Beer, Stroopwaffels, Beer and More Beer
by Eli Hodapp
Today started with hitting up the same awesome breakfast place I went to two days ago, where Brian and I ordered a breakfast feast to start the day. Eggs, bacon, toast, croissants, coffee, orange juice, and more. I was going to order the “Muffin USA” which apparently is synonymous with “a really big muffin” here but they were out. We joked that the muffin was likely so large that they only have space to store two inside of their pantry.
We hopped our our bikes and pedaled down to do an ultra-touristy canal tour. It actually was really great, although the amount of ice in the canals was beyond worrisome at times. More than a few canals our boat was just breaking directly through one to two inch thick ice. It was really crazy, and sounded totally nuts as it scraped up against the hull of the ship. The captain didn’t seemed worried at all, so, that was cool I guess. We saw a ton of the city via canal, and it was totally worth every cent of the 8,50€ the ticket cost.
Our captain slash tour guide had some pretty choice quotes exhibiting some prime examples of Dutch pragmatism. He ranted at length regarding people who wanted to walk on the ice and fell through, mentioning something along the lines of, “You have no idea how hard it is to get bodies out from under the ice.” Also, apparently one of the most recent casualties was an Asian tourist who tried to stand on the ice to retrieve his camera. As our guide told us, “Nothing against Chinese people but really do you have to make picture of everything that moves?”
It was ridiculously cold and windy today, and when you added snow into the mix Brian made the executive decision that we should just return our bikes early- Something I effortlessly agreed with as biking in fresh snow was not only incredibly miserable but also very dicey from an overall traction perspective. You know it’s bad when you see Dutch people who were practically born on a bike seat are coming close to wiping out biking down the street.
Instead of biking all over like idiots in the snow, we got some Heinekens, which was a much more appealing proposition. Much like how super-fresh Guinness is exponentially better, Heineken over here is insane. It seems like back in the USA Heineken is a largely mediocre run-of-the-mill light beer. Here, it’s like drinking liquid honey. Just how strong of a honey taste it has is totally lost in transport it’d seem. This particular pub was also serving some pretty radical grilled cheese and ham sandwiches with tomato soup. No complaints, all around.
With no bikes, travel switched to the tram system. It’s arguable whether it’s worse biking into the wind or simply standing in the wind not moving waiting for the tram to show up. If nothing else, the trams are kept very warm, so that’s nice at least.
We took the tram down to the largest open air market in Amsterdam, which any other day would be a bustling hub of commerce. Today, however, things were covered in the snow that was falling, which made for some interesting sights as the merchants just didn’t have the infrastructure for dealing with covering their things to get it out of the snow.
We also finally succeeded in finding stroopwaffels, which Brian has been talking about since we got here. They’re essentially two freshly cooked super thin wafer cookie things with carmel in between. It was good, but, I’m not sure a stroopwaffel was worth the days of anticipation. Crepes are better!
Next step (or, tram ride and long walk, more accurately) was the only operating brewery in Amsterdam which also happened to be the only full-sized windmill in the city. The Brouwerij ‘t IJ was swarming with Americans, which was sort of interesting as you have the opportunity to overhear a lot of really dumb things.
I tried a couple different beers here, and they were all fantastic. We also got a cheese plate which (surprise!) was also great. The bathrooms at the brewery were awesome in that it was basically just a room with a trough and graffiti everywhere in every language imaginable- Including a few that I couldn’t even recognize.
I bought my first t-shirt of the trip at this brewery, mainly because the label from their IPA is just perfect as it’s in the style of a pin-up girl but all the information about the beer like ABV and stuff is cleverly displayed as tattoos on the girl. It’s definitely not something I’d usually wear, but from a graphic design standpoint it seemed really clever.
Following the brewery, we took another “short” walk back to the hotel for a quick nap before dinner. After an hour or so of power-napping, I woke up and Brian and I headed back to Paloma to get some more incredible Italian food. This time I got a four cheese lasagna which came in a crock pot like thing filled to the brim with alfredo sauce and then topped with a stupid amount of melted cheese. It was silly, and so heavy that the portioning could’ve been like 1/3 what I got and I still would’ve been satisfied.
After dinner we went to go meet Brian’s friend Andrew who works as a bartender at a hostel called The Flying Pig. This bar was like being at a basement party, except with beers being sold for a few Euros. Tonight also apparently was Australia Day back in Australia, so all of these Australians were coming out of the woodwork to celebrate. Australia Day, as far as I can tell, commemorates when the British claimed the island as a prison, which seems a little weird to celebrate. Regardless, the theme of the night seemed to be drunk Australians.
Also, apparently, regardless of the fact that most (all?) tables have no smoking signs on them, there were also ash trays everywhere that were full as well as discarded packs of cigarettes. They’re sending a real mixed message here.
After hitting a few different bars and drinking a ton of beer we hit up FEBO, which is a Dutch automat, on the recommendation of some dudes who overheard us talking about what kind of food to get while in line at the ATM. FEBO apparently is “totally authentic,” a phrase which appears to be code for “totally terrible.” The croquet I had was horrifying, so I washed my mouth out with some kebab.
A quick cab ride later (via a driver who didn’t have change for a 50€ bill for some reason) and we were back at the hotel. I’ve got no idea what’s going on tomorrow, but hopefully it involves a whiskey bar and buying soccer jerseys.