It’s been a bit since I went, but I thought I would share about my experiences in Amsterdam! It was my second weekend trip and for a while before I actually came to Metz, I knew I wanted that to be my first “big” trip. By then I had my Eurail pass activated so 3 other friends and I decided to plan out the trains, reserve a hostel, and go! A few things I learned about the last minute planning are that the good hostels go kind of fast if you need enough beds for multiple people but otherwise everything is pretty easy to plan.
We decided to leave Friday morning and chose trains that didn’t have any required reservations which basically means we don’t have to pay any extra for the trains alongside our Eurail. Our first train to Luxembourg went fairly smoothly except for we accidentally got off one stop before, frantically asked a lot of people if this was the right stop and then hopped right back on the train before it continued. As a pro tip, if you are going on a train with its final destination being a larger destination, and you are the only people that are getting off, you are PROBABLY not there yet!
From Luxembourg we had to get on a train to Brussels, and we thought we were fine and could sleep until midway through the ride the train operator says some words in French, all my friends look at me to see if I understood, and a man came over to tell us in French that the weather is bad and the train is stopping at some random stop where we will need to transfer. Honestly, this didn’t really stress me out because I feel like there are so many options for trains and flights, and it was only Friday, so worst case we could always hop on a train back home. We walked towards the exit and met another guy who laughed and told us “Welcome to Belgium. The trains here are always like this.” We talked to him for a while, which made it more of a funny experience, and then got on another train.
Oh, you think we’d get there by now? No, this is where the fun starts! After waiting at the train station, we missed our first train because of the signs not actually showing Amsterdam, another train being stopped early, and finally 11 hours later instead of 7 we made it. By the way, the best part of the train stations is that you need to pay to use the restrooms. No wonder they need free healthcare… everyone holds their pee and doesn’t get to drink water for free… seems like a problem.
Finally we arrived in Amsterdam, and I thought the only thing we need is to get to the hostel and lay down for a second to feel better. Everyone reading this is probably thinking, “Noa, you had such a long and stressful first trek. Whatever larger force is out there that controls people’s fate will give you a good place to rest.” Well that’s what I hoped too, but we arrived to the hostel where I think, “this will be okay,” until I look at the beds and see a large lump, which did not move and turned out to be a cat. For about 5 minutes my friends and I looked at the cat, looked at each other, made some noise, and concluded that the cat was most definitely dead.
At that point, I’m laughing but horrified, trying to find other places to stay, and eventually we go down to reception to ask if someone can remove the deceased cat from our room. “Oh yeah,” they told us, “that’s the hostel cat, she’s really old so she might be dead but maybe not.” Long story short, the cat wasn’t dead, just very old and stiff, probably deaf, and really unkempt. And it kept coming back into the room in the middle of the night until I declared to the staff that I was allergic so that they would keep the cat away. I am not even allergic, I love cats, but I learned I’m not a huge fan of hostel cats.
OK, so that was honestly the only couple hiccups in the trip. After we dropped off and locked up our backpacks, we headed to get dinner at a wok place which was really yummy and went back to bed. The next morning, all of my friends wanted to go see the Van Gogh Museum and had tickets, so I decided I wanted to walk more around downtown. This was hard for me at first, because I knew I didn’t really want to go to the museum but I struggled worrying that I’d be missing out. This was a huge learning experience for me because walking around Amsterdam in the morning alone was the best decision I could’ve made. I was saving most of my “museum” budget for Monet-related exhibits since he is my favorite painter, and I hope to visit his house, so I was happy with my decision. Instead I had a yummy croissant and jasmine tea and walked all around the tulip market and through some stores. For lunch I met back up with my friends at a pancake house, got a burger (because this is me we are talking about), and then we went to another outdoor market.
All the markets were really nice and I am glad they are open year round, but it was definitely really cold! For dinner we went to a fun place called FoodHallen, which was basically a lot of different food stands indoors. I ate a chicken shawarma with french fries that tasted nothing like it does in Israel, but it was still really yummy!
After that we had tickets to go to the Anne Frank House, which was really important to me. We spent a lot of time there, really learning about the history and each individual that spent time in that home and those who helped the Frank family. It was very difficult to see but absolutely something that everyone needs to be educated about. I think the part that stuck with me the most was how it initially felt rather big, but that then you realize they spent two years in there living in absolute fear, and it feels a lot smaller. If you are going to visit this museum, which I think everyone should, I would suggest going on an off time if there is one because even in the evening there were a lot of people and it made you have to through a little bit more rushed. Afterwards, we headed back to our hostel and went to bed.
It was a really quick trip, and the train ride home went a lot smoother with no delays. Despite all of the issues that occurred, I’m actually really happy they happened because I learned a lot about myself. I now know what I am more comfortable with and am completely fine with straying from the group to make sure I am experiencing my travels the way I want to. I would definitely go back when it’s a little bit warmer so I can experience more things without having to plan around what keeps me warm!