Emma–Adventure in Amsterdam, and my feelings.

SO. Jana and I spent four nights in Amsterdam this past weekend.  It is such a beautiful city with some pretty interesting history!  We ate our fair share of Dutch pancakes, and spent our share of money..Amsterdam is an expensive city.  It was a great experience.  For those of you who don’t know..Amsterdam is a very tolerant city.  Prostitution is legal, and there are designated ‘red light districts’ where it occurs.  Basically you walk down these streets (our hostel was on one of them..) and there are little rooms with doors with glass windows and the sex workers are in there wearing next to nothing putting on a mini show to find customers.  It’s rather interesting.  It isn’t respectful to take pictures of them, so I don’t have any examples…haha.  Another peculiar thing about amsterdam are the many ‘coffee shops’ throughout the city.  If you go into one of these shops and order a latte you may be in for a surprise, because these coffee shops do not sell coffee.  The sell weed (if you couldn’t already tell from the smell of the shop).  People go into these shops and can buy marijuana to smoke or consume in other methods.  An interesting thing about this is that marijuana use is not legal in any way shape or form in Amsterdam or The Netherlands.  That being said, no one has been arrested/prosecuted for using/selling/having marijuana for over 40 years I believe.  Hmm?  Why is that….on one of the tours I went on the guide explained that Amsterdam has the law, but then it also has three unwritten rules to live by that kind of trump the law and have for basically it’s entire history.  They are:  Does it benefit you or someone in any way?  it should.  Does it harm anyone? it shouldn’t. and Is it discreet?  it should be.  Basically, with that you’re good to go!  So back to marijuana, does it benefit them??  It does, because without worrying about marijuana they can use their time and resources targeting hard drugs instead.  Does it harm anyone? no not really.  Is it discreet? This is the reason for the ‘coffee shops’ and not ‘weed shops.’  And so, if you go up to a police officer and say ‘hey they’re selling marijuana there and that’s illegal’ they will respond with ‘no that looks like a coffee shop to me’ and walk away.  Interesting huh??  So now you may be wondering what I was up to in Amsterdam…there seems to be a lot of sex and drugs…well don’t worry, Amsterdam is a beautiful city with a ton of history and art for tourists to see!  We went to a few museums and did a TON of walking.



There was a carnival set up for the first day we were there.  We took advantage of the food…pictures later in post.



Best weiner ever.

This is the old weigh station, it used to be the main entrance to the city.  They would also do creative and brutal public executions here too, and I guess once a year after one of these executions they would perform a live autopsy inside that building, which now is a restaurant! Yum!

The Rembrandt House, which is now a museum.  He was a pretty famous artist and lived here in Amsterdam for a long time before going bankrupt. 


The ugliest street in Amsterdam.  This is the old Jewish neighborhood, however it was taken down during WWII because the people of Amsterdam were cut off from all resources and it was one of the coldest winters…so they had to turn to using the wood from the empty Jewish homes.  It isn’t something they were proud of, so they kind of ignored the area until the 60’s-70’s when the city decided to make it a project for the university architecture students.  If you have an image of what the college students at that time were like, amplify that by 10 because the hippies in Amsterdam were crazy.  So now, they have some incredibly ugly apartments!  The city almost remodeled the entire city this way, but the public protested and the project was canceled last minute.  










You can kind of see on the other side of the canal is the floating flower markets. 

A famous coffee shop where they filmed part of Ocean’s 12.

Through this door is a little treasure of Amsterdam.  The 8 following pictures are from inside.  It was where french young women who didn’t want to be nuns but still wanted to work like one could come and live.  I don’t remember why but they couldn’t live in France, and of course Amsterdam is tolerant so they didn’t mind if they just lived secluded right in the center of the city in this hidden neighborhood.






One of the 2 wooden buildings left in Amsterdam…I guess they had issues with fires and learned..









So, all of the homes are built like this because they were taxed based on how much space they went along the streets, so they were all built tall and narrow.  Amsterdam is prone to floods (much of Holland is made from reclaimed land from the ocean) because of it’s low altitude, so all the shop owners had to keep their products in the attic.  They developed this pulley system, so now all the homes have one on top of them..You may also notice that all of the houses go slightly outward more and more each floor up, and that’s because if you imagine hauling something up the pulley and it’s heavy it may crash into the windows…with this angle it sways but doesn’t come back to the building.

This is another method of marijuana use they sell in Amsterdam.  I wouldn’t know, but I hear it’s good with milk.  It’s called special cake or space cake, I’m sure you can imagine why.




In case you didn’t already know, tulips are kind of a big deal in Holland.







When we were waiting for our plane to go to Amsterdam we were craving oreos and milk….you have no idea the struggle we went through to find this…and by the way, the almond milk you see here was disgusting and tasted like playdough.



Across from our hostel.




Oh yeah, we ate a surplus of pancakes in Amsterdam.  They were really amazing, and really expensive.  But delicious.








Line to the Anne Frank House.








Oh yeah, this is more of that carnival food.



Okay here I want to discuss kebabs.  America doesn’t have kebabs, and it’s quite the travesty.  Kebabs are kind of like a pita wrap, but like 10 times better.  You can get shaved chicken, and then there’s lettuce, and other vegetables, and spicy sauce and all sorts of other deliciousness.  Here, they have choco kebabs! I didn’t have one, but seriously it’s an amazing idea.


Another interesting story here.  Catholicism was actually banned here for 200 years because they were taking all of the money from the people.  However, since Amsterdam is so tolerant Catholics could just follow the three rules.  It benefits them, they aren’t harming anyone, and in the following picture is an example of the discreetness.  The black box like building was a church.  And again, the police would just say ‘eyy that just looks like a house to me I don’t care why there are 200 people going in and out every Sunday..’  I guess you could hear the singing down the street.

