Luxembourg and Amsterdam

If you’re ever in the neighbourhood, Luxembourg is lovely – if the sun is shining, and for a 2-day maximum. Fortunately for Nic, Andie and I, both of these criteria were fulfilled, and we spent a fun day and a half, in Luxembourg city on the Friday (viewing the casemates [ancient fortifications], and getting lost on the Wenzel Walk [the auto-walking tour around the city]) and then day-tripping out to Vianden Castle on the Saturday (train to Ettelbruck = 2€ return, then bus to Vianden = 3€ return), a well-restored old castle with your standard-but-interesting museum-esque interior.

Luxembourg City was really quite odd, with nature, old buildings, and new buildings, all just splurged together with seemingly no rhyme nor reason. It was quite a leg workout as well, with there being a huge difference between “Ville Haute” (Upper town) and “Ville Basse” (Lower town).

The youth hostel was great; we had a 4-person room to ourselves with ensuite shower and toilet, and the cafeteria downstairs was nice for a tea/coca light/beer (you can guess whose drink was whose if you like) on the Friday evening as well as a tasty buffet breakfast on the Saturday morning. There was also free wifi downstairs and padlocks were available for a returnable 10€ for the lockers downstairs. Towel hire was 5€… but Andie and Nic introduced me to the wonderful idea of just using your sheets instead. On that trip I’d brought my own towel, but the tip was put to good use in Amsterdam.

I am writing this blog just now in Amsterdam actually for want of anything better to do, as it’s raining and I spent all of my money bar train-fare back and something for dinner on a wooden tea box and some nice teas. I’m also fairly exhausted due to the walking I’ve done in the past 24-hours. Standard me, I got lost on the way to the youth-hostel, despite my directions which I’d printed out from google maps. I qualified it as “seeing a bit of the city by foot”. Today, I realised I’d been inadvertently hugging the edges of the Red Light District, if not entering the dodgier alleys. I did stick to the thoroughfares with my suitcases, I do have some sense of self-preservation.

As I posted on facebook, I caused some minor drama getting through the non-existent (but for want of a better description) Customs: after the bag-pick-up area, there were automatic doors then the sort of supermarket one-way gate things. When I was going through the gate my bags fell off my trolley, which the gates didn’t like. They decided to close on me and I pushed determinedly through… but the people behind me were unable to progress, and I just scarpered. I looked over my shoulders, they got through after a good 2-3 more minutes. Oops.

When I got to it, Hostelling International Hostel Stadsdoelen proved nice enough; lockers were rentable for 24-hours for 2€, again a buffet breakfast was tasty, but I did feel the effects of a 10-girl dorm, with sleep proving somewhat elusive with all the coming and going in the night. I got up early, seeing no point in staying in bed unable to sleep… unfortunately the rest of Amsterdam was not of the same opinion, with markets and shops not opening until 10 or 11.

Got a half-decent obligatory canal picture, however. I wandered about what market stalls and shops were open then joined the Free / Tips-only walking tour. This was a good move (if not for my feet) as our tour guide was really interesting, giving us the history of different pockets of the city. It was, however, cold and wet towards the end, and I also really disliked being led past the women displaying themselves as goods in the windows of certain alleys. The lesser of two evils rather than having them enslaved to pimps, perhaps, but still a situation that’s clearly fair from ideal. In the paraphrased words of our tourguide: legalising prostitution is meant to liberate the women, but who’s going to put “woman of the night” on her cv? Degrading to be in, and tricky to get out of.

Amsterdam’s skinniest house… see how skinny it is?!

After the tour had finished at Anne Frank’s house, I went to some more shops (where I got my tea-box [ironically with French writing on it]) and the Waterloo-Plein Markt, which had some interesting vintage stalls, but nothing I actually wanted. Rather than risk any confusion between cafés and coffeehouses I decided my safest course of action before the train left would be to go to the youth hostel for wifi (and also toilets…. the City of Amsterdam really needs to get its act together there, as there are barely any public toilets that I could see [for women anyway, the men have delightful walk-in stalls with a urinal and no hand washing or sanitising facilities… as I said, delightful]).

Probably it’s a combination of the lack of friendly company, being down about leaving Stras, and the rain, but I can’t say I’ll be rushing back to Amsterdam. The vintage markets are fun, but the Red Light district is just too depressing, and it seems like most people are here solely for the mad-partying side of things. Still, glad I came – apart from anything else, it’ll be another country I can scratch off my world scratch map!

Which brings me up to now, barring a “Farewell Strasbourg” blog which may or may not be forthcoming at a soon-point. It’s still raining, but I feel a bit more rested and up for trundling my bags through the streets and finding something to munch for dinner, before hopping on my plane to Edinburgh. Salut for now!

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