Episode 16 - Canals, Waffles, and Drugs in Amsterdam
*Viewer Discretion is Advised*
In this episode/blog post, we talk about our 4-day visit in Amsterdam in the Netherlands. Although everything we did and talk about was/is legal in Amsterdam, some of the things we talk about may make some folks a little uncomfortable. Please be advised ahead of time that this episode/blog post is explicit. Thank you!
We went to Amsterdam with two of our friends from the U.S., who came to visit us in Prague. They wanted to also go to Amsterdam and since we had never been there, we decided to tag along with them because, you know, why not!?
After four nights with our friends in Prague, we flew to Amsterdam. Both couples flew separately because we booked our flights at different times like fools. Matt and I arrived first at the airport and took a train to Amsterdam Centraal Station. Then, we took a subway from there to our AirBNB, which was more on the outskirts of the city.
We ran into a bit of a debacle when trying to "check in" to our AirBNB. Even though we have phone service in Prague, for whatever reason, our phone service just chose not to function in Amsterdam. Huge bummer! So, we were unable to call our AirBNB host to say that we had arrived. We were ringing the doorbell and everything, but no one ever answered. So, we ducked into the nearest place that had WiFi, which turned out to be a small Mediterranean restaurant at the ground level of the apartment building. How convenient!
Using Skype on my phone in the restaurant, I called the host, who said she'd message me on WhatsApp, which I didn't have, and she quickly hung up. Then, I called her again and was ignored. Wonderful! We were stranded with our bags and things in a Mediterranean restaurant. So, what did we do? Naturally, we ordered some food! And, surprisingly, it was outstanding! That made our situation a bit more tolerable.
After eating, we sat outside the entrance to the apartment building, waiting for maybe someone to come out and get us. Eventually, someone did! They took us upstairs and after just 5 minutes, our friends showed up, too. Great timing!
Our AirBNB turned out to be really cool! There were beautiful colors, decorations, and furniture all over the place. It was a funky, colorful, and quirky apartment and we all loved it! We were excited to be there.
Then, we tried stroopwafel for the first time. Basically, there are two kinds: fresh and pre-packaged. The pre-packaged stroopwafel was the first kind we had. It's two crunchy, palm-sized waffles with some sort of filling between them. In our case, we had caramel-flavored stroopwafel. They were the best snack we have honestly ever had! They're sweet, soft, delectable, and crunchy all at the same time. A few days later, we tried the fresh kind, too. When in Amsterdam, folks, eat all the stroopwafel, like we did! You won't regret it!
Seriously. They are Matt's favorite snack ever. They're a pretty big deal.
After that, we went to a "coffee shop" as per our friend's request. A "coffee shop" is not like a cafe like you may think. It's a shop where you can buy and smoke marijuana. It's legal to do so in Amsterdam, so there are many of these shops across the city.
In the coffee shop, our friend bought some weed and we bought a slice of banana bread which had weed baked into it. The guy at the shop recommended 1/3 of the slice of banana bread we had and said that amount would be good enough for one person. So, being a baby, I had just about 1/6 of the slice. I know my tolerance of things! Matt had half of the entire slice because he has a high tolerance for things. Our friend smoked while we ate our edible.
We walked around Amsterdam a bit, just basically wandering the streets. For me, I felt the edible pretty quickly. It felt like the high just built up for a very long time. I continually got higher and higher and higher. Matt, however, didn't feel much at all for a while.
We eventually sat down at a restaurant because we were all hungry-- go figure! While sitting at the restaurant, I hit my peak of the high and it was not very enjoyable. I quickly felt sick to my stomach and didn't want to eat my food. Basically, I was freaking out.
Matt suddenly--and finally--felt the high at the restaurant. After eating, we all agreed it was in everyone's best interest to go back to the AirBNB or a bit. We took a bus and that was where Matt's high reached its peak. He felt like he was melting in his seat! I was feeling better, luckily, so I was admiring him and, as always, laughing at him.
When we arrived back at our place, we all came to the consensus to stick to alcohol for the rest of the evening. Ha!
But, we soon discovered that in the neighborhood we were in, there wasn't any alcohol available for sale anywhere. Not in any convenience stores or even the restaurant downstairs! It was bizarre, especially for a place like Amsterdam! Yes, prostitution and some drugs are legal, but they just didn't have alcohol available, in this one area at least! Interesting. And disappointing.
Out of desperation, we drank some random beer that was in the apartment. Not to worry: we replaced them before we left Amsterdam!
And that was our first day. What a great welcome to Amsterdam, huh?
This day was mainly for exploration. We took the subway to Amsterdam Centraal Station and wandered around the main area there. Boy, was it busy! There were tourists, cars, motorbikes, bicycles, and trams everywhere! It was hard to even move!
We went to another coffee shop called The Bulldog, which is (apparently) a famous coffee shop in Amsterdam. We didn't know until we got there and checked it out for ourselves. It was pretty cool!
