So this was unexpected. The last place we expected to be the first night of our vacation was Amsterdam, but there you have it. And to be honest, as much as it sucked to be missing out on time in Iceland, I was actually pretty stoked about getting out and seeing this place. I've always wanted to visit, but considering we didn't know we would be visiting we were totally unprepared! I tend to research the hell out of a place before any type of trip somewhere so I usually have a good game plan in mind and a good idea of the things I want to see and do ahead of time. Not the case here. We had a little under 24 hours and we had no choice but to just wing it.
So we thought to ourselves, what do we know about Amsterdam, what should we be seeing while we're here? The first things that came to mind when considering Amsterdam were (in no particular order) the red light district, Anne Frank, bridges, windmills, tulips, and pot. So we started googling and figuring out just what all was feasible to accomplish in our window of time there. I will say, we took every advantage of being there for that day. We stayed out ridiculously late the night we arrived, slept about 4 hours and got up at the crack of dawn to see some more. It was a total whirlwind, but fantastic!
That first night in our hotel we happened upon a Sudanese man studying urban planning in the US but whom was also stuck in Amsterdam for the evening. We shared our stories over a meal in the hotel restauraunt, bid him good night and good luck and then hopped the Metro headed for Centraal Station. It was sort of magical and quite surreal being there that night. One minute we're in Pittsburgh waiting for flight to New York and eventually Iceland, and the next thing you know we're riding a lazy train full of sleepy passengers through the dark Amsterdam night. Josh and I kept looking over at each other and shrugging and laughing, like "what are we DOING here right now?!"
That night we walked the cobblestone streets under a light rain and kissed on a bridge over the canal. We ate sugary balls of fried dough (kwarkbollen) and chocolate brownies (not the funny kind ;) and dodged drunken frat boys in the red light district (just as cheesy as you would imagine).
The next morning we woke with the sun, checked out of the hotel and went off to see the city by daylight. It's certainly quiet at that hour in Amsterdam. We had the streets and crepe shop all to ourselves. We found the Anne Frank house and were chilled to imagine how different it would have been to stand in that same place only 70 years before. We thought again about how lucky we are and how all our silly "problems" seem so small in comparison.
My favorite part of the day would have to have been stumbling upon the inner courtyard of Begijnhof. The once sanctuary and religious community formed by the original Beguines of Amsterdam and the place where stands #34 - the oldest house in Amsterdam. Built in the Middle Ages, the Begijnhof is at medieval street level which is about a meter below the rest of the old city center. It's still open to the public up to a certain point and is an eerily quiet place, rich in history and lore, hidden around the corner only steps away from a major shopping district. It's very beautiful. In fact, all of Amsterdam is beautiful and I loved our time there. If I should ever return I have a shopping list long of sites and things I'd still like to see and do, but I'm quite content to have experienced that unexpected day there with Josh. One of the happiest accidents of my life, for sure.