Europe’s largest Buddhist temple.









Strip club anyone?

Or how about a banana bar??


Now, that’s something familiar! Red Wing Shoes–straight from MN!


Our hostel.





Inside the biggest Buddhist temple in Europe.







Live porno show anyone?

Or how about some cannabis seeds?

Rembrandt’s portrait of the one and only Jacob Jochum.  Ain’t that attractive?  Hahaha just kidding…





Hash, Marijuana, and Hemp museum.

Super Skunky??

You can kind of see the windows next to the moulin rouge where the girls will work.

This is the main part of the red light district.


Jana was way to excited for asian food.

Coffee shops came in all sorts of varieties.

One of most narrow houses I saw.







I amsterdam.  This is a movement the city is doing to change Amsterdam from the XXX scene to more of a family/tourist environment.  They have shut down a lot of coffee shops and turned them into actual coffee shops (koffie in dutch–that’s how you know they actually sell coffee if it’s with a k or if it’s a cafe) and restaurants and such.  I guess the prostitution is being significantly reduced as well.  The red light district will be very different in the future, and probably not as fun for some people.




Warm thin crispy waffle thing with amazing stuff on it and in it!  A Dutch classic!

Heineken is a Dutch beer. 






BIKES FOR DAYSSSS.  There are over 1 million bikes in Amsterdam.  There are only 800,000 residents.  SO MANY BIKES.  With all these bikes, you may wonder how traffic works.  Well, basically, there are bike paths everywhere but they’re extremely confusing, and they go wherever and whenever they please, and they WILL run you over and they WILL enjoy it.  It actually was extremely terrifying dodging bikes in Amsterdam, and I don’t think I can ever look at a biker without feeling slightly insecure again.  But, hey it’s green right?



Fairytale wedding??

More amazing food.

After the Van Gogh museum I was a little inspired and bought a few oil canvas pieces…Love them!  (I got some really good deals, don’t worry, like 40 euro for all three)



So, that was Amsterdam.  It was a very fun experience, and I wouldn’t mind going back and seeing more of Holland.  It seems like such a beautiful country.  

Now I am back in Spain, and I can’t believe I only have a couple weeks left in the program.  This semester has flown by.  I am already getting ready for finals and finalizing my plans for after the semester.  I can’t believe I need to return to being a responsible adult in less than two months….

The weather here has been absolutely amazing, however I am starting to understand more why they do the whole siesta thing.  Today it reached 90, and although it isn’t nearly as bad as the humid 90 back in MN (it’s really dry here) it still is sort of uncomfortable, and it’s only the beginning of May.  I think the summers get really hot, especially 2-5pm.  So, I kind of understand why they go home for a few hours and finish of the day later in the evening when it’s a bit nicer outside.

I had a presentation in one of my classes this morning.  It was about immigration in Spain.  I mention it because during the presentation, which lasted about an hour and fifteen minutes, I was able to ramble and talk pretty easily all in Spanish.  I am positive that before I arrived here that presentation would have been EXTREMELY difficult to get through, and I got through it and only stumbled on a few words.  I will be nowhere near fluent when I return home, but I am pretty confident that I have reached a comfortable level to get by with my Spanish.  I will continue to study when I get home, because I don’t want to lose what I have right now.  So….if anyone speaks Spanish and would like some chats when I get back hit me up! 🙂

I have no more trips planned in the semester, so I will be in Granada until the end.  After that, I will go to Italy by myself for a week, and then Jake comes and we will go to the beach for a week, and then my family comes and we will all travel through Spain and France together.  It is going to be BUSY.  When I return home, I have to do any appointments I need to catch up on, and then move into my apartment in Winona right away so I can start working ASAP.  I feel like my life is just flying by at the rate of light right now, I kind of wish I could slow it down a little bit, or even rewind.  I still can’t believe I’m halfway through college right now…..I am soo not ready for the real world yet.  Well, maybe it’s just not ready for me, I don’t know I guess we’ll find out.  I’m 20.  It sounds young, but at the same time it sounds sooo old.  I feel like I’m 12 just enjoying life and not ready for the problems of the world right now, I don’t know when that change happened.  My childhood is over, which is a crazy thought.  I am an adult, and have been for a couple of years (kind of).

Sorry to get all feely but these are the things that have been going through my head lately.  I cannot believe that this whole adventure I had started when I was super young, I don’t even remember when, and decided I wanted to study abroad or something ‘cool’ like that.  After many years and hard work, I have actually made it happen.  I have been so blessed to have the opportunities that I have, and to have the support system that I have.  My family of course has been amazing, thanks Ma, Pa, and Ethan (and Grandma/Grandpa and everyone else).  I also have an amazing best friend and the one I love Jake, who has always supported anything I do even though it may mean leaving him for half a year.  I have so many amazing friends, from Big Lake and Winona.  I also have the communities and organizations I’ve been apart of.  It really makes all of this so much easier knowing I have that HUGE support system.

Thanks to that system, I have been able to travel the world.  At the age of 20.  Who can say they did that? It is so unreal to me.  I have had so many amazing experiences, whether it be touching the Berlin wall, riding camels through the desert in Africa, or walking through the ruins of Pompeii.  Since I’m on a roll, I am going to say something to everyone reading this.  If there is anything you want to do or see in your life, do it.  Do it right now, because you can and there is nothing stopping you.  Of course there are small obstacles, but life is right now, so enjoy it.  If you don’t have the support system I have, well you definitely have me as a start.  I can’t begin to say how glad I am I took this opportunity, and I don’t want anyone to ever hesitate to do what they love, because life is just way to short and it is way to amazing to fulfill your dreams.

La vida es bella. Life is beautiful.


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