Fun fact: you shouldn't smoke weed on the streets of Amsterdam. Try to stick to doing so just in coffee shops or other indoor places, like your apartment. We aren't 100% sure if it's illegal, but if it's not illegal, it's at least frowned upon to do in public.
As liberal as Amsterdam is, it didn't feel that liberal to Matt. Even though you could buy and smoke weed in coffee shops and get a prostitute legally, they're still sticklers on things. They're very strict with common things, like drinking in the street, even going to bars with your I.D., and so on.
For a little perspective, let's have a look at Prague. In Prague, weed is illegal to purchase, but it's acceptable to possess it and to smoke it in a public places, like the park. Everyone does it! But, in Amsterdam, you're not allowed to do things like that with weed, even though it is totally legal to buy.
Anyway, the rest of the day, we admired the canals and even walked through the Red Light District. That was interesting! There were women wearing underwear and posing in windows and doors along this main street and many side streets off of that. Pretty much just as you would expect out of the Red Light District!
Then, we bought another legal but normally illegal drug: magic truffles. What are those, you ask?
Well, you know magic mushrooms? Those were actually made illegal in 2008 in Amsterdam, but the citizens of Amsterdam found a way around this. Magic mushrooms, like regular mushrooms, grow above the ground. But, they found a way to grow the plant under the ground. It still has the same active ingredient called psylocybin, but just grows differently. Behold: the loophole that is magic truffles!
We bought the second weakest level of magic truffles, which were called Mexicana. A guy in one of the many shops explained what to expect and gave other insightful information about the truffles, which was very helpful.
After that, we continued to wander around Amsterdam. We even made our way into their Chinatown, which was maybe a block long. We had some yummy Chinese food because we just had to try it!
Then, we returned to our AirBNB to relax a bit more and to mentally prepare for the following day.
This day was mainly centered around one thing and one thing only: truffles.
Unfortunately, the weather wasn't very nice and we weren't into being outside with a bunch of strangers around us anyway, so we ended up eating and enjoying them in our AirBNB.
Matt and I have taken them once before this (not together, though) and had different previous experiences. I had a horrible yet amazing time with them. When I was coming up on them, I felt very sick to my stomach and the sky was turning dark colors. It was pretty terrifying at first. But, after that initial horrifying moment, it was amazing! Everything on the mountain I was hiking was shimmering, captivating, enjoyable, and pleasurable.
Matt completely enjoyed his first time. He took them with his friends in nature and loved the colors of everything and just the way everything looked. It instantly became his favorite drug!
Anyway, back to our Amsterdam experience! We split the truffles in three ways between three people and... they tasted terrible. They were dry like beans, then sweet, then sour like lemons. It was the oddest thing we've ever eaten!
As we learned on the first day in Amsterdam with the edibles, Matt has a higher tolerance for any sort of intoxicants than normal. So, he took his batch of truffles, but I left a little extra from mine because, as we learned about me, I'm a huge wimp. After eating his third and waiting a bit, he then ate my leftovers. He said that it was the strangest feeling because he was already coming up on the truffles when he ate more. So, the taste of the truffles was even stronger and he felt them going down his esophagus and into his stomach because, you know, his body was feeling it! It was not pleasant for him. Naturally, I was laughing at him during this.
For those who don't know about the effects of magic mushrooms/truffles, for many people, the high comes in waves. Suddenly, you're feeling very high, enjoying everything, but don't want to/can't really move much. You're almost "stuck" in that moment of being high. Then, at at some point, you come down a bit and you're calmer and more aware, but then you want to start moving and admiring something different.
That was what it was like for the three of us that took the truffles. But, since we were confined in the apartment, Matt was feeling uncomfortable because he wanted to move and experience more things during those waves.
Matt wouldn't recommend taking them in an apartment, but taking them outside. I wouldn't, either. Being outside is better when you take mushrooms/truffles because nature is where you want to be on them. Being "trapped" indoors or with people you don't know is not the way to go. It's also good to take them with a few close friends and maybe have one of those friends not take them, especially for the first time. Again, this is from our experiences.
However, overall, we did enjoy our high. Remember when we mentioned that our AirBNB was colorful, quirky, and unique? Well, it certainly came in handy for this! There were some random geodes on a table, and we all got lost in those for a while. We also enjoyed playing with the rainbow curtains, too, playing with the carpet, admiring the clouds outside, and chatting about nonsense a lot.
Although Matt didn't have the best experience with truffles, I think I had a better one. It was far better than my first experience with magic mushrooms. I felt far more in control of my body and mind and I honestly didn't feel as claustrophobic as Matt. I did a little bit, but not as much.
It wasn't Matt's and my first time taking magic mushrooms/truffles, but it was for our friend who joined us. He was really nervous about taking them. He didn't really know what to expect and he'd heard both good and bad experiences from friends. But, he ended up having an amazing time and it quickly became his favorite drug! Hooray!
