16 May 2011

Amsterdam, Nederland

“Oh my gawd, I can’t believe we’re in Amsterdam!!”

Amsterdam is very, very Dutch; this was clear as I walk out the station. What strikes me is how incredibly touristy this place is. London and Paris put together make Amsterdam on the tourist-o-meter.

I’m walking down the main road out of the train station and I’m yet to hear or see any Dutch. All I see is bureaus de change and fat Americans among the “watch for pickpockets” signs. I actually feel on the same level as these things because I don’t have my bike with me anymore due to a concert I’m going to in The Hague.

Amsterdam really is just like a big Utrecht… Or Utrecht is a small Amsterdam…

I’ve booked three nights in the famous Flying Pig hostels (with infamous prices) so I’m hoping that staying here will raise my expectations of this city.

I arrive to walls covered in magic mushroom paintings and fake graffiti, with an Australian greeting me at reception. Tackiness and Australians – there’s no escape. Instead of worrying about all that, I walk up (climb, rather) to my dorm to unpack. Here there’s an American from outside of New York and inevitably I’m invited down to have a smoke before I even unzip my backpack; an offer that even a non-smoker shouldn’t really decline on their first night.

Just half an hour later, I’m high as a kite and still dislike the feeling as I always have done. If there’s anything more overrated than being high, it’s being high with others who are just as high, because the things that you think seem really ‘profound’ when intoxicated just aren’t if you’ve got half a brain. The guy providing all this weed keeps talking about how stoned he is, and I’ve got cotton mouth. I was expecting the topic of legalisation of marijuana to come up, but it’s my lucky evening and it doesn’t, though accusations of’getting baked’ and’being baked’ flowed freely just as the bong water doesn’t.

The more time I spent staring at nothing, the more Australian and American voices I hear, until we were all joking about how there were more Australians in the room than any other (true; over half are Australian), and the remainder Americans. Everyone was laughing, so you’ve got to join in, but it’s a joke for all the wrong reasons.

There’s one really interesting fellow from San Francisco who had hitchhiked to every 48 continental states of the US, which is mightily impressive. I felt bad for not buying him a beer or two, but there was no time to as he just keeps walking in and out with eight bottles in his hands to give to a select few people, including myself. Great guy.

I don’t know for how long I was sitting in the smoking room for, but it was certainly for too long with way too many Busabout Aussies and Americans with no stories. It’s hard to say whether it’s a fault of the hostel, Amsterdam or just plain bad luck, but I continue to sit in this room not really thinking about anything, wallowing in smoke. Either that or it’s still the weed. I’m laughing to myself now that literally the first things I’ve done in Amsterdam are smoke and drink. The hitchhiker from San Francisco asked if he could join me travelling; I said yes, but there’s no way he’ll remember because he just tripped over a table.