When I was in college I spent a couple terms in Nottingham, England. Toward the end of Fall term I decided to go to Amsterdam – by that point, though, almost all the Exchange students had already gone, so it was down to the scraps: Two guys from Maine, a southern belle, some random guy from… somewhere… and myself. I thought I’d tell the story of our journey to Amsterdam and to our hostel.
I’ll save the story of the rest of the time there for another time.
Southern Belle had travelled plenty on her own, but was concerned about the other guys’ “motivation” for going. I told her I wanted to see all of the city, too, and not to miss seeing The Netherlands because of the company.
One of the Maine guys – who had a voice like a dentist’s drill that had been dipped in vinegar – made the hostel arrangements.
The boat trip started with Duty Free…
Then Southern Belle and I went in search of somewhere warm to nap. The others continued on the Duty Free theme. Maine Guy 2 and Random Guy were so drunk that Southern Belle and I had to help them off the boat.
It was not a promising start. We took the train to Amsterdam and started walking (or staggering) in to the dark city at about 10pm, Dentist Drill leading the way.
We walked and walked and walked… the night getting later…
If you’re young and walking around in Amsterdam, you’re going to get approached by drug-dealers and pimps; especially at night. The key is to be casual; blasé. Or, to be not like Random Guy.
After Random Guy discovered that the drug-dealer had many friends in the alley and gained the wisdom to shut up, we continued.
Finally I asked Dentist Drill:
He didn’t know where it was. No idea.
He didn’t know.
The entire description of Bob’s Youth Hostel in the book was, “In the heart of the Red Light District, Bob’s is the ideally-located crash-pad for the red-eyed traveler.” He’d booked us in a stoner hostel in the middle of the Red Light District.
At least we had something to go on now.
So we continued on, looking for the city to get more… festive. Eventually we started passing hookah bars and lingerie-clad women in window fronts. Maine Guy 2 had sobered up at this point; it was easy to forget he was from a really small town.
It took many hours and many directions for strangers, but at last we found Bob’s. It was everything you’d expect. Dark. Smelled. Beds that looked like they’d been bought at a prison garage sale. Hot & cold running water (except for hot).
As we checked in with the guy sitting at the ratty table, we got to witness to security in action.
We got upstairs to our dorm room; probably 12 bunks. All men… and Southern Belle. The other guys threw their stuff on the floor (there were no lockers) and headed out the door, inviting me for late-night/early-morning adventure. I knew Southern Belle could take care of herself, but sitting there on the bunk, she looked like a little rabbit. A little rabbit who was about to cry.
I sat down and said, “Let’s look through this book and figure out where we’re staying tomorrow night…”
The rest of the story some other time…