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Day 21 - May 19, 2005 - St. Goar, Germany to Amsterdam, Netherlands

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It was a painful wake up call of 6:45 am that day.  It's a good thing I was able to shower the night before.  After breakfast, we were out of there by 7:30, en route to our final destination: Amsterdam.
 
We then crossed the border into The Netherlands.  The bulk of Rex' welcome speech was centered around Amsterdam, the most liberal city in the world.  She stated some commonly known facts like the legality of prostitution and certain drugs.  She also stated some uncommonly known facts, including that the prostitutes are involved in a workers union and pay federal tax on their earnings. It was interesting, to say the least.
 
Rex also informed us that there was an additional optional in Amsterdam, called a "Dutch cultural evening."  For obvious reasons, this particular optional was not listed on Contiki's brochure at all.  Basically it was a trip to the Red Light District, and admittance to a live sex show.  Most of us got a kick out of that idea and it seemed like everyone signed up.
 
We stopped for an early lunch at a rest stop.  I had amazing soup there.  I don't remember exactly what kind, but it had a beef flavored broth.  Nelson gave me what was left of his salmon, since he didn't like it.  I thought it was decent and finished it off.
 
As I was disposing my trash, a local asked me where I was from.  He spoke very good English in a thick, Dutch accent.  He seemed genuinely interested in my tour, my whereabouts, and what I thought of his country and Europe in general.  I ended up having probably a ten minute conversation with him and I'm pretty sure I would consider him to be the most pleasant local I encountered on the whole trip.  I would soon learn that the Dutch are the nicest people in existence, bar none.  I can't explain how much they have everyone else beat, judging from my experiences.
 
After leaving the rest stop, I played the Name Game on the coach with Neil, Aussie Justin, Vanessa and Kerrie.  I remember topics such as movies and beer that came up, but there were dozens more.
 
Our next stop was a cheese and clog demonstration in Edam, Holland.  First on the agenda was the clog demonstration.  I was actually looking forward to both demonstrations, as I had limited knowledge of how each were made.  The guy, who was probably not much older than me (22), was hilarious.  He toyed with us and assured us we were in for a rude awakening when we got to Amsterdam.  He even jokingly insulted some of the bigger guys on our tour (Kale, Nelson) when they expressed their interest to try out some official Amsterdam narcotics.  He insisted that the narcotics would destroy them compared to the garbage they had back home.  He then threatened to defend himself with the machete like tool he was using to carve a clog for us.  I wish I had audio of the entire demonstration.  He was probably the funniest person I encountered while in Europe.
 
Aside from the comedy, it was very interesting watching a block of wood turn into a clog.  He seemed to be pretty confident with the technique and he stated it takes years to acquire his level of skill.
 
Next, we went over to the next room and observed a worker making Edam cheese.  There were huge bins and wads of cheese scattered all over the room.  It was perhaps one of the best smells I've ever experienced.  We then proceeded to a third and final room, in which a smorgasbord of cheese was set up for us.  The cheese ranged from revolting to amazing.

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THE CHEESE AND CLOG "FACTORY"

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BLESSED ARE THE CHEESEMAKERS

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MILLIONS OF CLOGS

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THE HILARIOUS CLOG MAKER

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Our next and final stop before reaching the city limits of Amsterdam was in the center of the town of Edam for bike riding.  Our instructor was an eccentric lady, probably in her 60's, who was more than happy to answer our group's questions regarding her recreational drug usage.  She stated that, "Every Dutchman puffs the magic dragon." 
 
Anyway, the name of the place was Bike a Dijk.  Our bikes were unlike the sporty mountain bikes we used in Austria and instead resembled the bike from Mary Poppins.  We first rode out to what I assume was the Atlantic Ocean, although it's possible it was just a large bay of some sort.  We had the opportunity to stop and walk out on a dijk (pronounced 'dyke').  As you could probably imagine, several jokes regarding a certain subject matter were made.  We then proceeded to and stopped at a genuine Dutch windmill.  It was larger than I expected and was neat to see I suppose.  I think I would like it if they were scattered throughout my town.  Yvonne managed to crash her bike into a tree.  Way to go, Yvonne.

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DOWNTOWN EDAM

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MY MARY POPPINS BIKE

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A DUTCH DIJK

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ME AND KALE ON THE DIJK

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GROUP SHOT ON THE DIJK

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ONE OF THE MANY DUTCH WINDMILLS

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VINCE, NATHAN, YOON, RACHEL, ME

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SOMEONE HAS A PET GOAT

We boarded the coach once again and entered the city of Amsterdam.  It was a great feeling to be there and the confidence in how great our last two nights would be was unbelievable.  I think we all knew we were in for it.

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MY FIRST GLIMPSE OF AMSTERDAM

We first arrived at a diamond factory.  Much like the Swarovski Museum in Austria, Rex encouraged all the guys to spend money in there for the general wellbeing of girls.  She stated if we didn't have a girl to buy something for, then to pick a girl on the coach.  It's amazing how women are transformed into zombies by flashy, pretentious jewelry.
 
