Navigating Amsterdam

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Even the air in Amsterdam is silly.

Very rarely will you see a sad face in the Capital of Fun. Nearly everything in Amsterdam is allowed. What more could a traveler need than a city with the ultimate goal of keeping its inhabitants (and even tourists) entertained?

I landed in Amsterdam this summer with my travel comrade Dana Figueroa-Aragon and my Portuguese-Dutch soul-sister Stephanie Ferreia to meet up with our old flatmate Mylene Pentiot, whom we studied abroad with in Glasgow two springs ago. Joining her at the train platform was unreal; it reminded all of us that keeping in touch with people you meet while traveling can be very rewarding (especially if one speaks French).

This trip to Amsterdam would start a two-week binge through the Netherlands, southern Finland and Berlin. Amsterdam shook our rested wayfaring bones without mercy.

After what seemed like a two-hour cry and hug fest, we walked from Amsterdam Centraal station to our AirBnB, where a quaint, two-story alley flat was waiting for us. After some complimentary cheese and wine (kudos to AirBnB), we headed out to the infamous Red Light district. Everything that I heard about the Red Light district was true (and more…): Cafes and “coffee shops” and strippers in doorways and walking around with your drink; Amsterdam is an initiator that eggs you on to try something new at every turn.

The reliable and efficient train system in Amsterdam provides the luxury of hopping around the city. It also provides a safety net for those who have had too much drink or smoke. But the bicycle system in Amsterdam is nothing less than extraordinary. Bikes and bicyclists of all shapes and sizes scour Amsterdam. Traveling at rapid speeds, slow and steady with babies in baskets and with no caution near automobiles, it was made apparent to us very quickly upon our arrival in Amsterdam that bikes rule the city.


And yet, with a master transit system both on a bike seat and in a train car, Amsterdam is a city for strolling. Whether it’s aimlessly along the tranquil, tree-lined canals that weave along the city’s spine, or up and down the bar-ridden alleyways, walking in Amsterdam is just as enjoyable, if not more, than its most popular vices.

But after dipping our toes into some, if not all, of those vices, my travel buds and I decided to finish the trip on a historical, heavy note.

Yes, the Anne Frank House always has an entrance line. Yes, the Anne Frank House is a relatively short tour. And yes, Anne Frank will make you feel something deeper than any plant in a coffee shop will.

I don’t recommend getting tickets for the tour. Sit in line. Talk to people. Read about Anne and her family’s experience in the given brochures. Take a load off in the hour-long line.

We left Amsterdam with memories of an old diary in a glass case, zipping through street art along Runstraat and more-than-half-naked women in darkened doorways.

My friends and I wish you well in Amsterdam and hope, wherever you are, that you will feel something. Sometimes it takes a couple minutes to kick in.

By Madison D’Ornellas

Wayfaring Student is an alternative media platform that aims to inspire people to take the leap and pursue their dreams, whatever those may be.

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