We were high for about 4-5 hours, give or take. Afterwards, we wanted to go out for a night on the town! We just hopped off the metro at a random stop and hung out at a bar there for a little while. Then, we walked around for a bit and discovered this other popular area. It was called Rembrandt Square, which is a square filled with bars, clubs, and coffee shops with a monument/memorial at its center.
It was a great find! We went to a 70's-themed coffee shop/bar, then to another bar. We also ate french fries, which are a popular street food in Amsterdam. Matt doesn't recall eating them because he was quite intoxicated, but I do! They were awesome!
Matt and I then hopped on a bus to go back, since it had been quite an exhausting day and it was already around 2 AM! After an hour on the bus, we finally got back to our AirBNB and crashed-- hard!
We slept in a bit, then made our way to a popular market in the city. We took the metro to Amsterdam Centraal Station again. While walking to the market, something quite terrifying happened.
The four of us were walking along the sidewalk. Our two friends were walking next to each other in front of us and Matt and I were behind them. We were all walking on the left side of the sidewalk. Matt was to my right, making him almost in the center of the sidewalk.
We noticed an eldery, raunchy fellow walking with his bike coming in our direction. On his way past us, he bumped into Matt. Matt tried desperately to get out of his way, but the man seemingly walked into him on purpose. Then, the guy started shouting after us, turned around, and followed us. None of us noticed this but Matt, of course. Matt told us that this guy was yelling after us and following us and, finally, we noticed him.
Matt and our one friend were walking away quickly. Our other friend and I stayed a bit behind to talk with this guy to get him to back off. He opened his hand and showed us some sort of drug pipe and white powder in his palm. It was then we realized that he was insinuating that Matt knocked over his drugs and wanted money for them. Well, that was certainly not going to happen.
We all tried to walk away from him, but he just kept following us and shouting at us. We realized that the guy was scared of our one friend, who is a tall guy, so that made sense. The guy wasn't scared of Matt, so Matt asked our friend to do something. So, our friend screamed at him to fuck off, and luckily, he did!
A month later, Matt and I watched a TV show called Scam City, which is about a guy who travels the world, trying to find and unveil the biggest scams. In one episode, he was in Amsterdam, and the exact same thing happened to him, but with a bottle of alcohol! So, we were apart of a popular scam in Amsterdam!
Anyway, at the market we were going to, we gorged ourselves. We ate some fresh Stroopwafel, which was unbelievable. Seriously. If you're ever in Amsterdam, you need to eat that! It was somehow way better than the pre-packaged stuff, which was already out of this world! We also ate the well-known pickled herring and even some fried herring. Both were outstanding as well! I mean, especially the pickled herring. I like pickles, I like fish, so what's not to like?
After the market, Matt and I headed back to the AirBNB because our stomachs were a little off. It's a common struggle when traveling, especially with us!
Once we felt better, we met up with our friends again and partook in a canal cruise! We paid about $20 each for a canal cruise, which took us through multiple little canals with a tour guide through headsets. It was wonderful! We learned so much about the canals and canal houses. We got to admire them, too, which was amazing because they're all so cute! They're all so close together and only three to five stories tall. We also got to check out a lot of boathouses, which are literally what their name says: boats that are houses on the water! If you find yourself in Amsterdam, definitely take one of these canal cruises because they're definitely worth it. It was one of our favorite parts of our trip!
Best adjective to describe Amsterdam: adorable.
After the canal cruise, we ate Thai food in China Town. It was called Thaise Snackbar Bird and the food there was authentic, outstanding, and portioned perfectly! We lived in Thailand for six months and loved the food there, so we are always on the prowl for authentic Thai food. And, somehow, we accidentally stumbled upon some in Amsterdam! When in Amsterdam, be sure to check them out for an exquisite Thai meal!
We then went to the Red Light District, which was only a few streets over from China Town, and, wow. That place is much different at night than it is the day! It was our first time there at night and it was certainly wild. The streets were flooded with people. I mean, there were so many people, we were in bumper-to-bumper traffic, but without cars. And, naturally, there were far more girls in the windows and doors than there were in the daytime! It was quite a scene.
After that, we went back to our apartment to pack and stuff. Matt and I left the following day, but our friends ended up staying for a few more days. We felt that four days was enough for us, which it was! We packed everything in that we wanted to see pretty much, so we were satisfied.
Matt's final thoughts on Amsterdam: Stroopwafel was awesome. Amsterdam was cool, liberal, and pretty. The number of tourists is not cool. He probably wouldn't go back there mainly because of that.
Marilyn's final thoughts on Amsterdam: Way too many tourists. Amsterdam was so cute and pretty! Loved the treats, canal houses, houseboats, and canals. There's so much to discover. A bit too pricey. Loved the canal cruise! Loved the company, too!
Be sure to check out our video of our time in Amsterdam! You can even see us eating the fresh Stroopwafel, admiring the canals and architecture on our canal cruise, checking out coffee shops, and getting yelled at in the Red Light District!
Thoughts on wine: no. It did the job, obviously, but it tasted real bitter.
Wine: Mas - Cabernet Sauvignon (France)