Day 1–Amsterdam, the Netherlands

As I promised, I am attempting to write a day-by-day synopsis of this European trip that will take me to my extended birth family’s home in Ascoli Piceno, Italy.

Today I’m in Amsterdam.  I left Thursday, December 19 around 1:35 p.m. and arrived around 8:40 a.m. on December 20.  It wasn’t until just a day or so ago that I realized the itinerary I had chosen.  Like a fool, I waited way too long to purchase my tickets–in this case, October of this year.  As a result, I’m now sitting in a Starbucks at Schiphol Airport awaiting a flight that leaves at 8:40 p.m. a full TWELVE hours after my arrival.

Fortunately, though, I’m in one of Europe’s most exciting cities.  I took the metro into central Amsterdam and started walking.  The sun was out but was obscured quite a bit by the buildings.  Nevertheless, every so often it would shine brilliantly between the buildings and accent the unique architecture of this canal city built beneath sea level.

As is my style, I just walked.  I generally don’t like agendas because they hold me back and the most exciting things tend to happen when you just wing it.  This time around, that did not happen.  That’s probably because I only had a few hours, my legs were killing me and I’m still suffering some discomfort from my recent surgery.  Next time, though, I’m sure I’ll run into royalty.

The canals give this city an identity all its own.  Houseboats line the canals and tour boats ferry tourists around the city to the Anne Frank House, the Van Gogh Museum and the Amsterdam Museum.  They also provide a certain flair as a unique form of transportation.

Anyway, the city is truly interesting.  The Dutch are very environmentally conscious, more so than Oregonians, from what I can see.  Bicycles outnumber cars.  Everywhere are literally hundreds of bikes parked.  Near the metro station, there were THOUSANDS of bikes.  I was flabbergasted.

I was also impressed with the cleanliness of this city.  There’s graffiti to be sure, but it’s relegated mostly to freeway overpasses.  I saw no litter, no homelessness and no begging.  The Netherlands, as much of Europe, has a very generous social safety net and an affluent, educated and progressive population.  Every time I visit a place, I always wonder what it would be like to live there for a year to get a dose of every day reality.  Something tells me that Dutch culture is like this every day.  After all, it’s not like they opted to put on their best face because I was coming.

I walked by the Anne Frank House but didn’t stop in.  I’ve visited Amsterdam before so I’ve seen the museum.  Same for the Van Gogh Museum and the Rembrandt Huis.  Also had an opportunity several years ago to attend a concert at the Concertgebouw, one of the most acoustically perfect music venues in the world.

Now I’m back in the airport dying to get to Italy.  Twelve hours of waiting are eleven and a half hours too many for someone as impatient as I am.  How many times can I carouse the shopping mall and look at chocolates?  Oh well, I will be in Italy soon.

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