The quintessential clog boat - believe it or not, the Canadian flag is what caught my eye.

Backpacking in Europe – Netherlands

Darcy Travel Leave a Comment

Touring the Heineken brewery in Amsterdam

Stephanie and I took a short flight from Glasgow over to Amsterdam to start our trip. I barely remember landing or how we got to the central train station but as we stepped out onto the streets, I was surprised at how many bikes and trams there were. They were everywhere. Lugging our backpacks we dodged bikes, sidestepped trams and avoided cars as we made our way to our hostel, Vondelpark Hostel. It was the first time I had stayed in a hostel and so I had no idea what to expect.

Europe Series

Every hostel has their own set of rules that you have to follow and this one was setup so that male and female occupants stayed in different rooms.  So after we checked in, Stephanie and I split up and went to our assigned rooms to unpack.  When I walked into the room that I was supposed to be in, I was surprised at how large and clean it was.   There were 8 beds in it and so I took one that was in the corner and out of the way. As I was unpacking a few things, an American student from Babson College came in and started settling in as well. We struck up a conversation and he seemed like a good enough guy. He said he was on exchange as well and had come over from London to tour around Europe for his Spring break as well. I remember him saying that he wanted to head over to Normandy, France so he could remind the French how they (the Americans) had saved “their ass” in World War 2. I chuckled and told him, “Good luck with that” but I wasn’t sure if he was joking.  We talked a bit more before Stephanie came to see why it was taking me so long to settle in.  I bid my roommate adieu and headed off into the city with Stephanie.

Sometime during that first day, Stephanie’s watch broke and I slowly discovered that she was keen on knowing the time. Early spring in Amsterdam - a view from the hostel Thus begun the barrage of “What time is it?” questions that were thrown my way over the course of our trip. In retrospect, I probably should have bought her a watch.  I was still in a stage where I didn’t wear a watch because I was trying an experiment to see if I could get my subconscious to track time for me and I was at the point where I could tell the time (with a 5-15 minute margin of error) without using a watch (oh the things we try when we are younger).

Over the next two days, Stephanie and I toured around Amsterdam and took in the sights, sounds and smells. We visited Magna Plaza which had some pretty nice stores that had prices that were out of our budget but it was great to window shop. As I wandered by one store, I saw an American style “trash can” (metal with handles) selling for $79 Canadian. The quintessential clog boat - believe it or not, the Canadian flag is what caught my eye. We dropped by the Hard Rock Cafe so I could pick up a T-shirt for my sister, visited Planet Hollywood (which was cool back then) and checked out a few CD stores. I picked up an trance album that I still own and though it was quite pricey ($45 CAD), I still listen to some of the songs. We walked around a lot that day and explored the canal system that winds its way throughout the downtown. Everyone seemed to have some kind of boat moored along the edges and, at the time, I was not sure why there were so many.  There were quite a few interesting boats to be seen and I snagged a photo of a clog shaped boat that was sporting a wee Canadian flag.

Later in the day, Stephanie and I made our way over to the Sex Museum (go into the English version of the site and turn up the volume – NSFW though) as it had been touted as a place one “must see” when in Amsterdam. What an eye opener that was. Again, the internet had not come into full maturity yet so seeing some of the stuff in there for the first time was very educational to say the least. The museum covers the topic of sex and erotica throughout the ages and they have multiple floors devoted to sharing all that knowledge. Certain sections are devoted to famous historical figures and The canals of Amsterdam - and yes I know this has nothing to do with the Sex Museum. their contributions to sex in History and I remember the section of Catherine the Great (Russian Empress) and her “love” of horses. Whew. As we explored the museum, we found a section that had stalls setup to demonstrate the whole glory hole experience. To me, it looked like it was used for a lot more than demonstration but needless to say, I didn’t touch a whole lot in there (I won’t link or describe the concept to you because I don’t want this site being blocked – feel free to look it up yourself though). I’m not easily shocked but I was starting to get there as I saw more and more of the museum. It was a lot to take in (no pun intended). Steph and I made our way up  to another floor and we came to one section that had a warning about the graphic content that was in the next area. For me, you might as well have put up a sign that said “Free money in here!”. I quickly walked in and I found out that it was an room devoted to the less common forms of sex/erotica. You know, like bestiality, urination, excrement and anything else you can think of. They had lots of pictures to demonstrate these interests and it was finally enough to convince Stephanie and I to pull an Elvis and leave the building.

As we stepped back out onto the sidewalk, we noticed that the Museum of Medieval Torture was close by and thought we should visit that one next. In hindsight, we probably shouldn’t have done that because I still associate the two and I sometimes refer to my visit there as the Museum of Sex and Torture. But no, it was just torture. Do not confuse this museum with the Toture Museum which is not too far away from this one. 