I found the factory to be uninteresting, so I went outside with Matt and Vince.  We played hacky sack while we waited for the others.  Eventually, Steve, Neil and Kerrie joined us.  Some intresting moves were invented and/or named, including the "chest roll" and the "pelvic thrust."  We boarded the coach once again for our hostel.
 
We arrived at the hostel, our final accommodation, and got situated in our rooms.  I roomed with Yoon, Vince and Matt.  We had what we thought was the best room in the whole building.  It was a second floor room right in the corner of the building.  It included what could arguably be considered French doors opening up to a balcony.  As our tour mates walked in and out, we couldn't help but brag about our balcony.

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MY ROOM IN THE HOSTEL

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OUR LUXORIOUS BALCONY

After getting settled in my room, I first went down the block to an underground supermarket to buy a phone card.  The main modes of transportation in Amsterdam are trams and bicycles.  They are rampant.  Also, bicycles have the right away in the designated bike lanes.  As a pedestrian, you will get hit if you are not careful.  Amsterdam is probably the worst city on the planet to require pedestrians to be so cautious, seeing as how there are so many readily available psychotropics everywhere.
 
I bought my phone card and went back to the hostel.  However, I was unsuccessful at getting the phone in the hostel to work.  At one point, an operator got on the line and asked me for a credit card number.  After explaining to him that I had a calling card, he asked me to specify if it was Visa, Mastercard, or Eurocard.  I hung up and went to the front desk.  The receptionist informed me that I needed to locate a green phone booth and use it, because they are they only public phones set up to utilize an international phone card.
 
Before we had arrived at the hostel, Rex told those of us interested in trying some mind enhancers that we had to find "a coffee shop with either a palm tree or Rastafarian colors outside."  Behind me in line at the front desk was Kale.  As soon as I finished, he stepped up and asked the receptionist, of course in his thick Western Australian accent, "Pardon me mate, but could you tell me the whereabouts of the nearest coffee shop with either a palm tree or Rastafarian colors on the outside?"  This was followed by a huge grin.  Everyone around burst into laugher and I would truly consider it to among the funniest moments of the whole tour.  The receptionist chuckled and drew him a map.
 
I expressed my interest in joining Kale's group and they invited me to tag along.  Kale's group, which was made up of Nelson, Nicole, Scotti, Team Canada and myself set way for our first experience in Amsterdam.  It was actually a bit confusing locating the coffee shop with the receptionist's map.  In the end, we found a completely different shop, but figured they were all the same anyway.
 
We entered to one of the most relaxed atmospheres you could imagine.  Leading up to Amsterdam, I only really thought about the coffee shops themselves and their products, and never considered the ambiance of the place.  I'm not even sure if I considered if you had the option of staying there or not after purchasing your goods.  Anyway, we went to the bar and we were actually all carded.  Next, we were given menus with the different choices.  There was a whole page of marijuana alone.  I didn't really want to purchase a whole order myself, as the quantities were rather large.  I split an order with Nelson and Nicole.  However, after we paid and sat down, they completely refused to accept any money.  Nelson and Nicole, you guys were awesome.  Thanks!
 
We sat at a row of couches, which were about probably less than a foot higher than the ground.  The music wasn't reggae or anything I associate with that kind of activity, but it was a weird repetitive tribal drum oriented sound.  I guess I would call it mellow techno, if you could imagine.  Nevertheless, it was perfect for the atmosphere.  Also, the volume was perfect.  I hate places which blare music at a level much louder than comfortable speaking volume.  Also of note were the ceiling fans.  They were rotating so slowly.  They weren't creating any air circulation whatsoever, but they provided another great addition to the ambiance.  I could imagine they would be very interesting while indulging on some harder drugs.
 
Anyway, we weren't doing an admirable job with the provided rolling papers.  My personal excuse is that I never use rolling papers.  Once we did finally come up with a laughable joint, it burned way too fast for some reason.  It was almost as if the papers were flammable.  At one point, a flame seemingly came out of nowhere and burned near my eyebrow.  I was concerned I singed part of it off.  It was a little disappointing as our troubles took away from our first coffee shop experience in Amsterdam.  Eventually, we improvised somehow and got the deed done.  Something entirely surprising was Team Canada's ability to do everything.  Those girls were pros.  Despite all the troubles, it did turn around and result in a memorable experience.  We walked out of there feeling good, to say the least.  It was comical to think to myself that it took me less than 30 minutes of being in Amsterdam to get stoned.
 
The whole walk back, I was rubbing my eyebrow.  Being high, I was petrified that it was noticeable.  I was also nervous that we weren't going to find our way back in time for dinner.  It was a confusing walk towards the coffee shop under unimpaired brain activity.  We did, however, make it back with a few minutes to spare.
 
