A Trip to Amsterdam

Ruth Marie Landry
September 30, 2015
The Canals of Amsterdam

This weekend I went to Amsterdam to visit my friend Jesse, who I met two years ago in a gazebo outside of our freshman dorm. We spent much of our sophomore year of college stomping around the park next to campus, watching cartoons, eating late night gummy bears, creating Baltimore's finest undergraduate literary magazine, and dancing till dawn by the Inner Harbor. Needless to say, I’ve missed the kid and seeing him was just the break I needed from Berlin.

My flight was out of Schönefeld Airport on Thursday night. Getting to Schönefeld is kind of a hassle, but flights out of there are almost always cheaper, so I spent an hour and a half on public transport and arrived at the airport a little frazzled, especially considering my anxiety about flying. I usually get to airports as early as I can, but I only arrived a couple of hours before takeoff, so my instinct was to bolt through security as quickly as possible.

So I really thought I messed up when I didn’t have to show any form of identification at all before boarding my plane. I didn’t show any form of ID when going through security or at the gate. This was three days after it was announced that as a Louisiana resident I will have to use my passport to fly domestically due to my state’s noncompliance with the REAL ID Act.

So at the same time that I found out I will have to pull out my passport every time I want to fly to school in Baltimore from my home in New Orleans, I took an international flight without using any form of identification whatsoever. So that was a little startling to say the least.

Also startling was trying to figure out how to use Amsterdam’s public transit alone at ten o’clock at night, but (no worries, Mom!) I did figure it out, and soon I was at Jesse’s door. He lives in a strange dorm/hotel in the middle of a neighborhood full of apartment buildings and community colleges and seemingly not much else. Next to his apartment was a dentist office that was also being used as a refugee squat, apparently simultaneously. I didn’t notice any of this in detail until the morning, but we did walk around a bit that first night, into the city center where the streets were packed with people even at one in the morning.

The next few days were beautiful. Jesse kept telling me about how lucky I was to be there on that weekend - it didn’t rain at all, and I only wore a sweater at night. And so because of this weather, we spent much of our time walking across Amsterdam over the next three days, with the exception of one afternoon spent at the Stedelijik, the modern art museum.

Amsterdam is a small city and there is a lot of tourist traps packed into the city center—which isn’t a bad thing, but it is exhausting to walk through due to the sheer number of people and bikes and trams and dogs to weave through. Canals offer a certain relief almost to this bustle, finding yourself along side one is an invitation to pause and look out at the boats or sit down with a juice and watch ducks.

On Sunday, we sat and wrote by one such canal for an hour or so. Across from us was a small house with a greenhouse in the backyard and a small park where eight year old children played on a giant spiderweb looking structure (I have a theory—good jungle gyms are characterized by strange and elaborate and tall structures that kids can climb in and imagine that they are something else—and Europe has a lot of juggle gyms like this). After one small girl let out a particularly loud scream, Jesse shut his notebook. “I hate Dutch children.” We moseyed on, tried to go to a cat cafe but were turned down because apparently on the weekends you have to make reservations, found a strange alley where flowers were printed on the sides of buildings, and ate a brunch the likes of which we haven’t had since leaving Baltimore.

I came back to Berlin on an early flight Monday morning. This time I did show my passport, and while making the trek back to my home stay, I realized that I was glad to be back in Berlin. Although I certainly haven’t walked across Berlin the way I walked across Amsterdam this weekend, just sitting in the U-Bahn I saw familiar landmarks. Hello, Alexanderplatz.

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Ruth Marie Landry

<p>Ruth Marie Landry is a junior majoring in the Writing Seminars at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD. On campus, she works in the library and as a tutor for high school students. She is also a DJ for WJHU (Johns Hopkins&#39; only student radio station) and the co-founder and co-editor-in-chief of Vector Magazine, an online literary magazine. While growing up in New Orleans, she developed a love for spicy food, dancing to live music, and long, poorly planned road trips. Ruth enjoys big cities, Sphynx cats and Brutalist architecture.</p>

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