The first stop on my trip after Heidi went back home after Sevilla was Amsterdam for three days. When I walked off of the plane, I was so nervous to be by myself in a country where I knew not one word of their language (Dutch, which I swear I never mixed up with Danish...). But all the signs were also written in English, and as I came to find out, almost everyone in Amsterdam speaks English so I didn't really have much to be worried about. My hostel turned out to be in a perfect location- only a 10 minute walk from the main train station and about 5 minutes from the center. There was so much to see in Amsterdam- the Anne Frank house, the canals, the Red Light District, all of the marijuana cafes, so many amazing museums, the yummiest cheese factory with free samples of all the delicious cheeses, this beautiful garden...I'm not sure I can name it all!
The Red Light District is seriously a stunner, though. The prostitutes in the windows is definitely one of those "culture shock" moments, especially when you see the ones that look so young (the legal age is 18) and some of them are so very, very old. There were absolutely tons of British and Australians there, especially men in bachelor parties...they apparently keep Dutch prostitution in business (70% of the women's clients come from England...and they say Americans are sex-crazed). The best was the hero themed Australian bachelor party, who all kept yelling that they were going to "save" the women. The sex clubs like the infamous Pink Elephant are kind of outrageous, they are everywhere and there is absolutely no shame for people to go in and watch, even though I was kind of embarassed even looking at the clubs from the outside- must've been the American in me. :)
The "cafes" are also something to see because of the openness of using marijuana and hash. It is actually illegal to advertise that you sell marijuana, but you know which places have it because they decorate the outside of the cafe in red, gold, and green. They also provide a place to smoke, usually upstairs. There was also a marijuana museum with some really interesting history, who knew that it was so important?
The best part of Amsterdam was definitely just walking along the canals and experiencing the city...there is no other place like it. The buildings lean outward and to the side, really kind of funny, and they are charged taxes on houses by the width of the house so some of them are so super skinny! And there were so many bicycles. The streets are crowded with them! Although they do say the number of bikes stolen a year is tremendous (hm, I feel like I've heard of that happening before...American friends, you know who you are!! :) )
There were a few protests while I was there, which I followed with another American girl I met in my hostel. Still not sure what exactly they were protesting, but there were signs of Hitler, people were dressed in crazy costumes, singing, dancing (in Dutch and English)...so, basically super entertaining.
I thought that maybe I decided to stay too long in Amsterdam beforehand- I kind of just went on a whim, but it was the perfect amount of time for me. So beautiful and so much more than just what it's famous for. Even though my time ended a little on the bad side (my flight was delayed 7 hours..really? Yes. Fabulous...love you Ryanair), it was by far one of the most unique cities in Europe.