Amsterdam, I Can’t Find You – On The Road Journal Entries.

By Posted in - Europe & Personal & Travel Blog on March 22nd, 2012


There is nothing better than having paper & pen with you in a new place. When we travel, I always try to write my own personal reflections down about each country we visit in my trusty travel notebooks, which is lovingly supplied by my sister Bridgette at Earmark Social Paper Goods.

Amsterdam was our first stop in Europe and I definitely didn’t fall in love with city the way most people do. However, after a few days and too many ‘coffees’ later, I had changed my tune slightly. While it’s not on my list of places to return to quickly, I hope that one day I’ll get to go back and find what I must have missed this time around. Plus, I have to admit that the bikes scattered around the city are pretty darn cute.

Strange Days in AmsterdamStrange Days in Amsterdam

Without further ado here are my two in-the-moment personal journal entries about Amsterdam.

Journal Entry #1:

Open letter to the city of Amsterdam – Sept. 29, 2011

For the city of Amsterdam I have many questions:

1. Where are you going?

London has nothing on you. Never in my life have I seen so many people going so many places on so many types of vehicles at the speed of light. I have been almost hit by a car, a moped, a multitude of bikes and even people on foot. Crossing the road takes skill. But really it’s not just the speed at which you move, it’s the purpose you carry with you as you go. With a look of stern dedication to a place unknown to me you barrel down the streets at the highest of speeds, god have mercy on anyone in your path because they are going down. Down like Chinatown. I have to know Amsterdam where are you going? Are all your houses burning? Maybe it’s time to get a bigger bong – just a thought.

2. What does pot mean to you?

In America it means slow pace, snacks of all types, and lazy antics. My mind is boggled thinking that pot is legal here. Is this what happens when you take away the taboo? All the lazy potheads become people with purpose that have the highest metabolisms on earth? If we legalize pot in the U.S. does that mean I will lose like 20 lbs overnight, have fashion that rivals the French and have what looks like endless ambition? Will I also have the sudden ability to ride my bike so fast I might actually take off? BTW, how is it OK that you allow the music of Nsync in your coffee shops? “Baby Bye, Bye, Bye” – this is bizarre pot smoking music. Just sayin’.

3. Energy Bills that high?

Electricity is a friend to all. I know this isn’t your problem but I need not only WiFi to do my job I also need access to electricity. So why give up the WiFi without the juice? It is impossible to find both of these luxurious delights anywhere in your maze. I want to spend my time enjoying your museums & coffee shops, not hunting down an elusive outlet.

4. The Floating Flower Market – Really?

In my eyes a floating flower market doesn’t count as floating if the shops are on concrete ‘barges’ (and I use that term loosely) and are permanently affixed to the street. That makes it just a regular flower market that sells overpriced flowers and happens to be positioned on a canal. I’m sorry but it’s lame. Also, why are your flower sellers so cranky? I’ve made my way all the way out to your insulting tourist trap of a market – don’t you think you can at least let me take a photo? Do you have a copyright on the tulip?

5. Where’s your heart?

You’ve been called the “Venice of the North”. Yes, there are canals that add some allure to your city but I’m sorry Amsterdam you are no Venice. All of your canals combined don’t have the charm, beauty or intrigue that Venice has in one small dimly lit alley. However, the real difference sadly lies in the cold shoulders of your citizens. Yes, Italians can be hot headed but they are also full of love and not afraid to show it. The borderline rudeness of your residents means shows me you will never carry the innate warmth of the Venetians. I do appreciate the fact that you have houseboats on your canals and I think that is pretty freaking awesome but it can’t compensate for the chill that emanates from your city streets. It makes me sad and Amsterdam, I have to ask – where’s your heart? Why don’t you let the love in, or out? Why have you’ve built the great wall around you?

6. Why do women have to hold their pee but men don’t?

Amsterdam After Dark

Open Air Urination Station

I’ll admit it was something of a treat to walk down the street and see men peeing with absolutely no regard to anything going on around them. After the initial shock, it took me a moment to realize that you have actually sanctioned these unique items on your city streets. I don’t know what you call them but I’ve coined the name “Open Air Urination Stations” which I think fits pretty well. Hands down, it is totally gross but I can get over that. What I can’t get over is the fact you have no Open Air Urination Stations for women. You display your nearly naked women in store front windows so why can’t a sister get her pee on in the street mid-day as well? Why is one entire gender forced to hold their pee as they walk amongst the your streets? Not cool Amsterdam.

