And the beautiful city of Amsterdam
04/04/2014 - 04/09/2014 55 °F
So without reliable internet to load pictures, I’ve gotten behind in this blog. This post will combine 2 that I wrote summarizing life on the Valparaiso.
Yo ho ho! A pirate’s life for me
A pirate’s life on Valparaiso has certainly been interesting after a couple of days - some good, some bad, but almost all interesting. What follows is my attempt at an honest account of my life thus far on this boat.
This is me and Captain Ulysses
Here’s what I knew going in: The Captain had room for up to 6 people at present, and liked accepting only people who would be on the ship for almost a week at minimum. As long as you fit in, you’re welcome to stay as long as you want, but if you do, you have to put in 5 hours of work almost every day - mostly work fixing up and pimping out his little converted house boat.
Besides that, I wasn’t sure about anything - whether we’d have electricity or internet, how showers or toilets worked, what the sleeping arrangements looked like. On first impressions, everything looked awesome. On a ship that has held 6-7 people at a time, it was only Me, Colin, and the Captain. Colin is an artist from Romania, drawn to Amsterdam largely for the psycodelics that he feels is essential for art. Everyone on the ship contributes 5 euros a day into the communal food bank, and we share all of the food that we buy. We had steady electricity and spotty internet, there was a nice fire stove for keeping it warm (though it was already quite warm in Amsterdam). We were docked at a small harbor with facilities 2 minutes from the boat for getting more water, showering, or going #2. There was also a cheap grocery store around the corner - big plus - and it was a 5 minute walk from a ferry to bring you to Amsterdam Central.
Just as I was getting to know the lay of the land, my 2nd day on the ship was sailing day! This was a lot of fun - running around the boat to follow Captain’s orders, navigating thru some of Amsterdam’s famous canals, having to duck when we fit under a bridge by a few cms - but also meant having to get used to completely new surroundings and facilities. We had moved to some sort of site with a bunch of old, rusted out boats on land it one big lot. The captain called it “a cool new thinktank group for sustainability projects. Maybe one day but to me it looked mainly like a junkyard right now. I stupidly didn't get any pictures of this new site, but below is when we were sailing
Out on the open water!
We struggled to get electricity set up, but after a few hours had managed to beg our way into access from one of the crews there, and didn’t lose everything in the fridge. Internet is all but non-existent and we still aren’t sure where we are supposed to shower or get more drinking water. Not exactly what I had in mind. But it is free I suppose (for both me and the Captain).
I’m not totally sure I’m cut out to be a pirate or crew for the Valparaiso long term, but I’m going to stick it out for a few days. I really don’t feel like a tourist here at all. Considering I’ve been putting in 4-5 hours of work every day, I’m not sure if I even qualify as one at the moment. It’s a bummer that we typically work from 10-3 since many of the things I’d like to see are only open til 5 (but not the coffee shops), so I’m not going to stay aboard during my whole time in Amsterdam. Though after looking at the prices of hostels during the weekends, I think I’ll stick it out thru til Sunday.
There have been some fun, interesting things I’ve done on board thus far. Yesterday, I hacked a hole thru metal to install an easier electricity plug for the boat.
New experiences with lots of sparks flying! 2 thumbs up from me!
Well, I did make it thru on the Valpo until Sunday, and then I moved into a super-budget hostel, so reliable internet has still not been found. Thankfully most of the coffee shops rock out some solid wireless, so I’ve been able to get on there (and even watched the first Game of Thrones episode)!
Life on the boat did get better after the hectic first 24 hours. First we found electricity, then clean water, then the next day we worked out some deal with a car repair shop down the street to let us shower there. Not the greatest situation but infinitely better than no shower at all.
I REALLY enjoyed the working part of the past few days. One day we set sail and crewed the ship as we went, another day I hacked a hole in the metal siding of the ship, another day I was rewiring electronics and hanging upside down in the engine room screwing in a ventilator fan. Almost everything was brand new to me or I haven’t done it in 5 years, but it was a fun learn-as-you-go process.
It was definitely a simpler, slower lifestyle. Especially when compared to a normal hectic traveling schedule. It modeled what I would ideally like a WWOOF experience to be like - working hard, learning new skills, getting outside of the urban craziness a little, and getting to know some good people.
The lack of basic creature comforts was the flip side of that. Call me prissy, but I feel like an accessible shower is a necessity. Not when you’re backpacking thru the woods, but when you’re navigating a crowded city, it is no fun to be the only person who hasn’t showered in a couple days. Running water and a working toilet was another “basic comfort” that we didn’t have on the boat. We had a sink that ran water, you just had to fill it up using a big 20 L jug they had. For a toilet we used an outhouse in the work site where we were docked, but to “flush”, you had to fill a bucket with canal water and pour it in - not the best. Once 2 more CSers showed up, it also got very crowded on the small boat. 4 of us essentially slept in the same, very small, room. That was the last straw for me and I headed off to nicer, but more expensive, pastures.
