On Friday, June 17, I toured Sagrada Familia with Amir and Maraym. Very friendly travelers from Canada with passports from both Canada and Iran. Both born, raised and educated in Tehran, they recently quit their full time jobs to continue their educations. They were frugal travelers on a understandably tight, college student budget. But their next stop was Rome. I bought them coffee and we talked for an hour after walking Sagrada Familia for an hour.
Amir has a BS in Chemical Engineering and is working on a MBA. He was in his mid thirties and has worked for several well known oil companies around the world. He has worked and traveled to many places in South America. Maraym was halfway through her Doctorate in Medical Genetics. She currently spends a large amount of time in a lab, performing research on a genetic disease that attacks children around ten years of age. They were interesting and very friendly fellow travelers, but time ran short.
I set off on the bus tour of Barcelona on a double decker bus.
Later that day in the hostel’s outdoor deck area I met Francois, a 23 year old Parisian. He was currently studying for exams that will make him a judge in France. It is a much different process to become a judge in France vs the US. Judges are not elected or appointed. They are selected from individuals well educated in law that pass the examination. He said there are over 3000 applicants currently and about 20 people will get selected. I bought us several beers and dinner and we had an interesting and enjoyable conversation. I was five years older than his father and we talked personal finance, politics in the US (Trump) terrorism in europe and in the US, travel and more. We talked for two or three hours. He spoke perfect english. I have no doubt he will be ultimately selected to be a judge.
I asked him when first knew he wanted to be a judge. He said when he was 14.
Left the hostel Saturday AM, walked two blocks to the Metro and rode far underground out to the airport. I went down 8 or 10 60 foot escalators. At the airport I checked my big bag and flew to Amsterdam in just over two hours. Took the train from the airport to the Central Train Station where I asked directions and bus numbers. Took Bus 172 about a mile to the museum district. Got off and walked two blocks to the hostel.
This is my second visit to Amsterdam.
Saturday night the prices in the hostel – and everywhere else for that matter – were high, so I booked a bed in dorm room with six beds. It was cramped with nowhere to place bags. In the room I met Cody a very interesting young man. He worked in the oil and gas industry on the eastern seaboard of Canada and was from Nova Scotia, a province I have visited four or five times. Frustrated after not getting a job he was promised, he took off traveling.
He had spent the last 6 months crewing on the above sailing yacht, over 100 feet long. He said that some of the yachts rented for as much as $300,000 a day and carried 4 or 6 guests. He talked about spending the recent winter in the Caribbean and the early summer in the Med. Cody ran off a list of ports of call.
To keep things balanced and in proper perspective, I asked him about the winters in Nova Scotia.
I offered to buy beers so we set put from the hostel. We drank a few beers, ate a light dinner, then set out for a coffee shop.
He bought a gram of weed for 14€ and we smoked a joint and talked. Then more beers in more bars. As we were walking out of one bar, there was a crowd of people and 4-5 policemen tending to a girl in her 20’s laying unconscious five feet away on the sidewalk. My first thought was some type of drug overdose. An ambulance arrived and took her away.
We got home about 1:30 AM and I had to first ascend the ladderlike stairs to the second floor then crawl into the upper bunk. It was avery crowded room after a night of drinking beer. Drunk but still able to think, I made a mental note. “Always ask for a lower bunk”.
Around 1 PM the following day I moved to a private room. I paid for all four beds in the room and have my own 1/2 bathroom and a window. A shared shower is at the end of the hall. It is nice to have the space and privacy and it is well worth the extra cost.
Yesterday, Sunday the 19th I walked around the outside of the Van Gogh Museum then down to the red light district, about 1.5 miles away.
I set out walking after 10 PM and it was still dusk with a full moon rising. Amsterdam is such a neat city. Beautiful buildings, safe streets, busses, parks, benches, streetcars, bars, canals, bicycles, boats, restaurants, shops. All neat, clean, orderly, level and efficient. Great art museums and an easygoing atmosphere full of young people. Bicycles are parked everywhere.
I stopped for a beer and reflected on the chaos of Luxor versus the peace and quiet of Amsterdam late on a Sunday night. No horns, just streetcar and bicycle bells. Minimal vehicle traffic vs. a bumper car free for all. Live sex shows and prostitution vs the puritanical attitudes, dress, veils and hijabs. The fasting ritual of Ramadan vs the exceptional eateries, delis and pastry shops. Coffee shops selling pot, hash, mushrooms and bars everywhere vs the stigma attached to alcohol in Egypt.
I am glad to be here.
I had planned to ride Streetcar #5 back to the hostel, but they had stopped running for the night. So I walked back, through the canal ring, arriving to my private room about 1:30 AM.
Amsterdam World Heritage Site info:
Seventeenth-Century Canal Ring Area of Amsterdam inside the Singelgracht
The historic urban ensemble of the canal district of Amsterdam was a project for a new ‘port city’ built at the end of the 16th and beginning of the 17th centuries. It comprises a network of canals to the west and south of the historic old town and the medieval port that encircled the old town and was accompanied by the repositioning inland of the city’s fortified boundaries, the Singelgracht. This was a long-term programme that involved extending the city by draining the swampland, using a system of canals in concentric arcs and filling in the intermediate spaces. These spaces allowed the development of a homogeneous urban ensemble including gabled houses and numerous monuments. This urban extension was the largest and most homogeneous of its time. It was a model of large-scale town planning, and served as a reference throughout the world until the 19th century.
Amsterdam, capital of the Netherlands, has more than one hundred kilometres of canals, about 90 islands and 1,500 bridges. The three main canals, Herengracht, Prinsengracht, and Keizersgracht, dug in the 17th century during the Dutch Golden Age, form concentric belts around the city, known as the Grachtengordel. Alongside the main canals are 1550 monumental buildings. The 17th-century canal ring area, including the Prinsengracht, Keizersgracht, Herengracht and Jordaan, were placed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2010, contributing to Amsterdam’s fame as the “Venice of the North”.