The museum of Medieval Torture. The stuff of nightmares.Darcy Peters
Within it’s walls, all forms of medieval torture were well documented and they even had wax statues setup to showcase some of the more painful and devious tools. There is one that sticks out in my mind as the worst but I will spare you the details (ask me when you see me) as it involves a man who is hung upside down by ropes in a spread eagle position while two men use a lumberjack saw to cut him in half. Groin to head. Wait, I said I wouldn’t give you details. Oops sorry. Anyways, the stuff of nightmares for sure. One  section described how they would torture witches and I started feeling sorry for women who showed any kind of intelligence back in the day. The savvy ones would dress like men to avoid suspicion but having intelligence and street smarts was not that common.  It reminds me of the scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail where they test to see if a woman is a witch. After further education on the ignorance of humanity, we left the museum and felt certain that we would be scarred for life.

On our second day, Stephanie and I left the hostel early and made our way to the Heineken brewery for a tour as we heard Stephanie and I start drinking half pints after the tour of the Heineken brewery you only had to pay $2 for a 35 minute tour that ended with an all-you-can-drink-for-25-minutes session in a beer hall so you could sample the beer. Yes, I know. Spoken like a true student. The brewery tour was not open when we got there so we wandered around looking for food but could not find anything open at that time. We ended up standing in line for the tour with empty stomachs. As we were about to start the tour, the guide came by to see who was in line and then stopped at one group. He pulled three drunk Canadian guys out of the line and told them that they could not take the our anymore as they had already done it twice. As I would find out, it was a cheap way to get drunk if that was your plan. The tour itself was good and we got to see how they made this wonderful beer. As we ended the tour, we lucked out by being the first table served as we sat down in the hall. In the span of 25 minutes, I drank 7 half pints. Couple that with my empty stomach and I was feeling pretty good. Stephanie and I were sitting at a table with a couple from North England, Spencer and Rachel. How I remembered their names for my journal is a bit of mystery. Anyway, after they ushered us out of the hall, the four of us stumbled down the streets for a bit before deciding that we should go to a cafe to see what these hash houses were all about.

So we walked into the first one we saw, sat down in a booth and picked up the menu. As we perused the menu, we saw quite a few aptly named items such as Heavenly Hash and Mellow Yellow among the many that were listed. Stephanie and I started talking about drugs and it was then we realized that neither one of of us had tried drugs before (alcohol aside) and figured that if we were going to try it, Amsterdam was the place to do it. As we sat there waiting for our order to be taken, our empty-stomach alcohol buzz started wearing off and I started having doubts about doing it. I thought to myself “I’ve never done it before so why start now?”. As I sat there and Stephanie and I share drinks with our new best friends (Rachel and Spencer) at the Heineken brewerywaited, I realized that I really didn’t want to do it so I told Stephanie about it and she felt the same way. So in the end, we just ordered some food as did Rachel and Spencer. After lunch, we bid our friends farewell and headed back to the hostel. I’ve always remembered that decision and how it allowed me to make tough decisions that went against the grain. Kind of a TSN turning point with regards to my life.

That night, we toured the Red Light District and go to see the other main reason why people like to come to Amsterdam. Buildings with many small ground floor rooms lined the streets in this area. These rooms had full height windows and on inside these glass enclosures were scantily clad guys and girls who would stand there and try to get your attention. Once they made eye contact, they would try and entice you to come into the buildings to purchase their services.  Steph and I were happy to just watch everything happen. We walked by sex shops, brothels and live F*ck shows.  While we wandered in and out of the sex shops and watched the comings and goings of the brothel customers, the live F*ck show had us puzzled.  Without the internet at our fingertips, we had questions about them like “How close are you to the stage?”, “How long is the show?”, “What are the viewers doing while they sit there?”. After some debate, we decided not to go in and decided to spend the $25 admission fee somewhere else.  We wandered around, picked up some postcards (I was bad at sending them out) and made our way back to the hostel.

There were other things we wanted to see there but as we would find out, there was simply not enough time to see everything. All being said, I think we picked up quite an education during our short visit there and not just in the taboo areas either. We discovered that in Netherlands, the equivalent to saying Cheers! is ‘Proost!’ (pronounced ‘Prohst!’).  The next day, we woke up, packed our bags and hopped on a train that was headed to the next country on our list: Germany.

Current Trip Expenses (in 1996 currency)

Item Cost(*)
Trip Preparation $721.13
Netherlands expenses $98.09 (converted from Guilders : ƒ)
Total $819.22

* Giving kudos to Onana for letting me use their currency rate time machine.
All currency in Canadian Dollars unless specified

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