign I never thought I could imagine welcoming in a foreign country. A sign that read, “Kentucky Fried Chicken”. This was me tonight. A six piece combo meal for 7 euro. Perfect. Now on the bus and on to bed.
This would be the worst nights sleep I had all week. The rooms were paper-thin and the sound of the doors opening and closing kept me awake all night. I am now more sleep deprived than ever. I decided to just get to the next town so I can get to a decent hotel and get a good nights sleep. Sleep. That is all that is important to me right now. I would pay anything for one night in The Peninsula Hotel. I have learned my lesson about the European hotel circuit. They actually have hotel rooms where you share the room and bathrooms with strangers. Thankfully, this is not heard of in the US.
I went downstairs to chat with the hotel manager. He was tall, broad and serious. I said “hello” in a  sweet and careful way. I told him of the conversation I had last night with the front desk clerk about needing to cancel the second night stay. As soon as he spoke, I could tell from his accent he was German. He spoke clear and direct and without a crack in his face, “No. I cannod refund jou youhr money.” I said,”But I gave you notice last night. I gave you 24 hour notice” He said,”It duzint mattur. Dis iz zee same for all zee guests. Zair are no refunz.”
I continued to negotiate and tried not to argue. He wasn’t budging. I guess there is not such a thing as customer service in this kind of place. You abide by the rules and fend for yourself. At times, it felt as if I were in a college dormitory. There were signs in the breakfast room warning you not to take food up to your room. At one point I heard the same hotel manager yelling at one of the guests to pick up his luggage. This place was simply horrible. All around, any way you slice it. I looked around at all of the people calmly milling about and going in and out of their rooms and wondered to myself, are you all really OK with this place? Really? You don’t mind staying here?
As long as I was far away from it, at this point, I was ready to eat the money lost and find something respectable, human and with a pulse.I hopped on the bus and headed back into town. It had started to rain and any charm the town greeted me with last night turned to gloom and dreariness. It was Sunday, the sky was dark and all of the stores were closed as we passed deep through the suburbs.
I arrived in the center of town, tucked my luggage away safely in the train station and started my exploration through the city. I started with a convenient boat ride through the canals of Amsterdam then onto my scheduled walk.

I took the walking tour through Dam square passing the smoke-filled coffee shops, along the Amstel river, a right turn down a side street and onto the Heineken headquarters for a tour of their brewery operations. They give you three beers to drink on this tour.

Would be fitting and fun if I weren’t alone, but it is a lot of beer to drink for me without anyone to talk to. I had one, started the second and decided to head out for some food.I handed my other drink ticket to some boys and proceeded onto a small cafe where I would converse with one of the locals about what I should taste as a local cuisine. He said I had to try bitterballen with a Heineken. Great, another Heineken. Bitterballen is basically, deep-fried meat and flour. I see now why the Dutch are not know for their food.

I was falling asleep with my chin placed firmly in my hand waiting and waiting for my food. I realized I had only an hour to get back to the train station. I had one night before I was scheduled to arrive in Berlin, so I had decided to take a train to Cologne, Germany. I secured a beautiful 4 star hotel near the train station and couldn’t wait to lay my head down on their high thread count sheets, in their air-conditioned room and with a hotel staff trained to cater to my needs. If all I was to do in Cologne was to sleep, then sleep it would be. Goodbye, Amsterdam for now. I will come back another time when you have decent hotel rooms available. I won’t hold this trip against you. I actually, really liked you a lot 😉
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