Amsterdam

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It was a hazy week in Amsterdam, and not because of the space cake.

My long-awaited holiday after an incredibly stressful and hectic exam week was foiled by a nasty case of pneumonia.

On the first two days of our trip, I was still semi-functioning and had a wonderful time.  The first place I went was a proper coffee shop (as Turkish coffee just doesn’t quite do the trick for me) and found an amazing little place inside of an Urban Outfitters, where we met some really nice people from Australia.  We chatted for awhile and then decided to meet up later in Leidesplein for some cheap drinks and good company and had an amazing time – by far the highlight of the whole trip.

We tried to hit all of our must-see things in the first couple of days, which of course included the Red Light District.  It was cold and rainy and full of naked girls dancing in the windows; it was definitely an experience.

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On our second day, we took a stroll through the famous floating Flower Market, which was lovely, but I suspect it’s even more impressive in warmer months.  We had really hoped to rent bikes and tour Vondelpark and a few other parts of the city to enjoy Holland’s top notch biking culture, but I really wasn’t feeling up to that much physical activity, so we ended up just walking through the park.  Despite the fact that I didn’t get my bike on, I still enjoyed walking among the remnants of the fall foliage, as Turkey just doesn’t have the fall colors I crave this time of year.

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The last thing we managed to do before I was really just dragging my ass through the city aimlessly like a zombie was visit the Van Gogh museum.  I’ve always enjoyed Van Gogh’s artwork, so it was really cool to see some of his most famous paintings up close and learn more about his life.  I highly recommend it for art fans.

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We opened the porthole to our boat room and found this little dude.  We decided to call him Hans.

We met a friendly couple on the boat we were staying on (which was another major highlight of the trip) who were in the  midst of a two month road trip through Europe and had no use for their 24 hour hop on/hop off boat tickets, so we got to cruise the canals for free on our fourth day, which was nice because I didn’t have to move and it was out of the rain.  We stopped and visited Gassan, a Dutch diamond factory, to learn about diamonds and how they are made, which was a lot cooler than it probably sounds.

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While I’m disappointed that I didn’t really do the Netherlands justice, I can’t say it was a total waste.  I got to eat some good food, including PORK which is difficult to find in Turkey and I restocked on peanut butter and coffee.  I met some cool people and enjoyed the beautiful canals and architecture.  Next time I’m in the area, I’m hoping to see some of the old Dutch villages and perhaps squeeze in a day trip to Belgium.

Interestingly enough, the most profound part of the experience for me was coming back home.  It really hit me that Turkey is home.  While it was great to take a break in an organized, developed culture like the Netherlands, I found myself missing Turkey.  I missed the sound of cars whizzing by, the friendly people on every street corner always asking if you need help.  I missed the pretty tulip glasses filled with cay and the never-ending stream of random, last minute occurrences that happen unexpectedly a thousand times each day.  I came back feeling certain for the first time that this is exactly where I’m meant to be.