The Netherlands. The liberal country that, no argument about it, is known for substances of the mind altering kind. You could try and suggest clogs, or tulips, or windmills, or canals, or bikes, or rose hued districts or Anne Frank. But when it comes to the capital during King’s Day, there’s one answer given from most altered minds.
I fly into Amsterdam late at night. I get my backpack first off the carousel, relieved to see the zipper-attached smaller backpack is still in the “there” position. This had never worried me until at the check-in counter she reminded me three times this bag would not have a label attached. I got it. Thanks for the extra worry. Feel free to make that extra leg room next time.
I find my way to the train station and jump on the Amersfoort line I have researched will get me to Centraal. The Dutch lady over the loudspeaker says it is not stopping at some stations, but none I recognise as Centraal. Good to go. A man asks from the platform, “does this go to Centraal?” I shrug, “sure hope so” and we roll out. A conductor walks past and I ask the question. The answer, no, it doesn’t and it’s going to be difficult, travelling 30 minutes out of the city. And he walks away. He returns and I ask him what to do when I get to the next distant station, starting to stress about when the trains stops. He advises and basically it will be over an hour before I get to where I need to be. Which is bed.
He returns, with a blonde lady. “I have some good news. She has made the same mistake as you.” While I appreciate having a buddy in the same boat, luckily he didn’t end there. “We’re going to stop at Centraal just for you both.” I can’t believe it. I love Amsterdam. We have to get off quickly. I’m happy to stop, drop and roll out of a moving carriage at this point. My pleasure.
Minus added hours of stress I arrive in the Dam. Ten months ago I would be nervous walking alleyways this late at night, with giant neon backpacker arrows pointing at me. It’s now just another back-bended hobbled step in my stride. Funnily enough, I can smell weed.
I check into the Flying Pig Downtown and am tempted to join the bar. Not a usual trait of mine but this place looks like a good time. Shower and bed in a 6-bed ensuite dorm win. I had in my head I was in an all girls room. I woke confused to see some manly looking feet across from me. I get out of bed and there’s a dude underneath me. Not sure where I got this girls idea. Explains the snoring though.
I eat the free breakfast, good coffee, and so many different breads. It’s a decent “hostinental” breakfast.
I meet Jess at the station and with our powers combined we find the winning trifecta of our bus, our station, and our boat.
The sun is shining, the beers are unlimited and when this boat starts rocking it won’t be from the flat canal water.
We sun, we beer, we get to know the Aussies, Kiwi, Canadians, Yanks, Brazilians, Dutch, Belgians, English, Austrians and before long we’re a socially lubricated orange hued team ready to boat over for the night’s walking tour. Also known as a Red Light District perve. Even though you hear all the stories, it’s still a little shocking to turn around and see a scantily clad lass looking bored and unimpressed texting on her phone. Well if that’s all it takes I should have all the boys lining up. My unimpressed face is perfected.
My friends and I call it an early night to save ourselves for the big day. Big day is no understatement. I don’t realise until two days later that breakfast beers at 9am and bedtime at 6am equals nearly 21 hours of partying. I know I’m doing nothing to calm my family’s worries that I’m a raging alcoholic but please tell me when I will see another King’s Day.
Breakfast beers turn into boat beers. Holland has turned on a stunning day and we bask in the sun as we cruise along the canal. Boat beers turn into street wandering beers which turn into buying more orange garb. Today you can never be too orange. Lucky for me at home in Australia you can’t turn around at a market without running into poffertjes. I am delighted to introduce my Canadian counterpart to this wonder of tiny pancakes swimming in icing sugar.
Poffertjes turn into lachgas for some. It appears your body laughs while your mind might not want to. My last experience on happy gas was while getting four molars removed so I’m not keen to return there.
Lachgas turns into sangria and paying for toilets even though we’ve bought our weight in bad red wine and dodgy floating fruit. Sangria turns into pommes frites. Famous ones in fact. I made the rueful decision to get extra hot sambal sauce on mine. It hurts. I don’t enjoy a single mouthful. Frites turn into wandering. Too much wandering. Wandering is looking for toilets, orange exploding in the air, people manoeuvring, and getting kicked out of restaurants because we don’t want to buy a meal for every single person in the group. Wandering turns into shots. Shots turn into dancing in the street. Dancing the street turns into photo excess. Photo excess turns into filling in the day’s blurs.
Time escapes us and we realise we better get walking to make it back in time for the boat party. We get lost. We get to see the Amstel. We get to use Wagamama’s toilet. We find the main road and also find we aren’t as far away as initially thought. Amsterdam is one of the hardest cities to find your way around. Even with a dodgy sense of direction, I usually get pretty good at knowing what’s what in a city. This never happened in the Dam.
We are a few minutes late but I bank on the fact that time is not of the essence with Stoke and we are safe. We finally get on the boat and it isn’t long before spirits are back up. Unlimited beer helps that. But the atmosphere is up there with Oktoberfest, my favourite for well, atmosphere. I never thought I would be happy to be in a bottleneck but the greatest moment of the canal cruise is when we hit traffic. Boats stop alongside one another and we take in the Dutch sea of orange madness. People are jumping into the water, some even appear to be deliberate leaps. DJ Canal provides the beats as each passing boat pumps out the tunes. There’s even some Backstreet Boys we all pretend to love to hate.
Time passes quickly and dropping temperatures remind us it’s time to go home. We had dressed for the beautiful day.
Back at the boat we redress and regroup. There is talk of going out but before we know it is 5am and we’re still up on the boat. Twenty-one hours is a good effort in my books.
The next day it’s raining but we don’t really mind as it’s definitely a lazy recovery day.
We get touristy the day after and do the free walking tour after checking back in to the Flying Pig. To our 32-bed dorm! With such horrific expectations, it was just fine and dandy apart from the orchestra of snorers.
In Amsterdam I experience more travel reunions with surfer girls from Morocco. It was a city of extremes. Extreme partying to extreme chilling. King’s Day is one for the ages.
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