We woke to wonderful European breakfast: chocolate spread (Nutella) and nesquick! Awesome. We did a tour of the Anne Frank house - incredibly overwhelming, hectic, but so glad we got to see it. A fascinating place, and I definitely recommend it for anyone in Amsterdam. Outside, we were accosted by the worst smelling sewage in the history of man. Gah! We missed the Van Gogh because the queue was so long, but we walked around the city taking in the sights, eating chocolate waffles, giant pizza slices (best pizza ever, hands down) and did some shopping. The shops are great, there are bicycles everywhere, and it's a very cool vibe. I loved Amsterdam.
We left Amsterdam in the afternoon for Sankt Goar - a little German town in the Rhine Valley. The countryside along the way was absolutely stunning, and we got to see some cool graffiti on buildings as we drove, and also my first experience of sound barriers around the highway. Were we in Europe or something? We stopped at a service station in Germany, and had some schnitzel (Gutentag, eine schnitzel bitte?). We also came into contact with snow! Thick snow on the road and paving at the service station. Awesome! When we arrived in Sankt Goar it was dark, but we could still see some castles and the river. We did a wine tasting in a cellar, the place was hundreds of years old. IT was very atmospheric, and beautiful to see. All 4 wines were very good, some people bought a few bottles, we bought a bottle of eiswein (for our wedding, but Adi didn't know at the time!).
After that we headed for the hotel where we sampled some local beer, chatted with our manager and driver, and had some meatballs for dinner. It was icy cold, and there was frost on the balcony and snow on the roofs of the buildings around the little hotel. It was such a nice place! We didn't have a late night, and headed to bed to catch some sleep.
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Thursday, January 6, 2011
On day two we got to meet up with our group in the outside lobby of the hotel, along with our tour manager (Brek, Australian) and bus driver (Gerry, Irish) who both seemed really cool guys. Adi and I sat one row from the back, where most of the South Africans were seated. From the hotel we drove to Dover to get on the ferry at Calais, going through London and some English countryside. It is quite a beautiful country. Along the way, Brek explained the rules and gave us some general info on Contiki, and we did what he called "speed dating". This involves half of the bus sitting where they are, and the other half rotating seats every 2 minutes, and doing a quick "Hi my name is Brett, I am a boring computer programmer from South Africa what do you do?". That kind of broke the ice a little.
At Dover we got on the ferry and had a most awful cup of coffee, and a plain steak pasty. The ferry is mahoosive, with shops and restaurants and a whole lot. Since it's really a big ship on the sea, some people were feeling a little woozy with the rolling motion. Adi felt a little sick, but I myself being big and strong and awesome was fine.
We landed at Calais and drove through to Belgium. France has a wonderful countryside, great to watch out the moving bus window. Belgium, or at least the bit we drove through, has a wonderfully dull countryside, and in fact looks a bit like Hillbrough. Not amazing. After a quick stop in the Dutch speaking part of Belgium (where I sampled some Belgian cheese and paid to use the toilet) we headed on to Amsterdam.
I can't stress how absolutely awesome a city Amsterdam - it was built in the 1500s and yet also has modern elements; it's a stunningly beautiful place. One of my favourite cities! When we reached the hotel Adi and I had a nap, so we missed dinner, but afterwards we joined the group for a short walking tour of the red light district. You can't take photos of the prostitutes (without getting beaten by them, as discovered by an unfortunate Asian on our trip) so I left my camera at the hotel.
The red light district is really cool, it's almost indistinguishable from the rest of the city, it's so "normal" it's subtle. Most of the girls are pretty gorgeous, and the red light does wonders for their skin (as confirmed by the girls on our tour in Florence). Even the girls in the blue lights were pretty good looking. In case you haven't worked it out, a blue light means that they are not 100% girl, and pack a little extra heat. The red light district is filled with weed coffee shops, and sex shops with giant dildos everywhere. At the same time, the buildings are all old and beautiful and there are the canals and cobbled streets, so it's a really pretty place.
After the walk, we went on a cruise boat in the canals. It had free drinks - Heineken on tap - and so after a few minutes of it being a quiet touristy affair looking out the windows at the passing boats and buildings, the trip became a bit of a raucous party with the Aussies and South Africans dancing and singing and drinking much beer. The boat of other Contiki people we passed looked pretty boring, so I think we got a good group. Prost!
After this we went to the "cultural show" at the Cassa Rossa, which is a live sex show. Since we were one of the first to arrive at the venue, we were ushered in to the front row where we got a most excellent view of Jonny D and his rather large talents. It was quite an experience, and you can't really prepare yourself for it, but I must say it was great fun and everyone that went enjoyed it. A few people got called onstage during the stripping acts, and so the whole Contiki group was having fun.
Once the show was done, we headed off to one of sex shops to take a look around. There is some scary stuff in there. I did note that a giant rubber fist will set you back 80 EUR. We also had a puff of a joint in one of the coffee shops where some of the other group were spending their evening / early morning. After that, we made our way back to the hotel for a much better night's sleep than the one previously.