The 1 hour flight from Berlin to Amsterdam went well, and unlike our previous flight, I did not have concerns about the air worthiness of the aircraft and only read the emergency procedure card once before take off.
We arrived in Amsterdam late afternoon, had dinner and crashed as we were both exhausted from the the action packed days and nights spent in Berlin. The following night we had the Muse concert, which was very good, but not as good as Seattle according to Corry.
The Muse concert.
The following day we jumped right into action and did a walking tour. The tour took us to all the usual places cities in Europe have. Two unique places were the Anne Frank house and the red light district. We went into the red light district briefly but the guide did a dedicated tour in the evening so we signed up and went back later that day.
The red light district gets its name from the red lights that illuminate the small rooms with a single window that prostitutes stand behind trying to get business. The area itself is safe, the biggest concern is pick pockets. We learnt about the current prostitution legislation and how it has evolved, price for window rental, what services are on offer and how much it will set you back, all interesting stuff. I won't go into details, as we strive to maintain a general audience rating for our blog, but essentially 50 Euro, will get you 15 minutes that includes the two main sex acts. The prostitutes must buy window rental before each shift, they then keep all money made for that shift. Window rental will cost anywhere from 80 - 150 Euro, depending on the location and time. We also learnt about various clubs, sex theatres, sex shops and what they specialise in and what goes on inside. Two amusing things in the red light district was a catholic church with prostitution windows very close by, and a kindergarten with windows either side. The church was convenient located as the men at sea for weeks at a time would come back, visit a prostitute and then go and purchase or pre purchase forgiveness before heading back to sea. The guide also went into some detail about Coffee Shops and the legislation behind them. It turns out Amsterdam city council is rather stubborn and refuses to enforce or comply with some federal legislation. Technically cannabis use is illegal for tourists but it is not in-forced and no one has been arrested in 30 years.
More than 60% of traffic on inner city roads in Amsterdam is on bikes. There are people constantly riding past and bikes are chained to everything. As a pedestrian you learn pretty quickly to be constantly checking for bikes and cars just give way and get along with them with causing a fuss. I hired a bike one day, and just got lost on the streets and road through some parks. I didn't have any problems with cars, there are bike lanes everywhere, including on round a-bouts. It was great fun.
Another thing Amsterdam has lots of it canals, apparently they are very clean but the city council pulls a few bodies out every year and 15000 bikes or so. The canals are man made and are used for transport, to look nice and another very important reason, much of the Netherlands including Amsterdam is actually below sea level, so dikes, canals and pumping stations help prevent flooding.
After having a rather big night we got up and made out way to Brussels, with a train. We staid right near Grand place, which was essentially like every other square in Europe, full of tourists! Belgium is famous for several foods: fries, beer, waffles and chocolate. We were both ok with this! The fries were very good, they are half cooked at a lower temperature and then finished off at a higher temperature, to produce some glorious, crunchy goodness. Belgium is also home of the European Union and was where Tintin was created. The walking tour took us to Tintin memorial but the guide refused to take us to the EU headquarters as he said it was boring, and said a few things to show his hostility towards the EU. We also went to the 'famous' peeing boy. He is 30cm tall max. I had heard he was a let down, so I was overly disappointed.
On our final day we went to Brugge for the day. Brugge was a once booming town, due to its port. It is really pretty, and Corry enjoyed seeing sites from the movie: In Brugge. We climbed a clock tower in the church on the main square, and got a good view of the place. After that we walked around for little bit and then caught the train back to Brussels and had a quiet night, as we had a flight the next day to Pisa.
Amsterdam was cool enough to make me want to return and even explore the Netherlands further, however I don't really see myself going back to Brussels or Belgium anytime soon, it wasn't bad but just wasn't interesting or unique enough.
So after Brussels we had one week to go to Pisa, Florence and Rome, but really we leave to come home in less than 24 hours. We are both looking forward to coming home and seeing some of you again :P