February 17th, (continued from Part 1)
Met up AP and Sam soon and roamed around Dam Square and the shopping districts of Amsterdam. Sam wanted a few old time records and a few souvenirs to take home. Visited many stores and loved the souvenir ideas of Amsterdam. They are definitely things to look out for… In one store, a T-shirt caught the eye of Sam but she could not find the right size. She enquired about it to sales girl and it turned out that the T-shirt wasn’t kept in the right shelf. The sales girl muttered some curses about the other guys working in the store saying ‘just two more years and I shall have the money I need to get out of this and study’. She was pretty pissed about the “morons”(that’s what she called them) she supposedly worked with.
Asking as to what else she does, she said that she was in a dance troupe and, soon, would be joining Mariah Carey’s dance group that was to tour Europe. She then asked us as to where we were from and hearing that we were from India, she said ‘people say that India will soon be on top in terms of economy. And why not? You guys have so much history’. We gladly agreed. It’s always nice to hear good things being said about ones country. (spoken like a true praise-hungry patriot)
Moving on, we went to a coffee shop called ‘Hunters’. Let’s get the difference between cafes and coffee shops straight. Cafes are normal places where you get coffee, tea and snacks. Coffee shops is where you get all that and also where you get to smoke pot (Hashish). Yes, it is legal to sell this in Amsterdam in small quantities. The first puff was expected to make me cough but it didn’t. Since it didn’t, the second and third weren’t expected to make me cough but they did. (uh, huh Hashish. This is certainly what they call beyond dream. :P) The couple seated at the next table had a hearty laugh about it.
Time for AP and Sam to catch their train back to Brussels since Sam had a morning flight from Brussels back to India . Saw them off at the station and proceeded to my dorm to freshen up. It was 21:00 hours and heh, that’s very early hours in Amsterdam.
Headed off to the red-light district to catch the “action”. There were more people in this place than during the day time and more windows were occupied. It’s quite a lovely sight. The streets have a few people coming towards you and asking if you want coke. It is advisable to just keep walking in such cases… Found a topless bar to get the night started with and what went on through the night is not going to be explained here (sorry!!). Hit the bed (this one was to sleep) at around 04:00 hours CET.
February 18th 2008
Woke up at 09:00 hours CET, got ready, had breakfast. Next stop was Anne Frank Huis. It was very moving experience as one goes through the entire house. It is very painful imagining the atrocities committed during the 2nd world war.
Opposite Anne Frank's house
Towards the end, contributed a leaf to the Oak tree of Anne Frank and then, headed towards the flower market. February is not yet the month for Tulips to be around in full bloom but, there were a lot of other lovely flowers to be looked at. By now, was having second thoughts of visiting the Van Gogh museum. Finally gave up the idea since I am not that much of an art lover. (I thought it a pity that he did not visit Van Gogh museum!)
Evening came and it was time to bid adieu to Amsterdam. A city I definitely want to keep going back to. 🙂
Next destination: Nijmegen, Holland. Departed Amsterdam Centraal at 17:00 hours CET and arrived at Nijmegen station at 18:00 hours. It was time to meet an Orkut friend. Wanted to freshen up a bit at the station and usage of the restroom costs 1.50 euro. But looking at the restroom, one would have to admit its well worth it.
Met P at the exit of the station (both of us recognized each other instantly) and we were off to a place to eat something. Dragging my luggage along the way was quite a pain but, one has to get along with a few inconveniences. P herself was new to this town (she used to live in Eindhoven earlier) and did not have much idea as to where we were headed. Finally, we found a place to settle in to, had a chirpy waitress getting us our orders and it was fun chatting with P.
There were a few moments when she couldn’t get what I was saying (accent problem) but we got over that pretty quickly. A salad, garlic bread, chit-chat, a few pictures later, it was time to catch my train to Brussels. I bid farewell to P hoping to spend more time with her some day in the future.
Departed Nijmegen at 20:25 hours CET to Roosendaal. Arrived in Roosendaal approximately an hour later and then boarded the train to Brussels-Nord. Arrived at Brussels-Nord at around 23:00 hours CET. AP was at the station waiting for me and we head to metro station Rogier.
It was my first experience with the metro system in Europe and Brussels having just two lines is pretty simple even for any first timer. After boarding the metro rail at Rogier, we got off at station Madou and from their, his place was a five minute walk. It was time to grab a falafel (Turkish snack) and then, hit the bed. It had been a long day.
February 19th 2008
Soon after AP and his other roommates left for work, I got ready and was out to explore Brussels. My first destination was the European Union district which houses many offices of the EU. It is a modern area of Brussels and the architecture is very new. Not much to do here. So, I was off to the comic museum. The life story of Jacques Martin is captured in this museum with references to Tintin comics (picture of which I posted in Part 1 post). It is definitely a place where every adult will revisit their childhood for sure.
From here, my next stop was Mannekin Pis, the symbol of Brussels. The peeing boy has legendary stories attached to its significance and it is no laughing matter. Oh… but what the heck!! It sure is funny. 😀
Comic Shop in Brussels
Shopping street in Brussels
After a few pictures here, I went through the numerous shops lining up the streets of Brussels. Chocolates, glass works, tapestry are things one finds in abundance in Brussels. Decided to buy a few lace works for my mother and entered a Belgian art store. I was their first customer for the day and the store girl took time to explain me the details and intricacies of the work involved. Finally it turns out that she isn’t Belgian. She was actually Polish. We spoke a bit about Poland and then, after purchasing two pieces of lace work, I was off to Grand Place.
Grand place is a marvelous city square with lovely medieval architecture. History oozes out from every corner of this place. The street musicians and painters add to the charm of the place. The adjoining shopping areas are great. One can find every top designer label in the most modest of stores in here. There’s something here for everyone. By now, it was almost evening and I headed off towards the Heysel area of Brussels. Here lies one of the modern landmarks of Brussels city i.e. the Atomium.
Atomium was built in order to commemorate the World Science expo hosted by this city in the 1960s. Nearby is the National Football stadium which is mostly remembered for the Heysel tragedy. Walking through much of the city in the day took its toll and I decided to take the metro rail back to Madou. But I didn’t have coins to purchase the ticket costing 1.50 Euros and had a lady helping me out with the change. I ended up with a lot of 5 and 10 cent coins in my wallet. Back home at AP’s place.
That was the end of very nice day spent in exploring Brussels, but the night was still on. 😉 AP and I headed to a local pub screening the second round of the Champion’s League games. Watched the Liverpool game and sadly, they won that night. 😦 The beer was pretty good though. 🙂
Next headed to city of Brugge.
Story and pictures copyrighted to Shreyas. P.S: I will try to put up slideshow in summing up post.