Once off the ship I did get back into the typical travelers routine, altered a bit because it was Amsterdam. I took the free walking tour, which I continue to recommend for pretty much every city. During that they explained to us how land tax in Amsterdam was (or still is?) determined by the width of the building, not the height or depth. As classic, penny-pinchers, this has resulted in very thin buildings, which come with tiny and steep stairs all over the city. Some of these stair cases weren’t far from just being ladders you climbed up.
This is the narrowest home in the city - no more than 1.5 meters wide!
My favorite fact learned during the tour is what I think makes Amsterdam and those living here so unique and tolerant. It is known as the 3 Criteria for Lawful Exemption. Actually I just made that up, but it sounds good. Anyways, it basically means that if an activity is against the law, but it meets the 3 criteria, the laws against it won’t be enforced. The 3 criteria are as follows:
1) It must be (relatively) harmless to those around you.
2) It must be discrete.
3) It must be good for business.
If all 3 of those are true, they will either ignore the laws forbidding it, or change the laws to allow it. The most famous examples of this are obviously the legality of weed and prostitution. Another example was from the 1600s (??) when the ruling party outlawed Christianity. All of the Christian churches were closed. Many of the rich merchants were Christian, and one of them decided to turn his large attic into a church that housed about 200 people. Neighbors obviously knew what was going on when tons of the merchants showed up to this house every Sunday, but since it met the 3 criteria, they let it slide. I really think that a lot of us could learn a great deal from this philosophy.
Besides the tour, I spent most of my time out of the Red Light District, an area I don’t particularly like, instead wandering around the rest of the beautiful city. I hit some of the tourist things that I missed last time thru, like the Anne Frank House and the Rijksmuseum.
The back of the Rijksmuseum. I amsterdam is right between the Rijks and the Van Gogh museum
I also made sure to return to a few of the places that Nick and I had loved the last time thru:
The Amsterdam Library! As mentioned before - I'm a big fan
The last one is a good picture from the restaurant/wine bar on the top floor of the library, along with my delicious snack. It was overcast on that day, but that is the best view of Amsterdam from on high (and free!)
Vondelpark - My favorite city park anywhere in the world. IT HAS THE BEST TREES TO CLIMB!
This last one is me up in a tree. I think I scared some little girls who were also climbing in the tree, only like 20 feet below me. The park is just extremely chill and packed with groups of friends playing football, tossing a frisbee, or perhaps just hanging out with a picnic, bottle of wine, and maybe a joint.
Cafe de Wetering! Oh man, our CS host brought us here last time thru after we told her how we much preferred locals bars to the touristy ones. As promised, we were the only non-locals in the place, and we received the greatest welcome from Viktor, one of the bartenders, even before we got inside (Viktor - “First round is on me!”). We talked and joked around with so many of the locals in there of all ages, learned what a “headbutt” is (shot of gin and a beer), and had such a spectacular time that we returned 2 more times that trip. When I walked in, I did a double take, because there was Viktor, still there 4 years later. It took him a little while but he freaked out and bought me a headbutt once he remembered Nick and I. 2010 was a long time ago so I was impressed! Another great night at Cafe de Wetering!
Other good pictures from around Amsterdam:
The Royal Palace at Dam Square
The NEW Church at Dam Square. The New Church is about 500 years old while the Old Church is around 600.
Dam Square at night. Love this picture
Amsterdam isn't known for their beautiful canals nearly as much as they should be
The entrance to one of Amsterdam's daily markets. I think a bouncy castle would be a great addition to the Madison Farmers Market
The scene when I walked into a corner bar at 4 pm. This was a stag party of English guys. I befriended them and ended up getting 2 free beers and 2 free shots to help them finish the drinks they ordered. Only downside was they decided that they'd throw the shots into the beers to make it more interesting.
The Heineken Brewery. Because everyone knows about that brewery, they think they can get away with charge 18 f***ing euros for "The Heineken Experience". I THINK NOT!
Instead I checked out this microbrewery a quick 15 minute bike ride from city center! Everyone just knows it as the brewery by the windmill
Sooooo many bikes in Amsterdam!
Just some great shots of the canals
I will hopefully having another couple posts soon to catch myself up! I'm currently leaving Koln, Germany in a couple hours, taking an overnight bus to Munich!