It recently dawned on me that I haven’t blogged about Amsterdam, my home, since arriving here back in late January. Contrary to all of my European travel posts, I do actually live in Amsterdam. For a while it seemed like I barely did, just stopping here to wash my clothes in between trips. As much as I love exploring other parts of Europe, there’s a lot of Amsterdam I want to see. And I love the idea of really living here: buying groceries, hosting fellow travellers, inviting friends over, (attempting to) cook and taking advantage of this really cool city!
So after a lot of travelling in March/early April, I got back from Italy on April 13th with absolutely no travel plans. It was the first time I didn’t have a trip coming up. And it was kind of nice (especially for my wallet). I’ve been able to settle into life here, spend more time with friends and experience the city!
One thing I really wanted to do, was go to the zoo! While I’m not always morally on board with zoos, I did want to see the cute animals. Plus, our student status gets us in for only 3 euro while non-UvA guests have to pay 19!
My flatmate Gabby and I walked from our place to the Artis Zoo right by the city centre. It was so crazy to think that elephants and lions are literally blocks away from coffee shops, houses and stores. In Toronto, our zoo is pretty far outside the city. In Amsterdam, you can nod at giraffes from your bedroom window.
We had a great time checking out all of the animals and beautiful zoo grounds. For a city zoo, they manage to keep quite a variety of animals. And even though we couldn’t find the gorillas (how do you hide a family of giant apes?), it was a wonderful trip to the zoo!
Then Easter came and I got to host my wonderful UBC friend, Andrea, who is studying in Sweden. There were a couple other UBC-ers in the city, so it was nice to catch up with people from home. Andrea even hid eggs for me to find on Easter morning! That weekend we went to the Anne Frank House and found an amazing monthly food market called NeighbourFood Market in the park by our place!
The next week we trekked out to the tiny and touristy town of Zaanse Schans. It’s a pretty adorable place – complete with windmills, canals, bridges and farm animals – but was wet and cold when we showed up. Still, we enjoyed exploring and walking FOREVER to find an Albert Hejn grocery store to buy lunch at.
Last weekend was the famous (or infamous?) King’s Day in the Netherlands! Every year, the Dutch people celebrate their monarch’s birthday (not on their actual day of his birth) with a huge street party. For a long time, it was Queen’s Day. But since Queen Beatrix abdicated the thrown last year, 2014 marked the first King’s Day for King Wilhelm-Alexander!
On April 25th, we went out to celebrate King’s Night (King’s Day Eve). The already narrow streets were filled with people and our group quickly got separated in the crowds. Luckily, Andrea, Candy and I found an amazing band where we got to sing (or scream) along to classics by P!nk, Robbie Williams & The Beatles! It was so much fun to see the streets packed with people singing, dancing and celebrating!
The next morning, we decked ourselves out in orange and invited a few friends over for a King’s Day brunch! After eating (and drinking) we hit the streets to join the rest of Amsterdam!
Out on the streets, we saw our usually routes crowded with people of all ages in various shades of orange (and various states of drunkenness). One of the hallmarks of King’s Day is a giant garage sale that takes over the streets. Vendors, and regular people, bring out anything they want to sell.
We walked further into the city and spent most of our day along the canals. Another mandatory aspect of King’s Day: if you have a boat, fill it with people and get on the water! I’ve never seen the canals so packed before! It was really entertaining to watch the different boats go by. We also found lots of yummy food stalls and cool DJs to dance to.
After watching quite a few lively dancers on the boats, we figured it would only be a matter of time until someone fell off. And it happened to be this poor gentleman below. He swam for a good 20m before getting pulled back onto his boat. From the sidelines we all cheered him on and let out a big yell when he finally got himself back on the boat.
After a full night and day of festivities, the city began to break it up and we went home for pizza and bad movies. On the way home, we waded through an insane amount of trash. I guess when every inhabitant and even more tourists hit the streets, its bound to get messy. I was reminded of some of the slum villages in Swaziland and the DR where trash permanently lived on the streets. However, Amsterdam must employ the best cleaning crew because the city was spotless and functioning like normal by Monday.
Now that I’ve recovered from friend visits & Koningsdag, I’ve got 2 more weeks of A-dam time before my mom flies over! I’ve got a few school projects that need attention (what’s that? I’m here to attend school?) and plans to hit up local museums (free with my MuseumKaart), markets, parks and Keukenhof (the famed tulip fields).