I ate dinner with I think Vince, Kim, Yvonne, Yoon, Freddy, Olivia and Kent.  At some point during the dinner, they suspected that I was under the influence so they questioned me about it.  They couldn't believe that, given the short amount of time we had been there, I already managed to get stoned.  They found it humorous though.
 
After dinner, I went upstairs for a nap.  However, Matt was in there and he asked if I wanted to join him for some "legal activity" on the balcony.  I accepted and jumped in for round two.  Afterwards, I was really out if it.  Parts of the following few hours are sporadically absent from my memory.
 
Next, we met up in the lobby for our "Dutch cultural evening."  I mindlessly followed the group to the coach.  I could barely stand up straight at that point.  If I were to lose the group for some reason, I would've been finished.  We took the coach to the Red Light District and hopped off.  We then proceeded to the theater.
 
While entering the theater, we were seated at the order we entered.  I remember thinking how bizarre of a situation I was in.  I was at a live sex show in Amsterdam sitting next to Matt, an Australian, who was the most sexually forward person I've ever met in my life.  I was also sitting next to Sue, a member of Team Canada, a girl who I talked to for all of two minutes during the entire trip.  On top of that, we were sitting in the front row, literally a few feet from the rotating stage, which was about 6 feet in diameter.
 
The show began and it was actually a lot like I expected.  There were about five "acts" with different "actors."  Conversations ensued between the acts.  I remember being so stoned, I was afraid to say something too presumptuous.  So Matt and Sue, I don't think I did, but I'm sorry if I did.
 
During one of the acts, there was only a female entertainer on stage.  At random, three guys were called on stage, including a guy separate from our tour, Scotti, and your's truly.  In a surprising manner, Scotti flat out refused to get on stage.  He actually looked angry at one point when most of the tour was trying to get him up there.  He later claimed that he was entirely too stoned to do anything on stage.  Due to his acquired reputation on the tour, Matt was voted by our group to take Scotti's place.  Somehow, Neil also made it up there.  So then there were four of us: Matt, Neil, me, and the guy from the other tour.
 
She proceeded to dance for each one of us individually.  I consider that experience to grant Yoon's wish of constantly trying to get me to dance.  Next, she peeled a banana, held it from her holiest area, and while lying on her back, she instructed us to take a bite out of the banana.  It was the first bite of a banana I had since I was three years old.  I consider bananas to be completely disgusting but the dancer and the cheering from my tour mates made it hard to pay attention to the taste.  It really wasn't as bad as I expected up on stage.  Honestly, I was waiting for her to make an ass out of myself and my tour mates.
 
Afterwards, a male entertainer called Michelle and Kate from our tour on stage.  They seemed to be more embarrassed after their time on stage, as it was significantly more sexually suggestive than ours.  Still, it provided great laughs for the rest of us, as I'm sure my time on stage did as well.
 
Afterwards, someone dressed in a gorilla suit, wearing a strap-on, jogged on stage.  They first chased one of the entertainers around in circles.  Then they chased Michelle and Kate around before taking off the mask.  Low and behold, it was Rex.  It was a surprise to the group to say the least, and it was a fantastic end to yet another seemingly "only-in-Europe" experience.
 
After the show, we had an hour or so before Chris picked us up.  I walked the Red Light District with Vince and Yoon.  At that point, I was at that perfect level of being equally intoxicated by alcohol and marijuana.  The Red Light district is exactly as it has been explained; hundreds of red light lined windows with hookers on the other side of each one.  Some of the windows had more than one.  Most of them were smoking, and some of them were on their cell phones; not a great way to attract business if you ask me.
 
We told Yoon to get himself a hooker, in a joking manner.  He said that if he did, he would want a Korean hooker.  We assured him that, out of the hundreds of choices all around us, we could find him one.  I was surprised he didn't flat out refuse.  Anyway, as we walked around, Vince and I kept an eye out for a Korean hooker.   We eventually found an Asian and, after getting excited, we pointed her out to Yoon.  He told us that she was Taiwanese and he wasn't interested.  In my and Vince's opinion, it was basically the same thing as far as looks go.  Sure, there are subtle differences, just like North Americans.  But nobody would want an American hooker and turn down a Canadian.  We just thought he wimped out on us.
 
After very light sporadic rain, almost like a mist, it began to significantly rain.  We set way towards the drop off point and ran into Kim, Yvonne, Kent, Freddy, and Olivia.  We all waited together under an awning of a closed store.  Soon after, we boarded the coach and went back to the hostel.
 
After arriving, most of the tour went to sleep.  I, however, walked around with Matt and Vince.  We didn't really do anything worth mentioning.  We just walked, and soaked in the unique ambiance of Amsterdam.  It was midnight and there were still thousands of bikers everywhere we looked.  We used the time to reminisce over the last three weeks.  For me, it was an abrupt reminder that the tour was virtually finished.  We only had one day and one night left, and I think we all promised ourselves to make the best of it.
 
After returning to the hostel, Vince and Matt went back up to the room and I used the green phone on the outside to call home and verified the arrangements to be picked up at the airport.  I went to bed at 1:00 am.