trains, trams, and sexmuseums

We didn’t have a diplomatic briefing today, so we slept in and stayed on the boat until lunch – some much needed rest, especially since we were leaving straight away for Amsterdam! We trekked downtown to the train station (a good 30-45 minute walk) and found out that the trains to Amsterdam actually leave from the other Antwerp train station (the tour agent people on the ship told us there was only one train station in Antwerp… hmm…) Anyhow, we figured it out and had to ride a train for a whopping one whole stop to the proper station where trains left hourly for Amsterdam. The trainride was quite nice, even in second class, though there were constant announcements in Dutch that occasionally sent us into a panic about if our stop had come up yet (turns out, Amsterdam was at the end of the line, phew!)

Having arrived in Amsterdam (which had even a lovely train station), we caught a tram to our hostel which was in the Leidseplein area (good bars/restaurants) overlooking the Vondelpark (full of skaters, live music, etc). We experienced hostelling on a new level – our hostel was enormous! Luckily, it was all spread about several quant cute buildings so it didn’t feel huge, but we got the amenities of a monsterous hostel: internet, bar/restaurant, big breakfast buffet, TV, etc. Something I’ve loved in general as well about European hostels is that instead of sheets and a blanket waiting for you on your bed, they give you a quilt/duvet and a duvet cover! It’s just like my bed at home…

We tried to make it to the Anne Frank museum during their discounted evening hours, but when we finally got on the proper tram we were told that they don’t stop there anymore… tragic. Instead we ended up wandering somewhat aimlessly around downtown (beautifully laced with canals) and decided to go to the Sexmuseum Amsterdam since it was absolutely enormous and only 2.50 euros. Not to worry, it wasn’t anything really lewd! It was actually quite interesting (though strange for obvious reasons), as it had a lot of artwork from all over the world in the form of paintings, sculptures, and so on. They had some funny multimedia bits with moving mannequins (like Marilyn Monroe singing) and also a little recreation of the old red light district which you could walk through. It was definitely more educational than either of us had anticipated!

After the museum, we continued wandering around and ended up doing some souvenir shopping – the most we’ve done yet in any country, I think! We also finally bought Russia patches, since we’ve both been getting patches in each country yet were unable to find them anywhere in Russia (odd we finally encountered them in Holland, but I can’t complain). I was really excited when I saw lots of Droste chocolate in the stores since we always have it at home, though it’s expensive in the U.S… but turns out it is just as expensive here! We also had some dinner which wasn’t anything special, except that a few Semester at Sea people saw us and recognized us. We found this particularly shocking because we don’t know much of anyone on the ship and furthermore can’t imagine why they all seem to recognize us, but it was sortof funny to bump into them in The Netherlands!

Back at the hostel we went down to the common room to try to play Canasta, which Amy’s been wanting to learn and I managed to get rules off the internet for. Funny though, right when we were sitting down a group of guys starting talking to us and asking us if we were from the states and were saying they didn’t understand where all the Americans were (don’t they realize Americans don’t go hostelling so much?) We talked to them for a few minutes (turns out they are from Philly), but they seemed disappointingly infatuated with drinking and smoking… fitting I guess, since they just graduated high school. Anyhow, we tried to play Canasta but realized before long that we didn’t have the complete or correct rules… so our card game crashed and burned rather quickly and we called it a night.

we came down a total gang-plank!
(our normal gangway was under repair)

beautiful graffitti in an antwerp city park

different spin on catholicism

doggies have to behave themselves inside stores

random orchestra in antwerp city square

streets of amsterdam (note how much they love heineken)

one of amsterdam's lovely canals

leidseplein, near where we were staying


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