----- Netherlands ---------------
My 2016 trip to Europe started in Amsterdam. This time flying to Amsterdam for some reason was cheaper than closer European cities like London or Paris, so I decided to venture here since I have never visited the Netherlands. The flight over was nice, and although Amsterdam can be very unpredictable, the weather actually was partly cloudy. We did very well. We really only had 1 day in Amsterdam as we were heading to Paris en route to Les Calanques the main interest of our trip. Leaving Amsterdam the following day was extremely expensive at 135 Euros for a train ticket to Paris. Buying train tickets isn't like it used to be in Europe with set rates. Buying train tickets is now like buying plane tickets. If you wait until right before you need to leave, you will be gouged. I learned a painful lesson to buy a ticket well in advance.
When in Amsterdam I wanted to experience some local cuisine, and of course explore the city. We stayed in the red light district which is conveniently located near the train station. The streets were busy and noisy, but exciting. We had the chance to visit central Amsterdam where large groups of people were hanging out and enjoying their day. As we explored the city we strolled by many canals each lined with what seemed and unending line of bicycles. Amsterdam is very similar to Copenhagen in that most residents bike everywhere. Amsterdam is a very picturesque city with beautiful towering homes along the canals of various colors. We also sampled the local cuisine of foods unique to the Netherlands. My favorite was bitterballen a friend like ball with cheese. It was very tasty, and we enjoyed it with a beer. The locals told us bitterballen is a snack served in pubs. It was hard to find it in local restaurants.
In the evening we were walking the streets, and we came around this corner and all of the sudden there were so many people. Plus, the street color changed to red by all the red lights (red light district). This was indeed an interesting area. All of the windows along the street were occupied with women in various forms of dress trying to lure in the men. You would literally see a man walk up to a window/door, walk inside and then the door would close and the blinds come down. I had never seen anything like this before. Another strange sight in the red light district was these metal cylinder shaped objects. When you approached them you could smell urine as these were urinals that you step inside around a metal cover to do your business. Basically people were peeing in the streets. Very strange...
All in all, I did enjoy my short stay here. I would like to return to see more of the city and enjoy more unique foods of this country.