The journey to Amsterdam was… pretty much a disaster. It all started after our bus from Paris to Amsterdam was delayed three hours due to technical issues. We got on a later bus and confirmed with the driver that it was headed to Amsterdam. We climb aboard and six hours later find ourselves stopped in Brussels, Belgium. This was a planned stop for the route however the bus completely emptied out and we got the feeling this bus was not going anywhere soon. We disembark to ask the driver, who informs us this is the end of the route and there are no more buses going to Amsterdam tonight. We are frazzled but it is clear that this driver is not going to help us further so we grab our bags from the undercarriage compartment – only my friend Travis’s bag is nowhere to found, it had been stolen. Sometimes passengers take the wrong bag, but this was not the case seeing as there was no bag left behind and his bag was vibrant green (hard to mistake!).
Stranded in Brussels in the middle of the night, with nowhere to stay, no cell signal, and missing luggage. Basically as the nightmare of any traveler. Luckily we find a hostel with a free room and are able to book a bus ticket for tomorrow morning taking us to Amsterdam.
For here our trip was amazing, not to mention relaxing. We got to Amsterdam the following day, checked into our beautiful AirBNB and sighed in relief. We had finally made it – 18 hours later. After being slightly traumatized from the whole experience, we took the opportunity to just decompress. Instead of experiencing the city through an intense tourist itinerary, we just strolled along the beautiful streets.
This city is full of character, and it turns out it is true that there are bikes everywhere. Any fence or sidewalk is littered with parked bikes, and don’t forget to look both ways before crossing a bike lane. I have never seen such respect for bicyclists. In Paris, biking down the narrow streets shared with cars seems like a death wish.
I was particularly drawn to the houses running along the canals. They maintain a form of unity as they align along the street, however each has its own history and character.
While admiring these funky little houses I noticed these pulleys hanging off the tops of each one. I confirmed my suspicions that they were used to hoist items to the higher floors (thanks to the knowledge of Google). It turns out that there is a unique building logic to the houses of Amsterdam. The risk of flooding results in high buildings, but this means they must be built narrow to produce an affordable house. The narrow winding staircases make it difficult to move furniture, hence the installation of pulleys on the exterior! The buildings are purposefully built with a slight tilt forward so that while hoisting the furniture it won’t bash into wall or windows.
On our last night in Amsterdam, we happened to stumble into the Red Light District. No photos are allowed for obvious reasons, but it was a very interesting experience. It was a completely different atmosphere than Amsterdam during the day. We didn’t stay for long, but the brief glimpse into Amsterdam’s night life proved just how diverse of a city it is.