Brussels, Amsterdam and the Green Fairy

The green shot glass on the left was mine
The green shot glass on the left was mine

I’ve left Brussels and have made the short trip to Amsterdam. I enjoyed my time in Brussels but in the end, I was left with the question “what is really there?”. Brussels is the capital of the European Union and of NATO, as well as being the capital of Belgium. Unlike Paris or Rome, the city isn’t dripping with history. Paris has a 1,000-foot tall iconic tower created for a world expo, Rome has a 2,000-year-old Colosseum which is a wonder of the world, and Brussels has a two-foot statue of a little boy peeing. It is a functional city, and yes despite stereotypes, the fries and waffles are good. (French fries are in fact not from France, but from Belgium. They came to the US after WWI when soldiers returned.) Many of the fries I had were cooked in animal fat, not vegetable oil, which is very hard to find in most restaurants.

The highlight of my stay was the people I meet up with. On Saturday I met up with Ninfa, who is from Honduras, her brother, and her Irish boyfriend Tony. They made me dinner in their apartment and later we went out to a bar which had the largest selection of beer, rum, and absinthe in the world. I had never had absinthe before and thought I’d give it a try. It had been illegal in the US until recently. Despite rumors of absinthe causing hallucinations, I can report no such effects. It was like doing a shot with cough syrup mixed in.

Canals in Amsterdam
Canals in Amsterdam

All the absinthe drinks seemed to have something to do with fire. The shot I had was in a custom glass with a straw built into the bottom. It almost looked like a Sherlock Holmes pipe. They light the top of the drink on fire then you suck it through the straw from the bottom. You are supposed to suck it really fast so you don’t burn yourself.

The next night I met up for drinks with several Twitter users in Brussels. It was nice to meet other Twitter users and see how they are using the technology. I think I was the only one without an iPhone which sort of puts into perspective how long I have been on the road. When I started my trip, there was no iPhone.

Tuesday I took the train to Brugge. I had heard a lot about Brugge so I thought I’d go see it myself. Since the movie “In Brugge” came out it has been getting a lot of attention. It seemed like there were more tourists in Brugge than there were in Brussels. It is a quaint old city but it wasn’t THAT big of a deal.

Bikes in Amsterdam
Bikes in Amsterdam

I’m currently in Amsterdam which, so far, I enjoy immensely. The Dutch are probably the most fluent English speakers in Continental Europe. The English language television shows and movies which are shown in the Netherlands are subtitles not dubbed, unlike in France or Italy. Everyone I have meet from the Netherlands, including Dutch people I’ve met traveling, can speak English better than some Americans I know.

Amsterdam is just like the photos you see. Canals are everywhere and you could almost navigate through the entire city by boat. It is also the most bike-friendly city I have ever seen. There are a LOT of bicycles and the roads are built to handle bike traffic. All of the bikes here look like 50-year-old Schwinn bikes that my grandmother might have rode. There is a huge diversity of restaurants in city, more than I’ve seen anywhere else in Europe so far. I haven’t seen any of the legendary coffee houses or red light district, but then again I haven’t gone looking for it either.

So far I’ve been to the Rijksmuseum and I’ll be going to the van Gogh Museum today. I also might be going out with Karel, probably our best Where On Google Earth player, to visit some of the World Heritage sites outside of Amsterdam. I also plan on doing a lot of walking and photography. Amsterdam seems like one of the most photogenic cities I’ve visited so far.

19 thoughts on “Brussels, Amsterdam and the Green Fairy”

  1. There is more in the Netherlands then Amsterdam. Why not visit my province of Friesland? In Friesland and in a small part of the province of Groningen they speak Frisian. A language wich is older then Dutch. In the middle ages Old Frisian and Old English where almost the same. The Frisian culture is still there and whe have some nice old city´s like: Dokkum, Leeuwarden (Ljouwert), Sneek (Snits), Franeker (Frentsjer). In Friesland you can find many windmills, many open waters/lakes/canals where you can see many boats in the summer. In the winter there is the Elfstedentocht (Eleven city race). This is very famous under the Dutch as well, because it´s a race over more then 200km. Because of the warmer winters the race is once in 10 years (average). Well welcome to Friesland (Fryslân)!

  2. Hi Gary,

    I really like your website. I was in Italy when you just left. Such a shame, would have been nice to meet you.

    I just started my own travel blog, and hope to travel some of the great places you have been!

    Well done for such a great site. I too like Amsterdam! So beautiful!

  3. hmm, that is quite interesting… Yeah, I am thinking that the government is actually being secure… also, there are quite a lot of irresponsible people anywhere… It could be that the government there in Holland looks into the matter of the smoking seriously that they could immediately respond to instances of disturbance… Thanks for the info, I didn’t know about that until now :) Also this is another thing that I could tip my family in so by the time they travel in Holland and in Amsterdam :) I’m sure people would get sick of too much of that smoke in a period of time, but I don’t know… :) :D :P hehehe

  4. Mandino, Marijuana is not legal in Holland as is the perception, however it is very tolerated as is obvious with all the coffeeshops that occupy the area. they generally frown upon smoking in the open but i think all one will get is a warning, they want it consumed in the same place it is bought just like a bar and one cannot hold more than or purchase more than 5 grams at any given time. as long are people are responsible there shouldnt be a problem, but stoners don’t come close with the liability as drunks stumbling out of bars come with. Amsterdam is our last refuge and i wish our govt. had the maturity the dutch govt. had when making policies toward the very soft “drug”.

  5. “a two foot statue of a little boy peeing” :D Won’t be that funny if not coming after the Paris and Rome ones. Amsterdam sounds nice. Once met a girl from the city, very good English. The living pace heard is quick as any metropolis.

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  6. Koa, I have been really puzzled with the legalities there in amsterdam, but the nevertheless, it’s quite a feat to go there… As for absinth, I think they kinda mix something in there so it does not give the full effect. I have been traveling for quite a while now and I have been documenting everything in Baraaza where I can share all my travels with my family and friends, lol, sometimes, I really have to buy a sat. phone for some areas i go to…

  7. I like the Mannekin Pis, I have a little statue in my bathroom and Brussels does have a beautiful square. I enjoyed it and the fries and mussels. Brugges, well it is just like the movie says, pretty, but not a lot there. You are going to love Amsterdam though, enjoy!

  8. That is, without a doubt one of the most intense looking shot glasses i’ve ever seen. Fun way to do it, especially if you’re lighting it up.

    Next time you try it, you’ll have to give it a go as more of a sipping drink. Just freezing cold greenstuff, a ton of powdered sugar stirred in, and a little water to make it slushy.

    Literally laughed out loud at the boy peeing reference. Sounds like a fund few days.

  9. Gary, you need to hit up a coffee shop, roll up a fatty (or buy a pre rolled one if you dont know how), smoke the whole thing, and have someone take a picture of your face for us. YOU are in Amsterdam after all…

  10. Don’t miss out on the Red Light district, for the eye candy alone! The Casa Rossa is a live sex show that’s fantastically hilarious!

  11. Sounds like you are feeling better, and having some fun. This is good. Gonna break down and get an IPhone then? Mind you with an Itouch you don’t really need it do you.

  12. Amsterdam is one of my favourite cities and there is plenty to enjoy there including the most spectacular Art Nouveau cinema I’ve been to and probably the best comedy club I’ve visited! Boom Chicaco is definently worth a visit if you’re still there :)

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