7. When are you going to show yourself to me?

I want to find you Amsterdam. I love your Dutch painters and I know somewhere inside your walls there is city I just might fall for. Could you be like the heavy metal rock star that writes devoted, cliche love songs in their dark & secluded bedroom – so tough on the exterior yet so fragile & full of love on the inside? I know you must have something lovely hidden, I just haven’t discovered it yet. The question is – will I ever?


Journal Entry #2 written two days later:

Amsterdam/The Streets of Speed – Oct. 1, 2011

Earlier today I hated you. I thought your people were rude and too fast paced. I found the floating flower market a farce – a tourist trap that doesn’t float. I almost got hit by 500 bikes and I hated the light – flat & boring – yawn. But then somehow between your not-that-tasty pancakes and sumptuous & questionable red light district you started to grow on me like a fine mold. Now I find myself looking for a petri dish so I can keep your spores. I think it’s possible that someday I might just like you.

Strange Days in AmsterdamStrange Days in Amsterdam

Strange Days in Amsterdam

Strange Days in Amsterdam

Strange Days in Amsterdam

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(10) awesome folk have had something to say...

  • San Diego Chiropractic -

    March 22, 2012 at 7:13 pm

    I like your journal entries, I also love to do journals because it help me explore one safe place. I never been in Amsterdam, but according to my friends its beautiful. Where is your next destination?

    • Bethany -

      March 23, 2012 at 12:39 pm

      Everyone loves it! I think that’s why I had a hard time with it – I had really high expectations for the city based on what other people had told me. Then when I got there I found most of the people were rude and it was really expensive. I’ll take Paris any day.

  • Brooke vs. the World -

    March 22, 2012 at 8:14 pm

    The open air urination systems are strange… really strange.

    • Bethany -

      March 23, 2012 at 12:39 pm

      I know right? A strange item to stumble upon just randomly in the city.

  • John -

    March 23, 2012 at 6:01 am

    I’ve never seen an open air urination station before! An interesting concept for sure. Did you see them all over or just here or there? I guess if it prevents people from peeing on the sides of buildings or in other outdoor places, I’d be for it.

    • Bethany -

      March 23, 2012 at 12:38 pm

      I saw a few of them scattered throughout the city.

      I definitely agree it’s good if it helps people from peeing on buildings, etc. It was just a little gross to see and sad that I never saw any facilities for women. I guess it’s kind of sad that they need these things at all but it does make for an interesting sight! 🙂

  • Christy @ Technosyncratic -

    March 23, 2012 at 8:09 am

    This post made me crack up. “Do you have a copyright on the tulip?” “Why can’t a sister get her pee on?” AWESOME.

    We’re heading to Amsterdam next month (hopefully perfect timing for the tulips), so now I’m curious what our take will be. Abundant bikes are great, but I imagine abundant power outlets would sweeten the deal.

    • Bethany -

      March 23, 2012 at 12:36 pm

      haha! Glad you can appreciate the humor! When I wrote this I thought to myself I was being pretty witty but then when I put it up here I realized that maybe it would come off as negative.

      I’ll definitely be interested to hear your take on it too. I’m pretty sure that Amsterdam is awesome, I think i just had a bad run when I was there.

  • mllewanderlust -

    March 25, 2012 at 11:04 am

    I absolutely agree with you and even saw things from ‘foreign’ eyes. I’m Dutch and people in Amsterdam are, in general, less behaved on their fellow beings. The bike-speed thing is quite Dutch in general, we really go that fast and are always in a hurry, even though most of us really do not have to reach any deadline and the bosses are quite lenient too, its a cultural thing.
    I really believe the toilets are quite sexist; they invented some kind of tube for the ladies so they can ‘pee like a dude’ and they were proud it has been a Dutch invention, but honestly, if they had both gender toilets around, nobody would need that.
    About the pot, most people over here do not smoke pot and the people that do are still being frowned upon, even though it is ‘tolerated’ (not legal but sort of tolerated). If you drink loads of alcohol, on the other hand, you are a part of social society: something I cannot get my head around because alcohol is really a damaging drug as well.
    But thank you for the way you praised Dutch fashion style: the girls (and boys) in Amsterdam would love to hear this compliment

  • Ingrid -

    July 16, 2014 at 6:53 am

    I’m sad you didn’t love Amsterdam. Moved here 15 years ago from Canada and it is truly home.