One of the most overwhelming places on Earth-- Schiphol-- the Amsterdam airport. Maybe overwhelming isn't the right word-- it's just like an amusement park more than an airport. And I have never seen so many duty-free stores in one place before. Desperately needing some face moisturizer, I went into a shop and tried to buy the cheapest one I could find. The lady wouldn't let me buy it without my boarding pass. I explained to her that my boarding pass was long gone and that I was just arriving there. She explained the Dutch tax rule to me-- No one can buy un-taxed items if they are arriving there-- just leaving. First sign of being overcharged in Holland.
I stepped out into the bitterly freezing air and stood in the cab line. I turned around to look at this place-- it was like a huge mall-- with flashing lights and Holiday garb everywhere.
I made it into the cab and got to talking to the taxi driver. Amsterdam is another place where everyone speaks English-- they learn it in grade school, so pretty much everyone has it down. My driver even taught me a few words and phrases-- Absolutely cleared from my memory right now. Dutch is so over my head. It is so completely different from anything I have ever heard in my life-- it sounds like gibberish. But I love listening to it-- I'd really like to try to learn it one day.
I looked at the meter-- it was already at 25 Euros... "Oh shit," I thought. "Um," I said to the driver, "How much is this going to be exactly?"
"Oh, about 50 Euros or so."
Holy crap. The most I had paid for a cab on my trip was about 20 Euros. This was not good news. Second sign of Holland ripping me off.
Anyways, once I got over the absurdity, my friend I met back in Florence came to meet me at a metro stop. Dave is an Australian who just re-located to Amsterdam a few weeks ago. It was nice to have a friend to stay with there, instead of staying in, yet again another hostel. That night, we went out and he showed me the infamous Red Light District. There are prostitutes in the windows and "Grow-kits" in shop windows. I had always heard about the "Coffee Shops," but I guess I didn't really believe they existed until I was actually sitting in one. There is literally about three on every block. Needless to say, everyone I met there was very laid back...
He has a full-time job, so during the day I bundled up as much as possible and wandered the streets. It was dark while I was there. I didn't see the sun once. But I liked that, in a strange way. Amsterdam has a mysterious, dark beauty about it-- at least in the winter time. I visited the Anne Frank house-- where Frank and her family went into hiding before being caught and taken to the concentration camps. I spent about three hours there and read about everything I could read in that museum. It was eye-opening to be standing in the same house where those innocent people were hiding from the Nazis.
My stay there was brief, but I'm glad I chose it to wind down my trip. I flew back to Milan (where I flew in to begin the adventure), spent a night there, and got on the plane to head back to America.
It was over, and I really couldn't believe it.