It was one of those days when my wanderlust was craving for a trip. I started to check flight tickets and found a very good deal to my dream destination: Paris! It was so fast and surprising so I started to share this good news with my friends and one of them asked to join me. Strolling on the streets of Paris with a very close friend, could there be a better plan? I took over the planning & organizing tasks and finished my homework at a short period of time. Tickets? Check. Accomodation? Check. Visa and passport applications? Check. My friend had one condition for our trip, to visit Amsterdam first. Re-planning the tickets? Check. Everything was going so smooth until the very last week before our trip when my friend silently cancelled the plan. I was alone with my bookings, did not really know what I would do all alone in Amsterdam (I was not so eager as I had visited it before) hence I decided to give a try to Couchsurfing.
Amsterdam hosts tourists throughout all year and Couchsurfing hosts are quite busy getting back to requests. Luckily I managed to find a great host few days before my trip after long hours of staring at my Couchsurfing inbox while making a hole on the F5.
My host was very kind to pick me up from Amsterdam Centraal station even though I was a bit late. He even offered bring a spare bicycle but of course he had no idea about my lack of cycling skills.
I had no plans when I arrived to Amsterdam besides of walking, walking and discovering the city by myself. My host had a day off from work when I arrived and was a bit tired but still agreed to join me with my casual walk.
I learnt that he was a professional cyclist and had 8 bikes (2 of them were living inside of the flat and were my sleeping mates for the 2 nights I spent there). So it was inevitable for him to give me private cycling 101 lessons. We started our tour with his neighbourhood which was really close to Westerpark. I learnt that municipality ran a very big architectural renovation project and now all buildings has the same style (I am ashamed that I forgot the name of the Dutch architect). After having diner, we continued our evening with cycling lessons which ended up with me screaming a lot.
Although the next day Lars had to work, he took a (fake) sick leave and joined me (well, he basically became my tour guide). We first took a free ferry to visit Amsterdam Noord as it is less touristy and I had not visited it before. Once an industrial area, nowadays northern part converted old factories into creative hubs.
We turned back to central after another ferry trip and went to the only place I had on my to-see list: Openbare Bibliotheek Amsterdam a.k.a Amsterdam Public Library. It has a huge collection of books, CDs, DVDs and an amazing view of the city. We spent quite lots of time at the each floor and Lars rented a Turkish movie that I suggested.
Our trip continued towards city central. He took me to a comic book shop as I had mentioned him about my very deep down nerd secrets. Then we visited the Chinatown. There is even a temple.
Perks of having a local with you is that they know by heart where you can find the second hand book stands. A true blessing for traveler book worms. You can even find a very old edition of Franny & Zooey if you are lucky enough.
Our next stop was Begijnhof. I would never be able to find it if it was not Lars. During the tour I also learnt about Amsterdam bike gangs. There are certain points in the town where you wait for 10-15 minutes, someone approaches with a stolen bicycle and sells it for 10-15 euros (price may rise depending on the bike). You learn something new every day.
I have a tendency to enter any book store if it is on my way and in this way I discovered beautiful ABC Book Store which has a tree inside. As I had done my book shopping at the second hand place, I just bought some cards as souvenirs.
Pathé Tuschinski was also on our way, which is considered as one of the most beautiful cinemas in the world. Thanks to my tourist luck and Lars’ gift of persuasion, they let us in to see their oldest hall. I was really amazed and I suggest everyone to pay a visit. It will definitely worth it. I did not have so much and the weather was nice so I skipped having a full movie experience there but it is definitely top on the list for the next time.
After all the walking, we went to Vondelpark just to relax and enjoy the sunshine (oh and some beer) where my crazy animal loving side drove Lars crazy. Well, he might have a point because after a while we were circled by a group of birds. We ended our day with more lessons when I managed to ride a bicycle for about 15 metres all by myself. I have a fear of falling and dying instanly when I am on a bike but having lessons from a Dutch teaches you one thing or two.
On my last day, we continued our Amsterdam tour at the full throttle. I spent some time to buy a gift for my host in Paris and Lars led the correct way. He kept showing me nice off the track places.
During my last hours we decided to go to Westerpark after having too much beer and bitterballen (actually there is never enough beer or bitterballen).
On our way was a street salsa lesson. And I learnt how to salsa in the middle of a huge street in Amsterdam and had a blast! I had my last tour in Westerpark and hit the road to Paris. I had such random but great time which proved me the beauty of unplanned life! I am now one step closer to leave my comfort zone at any point in my life.