Monday, March 2, 2009


There is something so foreign, so exotic about leaving for a weekend getaway with 3 different types of currency in your wallet.

More time went into packing a lunch for this weekend getaway than the planning of the actual trip. Monday or Tuesday night Colin and I were looking into a trip for the weekend…last minute…again. It was time to crap or get off the crapper. I had a quiet, internal moment to myself. I weighed the pros and cons and suddenly decided to just go ahead and book the thing. I went into Colin’s room and almost immediately could feel the momentum beginning. We went down to the little cave where we can sometimes pick up Internet and searched for a flight that we had researched earlier. We found it, bought it, and in 5 minutes booked the hostel too! Here, an adventurous weekend began:

Because we booked the cheapest flight, we also booked the flight with the worst time. It left from London Stansted Airport (about 1 hour 30 min away) at 6:55 am. It’s okay, I’ll do the math for you. International flight= 1 hour 30 min early. Parking in midstay car park= add 30 minutes. Drive to airport= 1 hour 30 min. Wake up, brew coffee, finish packing, etc= 30 minutes. That’s right; we woke up at 3 am folks. It was rough. Needless to say we were chipper creatures boarding that airplane.

We flew into Eindhoven, Netherlands because it was much cheaper than flying into the Airport in Amsterdam. It’s about an hour and a half away from Amsterdam by bus. Even with the round trip bus ticket the transportation was significantly cheaper, besides I thought it added a little adventure to the weekend.

The first thing that I will tell you about this weekend, is that Colin and I approached it differently than any normal big city trip. We decided right off the bat that we would not measure the success of the trip in how many landmarks, buildings, museums, and monuments we could check off the list, but rather we would measure our success in how much we enjoyed ourselves.

The second thing I will tell you is that this was probably my most successful trip yet.

Highlights from Day 1:
Walking, walking, walking. We walked everywhere. There are more canals (50 more) in Amsterdam(AD) than in Venice, one of the many surprises that AD held for me.
A long line at the Anne Frank Museum=not how we want to spend our time.
A hot cappuccino and people watching in the Paradox Coffeeshop= exactly how we wanted to spend our time.
Walking some more, getting our bearings on another wonderful and interesting big city.
Riding the train to a nearby city, Haarlem (that’s right, New York was once called New Amsterdam and the Harlem in NY was named after this Haarlem) where our hostel was. In Haarlem there is an average of at least one bike PER PERSON! They were everywhere, inescapable.

Story Intervention: Old Man River
Colin and I get to the Hostel on Friday at about 3:30 pm (Friday was a half day at school, and our teachers told us that we would be fools not to take it off). We took a quick nap at 4 until about 6 pm (we had been awake since 3 am!). We wake up to, what we called, Old Man River (OMR). OMR was a 60-something homeless looking man who looked like he could barely walk. Holes in his shoes, patches of his hair missing (not in a balding kind of way), and a wonderful body odor. That night we go out and find a local coffee shop in Haarlem. We also find a Kebab place and have the most delicious Kebab (Mediterranean style pita with lamb/beef and amazing mystery sauces). We return, have some Heinekens downstairs and decide to turn in for the night. OMR was there, sleeping, where we had left him at 6. About 5 minutes after I close my eyes I hear a trickle. What’s that, you ask, why it’s crazy OMR peeing into a bottle off the side of his bed. No joke. This really happened. Not only did it happen once, it happened for a consistent 30 minutes. The dude wouldn’t stop. I received confirmation of the feat in the morning time when there were about 3 large bottles filled with a yellowish liquid next to his bed. The same thing happened the next night, no exaggeration.

Highlights from Day 2:

Van Gogh Museum. Maybe my favorite thing that we did all weekend. Did you know that Van Gogh did not start painting, or entertaining the idea of becoming an artist, until he was 26 years old? He was fired from an internship with some sort of a design or advertising company (Hey I’m only 23…if life takes me down the wrong path for the next three years, I can always become a Van Gogh….wait without the whole epilepsy and cutting off my ear thing though, right?). Favorite paintings include(you can google-image them for a reference): Potato Eaters (I was amazed at the intricate detail that he put into the figures. Also he made such a dark and meek painting seem very lively and colorful), The Sower (a man spreading seed in a wheat field with the setting sun. A great painting, he even accented the seeds being spread with a touch of yellow to show the sun reflecting off of them!), Starry Night over the Rhône (a night scene, before “Starry Night” with the town lights reflecting off of a nighttime inlet, and beautiful constellations shining overhead. This was my favorite of them all!), and the pinnacle Starry Night (a surprising amount of green in the painting, more texture than you could ever imagine too). I have never had a favorite painter, and call it the accompanying audio tour, the vibe of the museum, learning the story and inspiration behind the artist, or the breath taking paintings themselves, but I have one now. Let it be said, my favorite artist is Van Gogh! Now I just have to research him more.
Heineken experience in the old Heineken brewery. Not worth 15 Euro, but a fun experience that came with 2 beers.
Walking, walking, walking.
Night set and we flocked with all the other freaks to the famous RED LIGHT DISTRICT. Honestly, not that bad. Not too sketchy, police walking around, lots of drunk people, and lots of nearly naked women in windows. It was very creepy to walk by a window, with a giant red light hanging above and see a 6’3” tall black woman in lingerie lick her lips at you as you trip over the uneven curb in front of you. What a town.

Story Intervention:

So we had paid 3 Euro 90 cents each way on the train between Haarlem and AD. Not once did anyone check our ticket. Not once did we even see a person who looked like they might check our ticket. So on the way back, Saturday night we decided to save the 4 euros. We did not pay, and guess what, we got away with it. (My big joke was going to be saying “we didn’t do anything illegal in Amsterdam” haha, but we actually did, we skipped paying our fare on the train!). So in the morning on Sunday, we figured “what the heck we are 3 for 3, why pay our last fare on the train if no one checks?” Sure as Shitake right after we sit down and the train moves comes a ticket puncher. Colin tried to mutter an excuse like “well, I have this ticket, but its from yesterday…I thought it was round trip” at this point Colin is not seeing any mercy in the man’s eye and understanding that the ignorant tourist card had been played too many times, he abruptly changes his tune to “Can we buy a ticket on the train?” the man says “Yes, get off at the next stop, buy a ticket and get back on. This will save you 70 euro, the fine for traveling without a ticket.” As we get off on that stop he follows behind us singing “still have to pay the fffaaaarrrreeee” in a jesting manner. We paid and reboarded the train. Considering the possible outcomes that the story could have had, we were very lucky to have it turn out the way it did. I will always remember the “Oh shit” look on me and Colin’s faces when we saw him coming through that door, “um…we can buy our ticket on the train right?” haha.

Highlights from day 3:

Mostly just more exploring and walking around.
Another trip to Anne Frank’s house. Huge line, not how we wanted to spend our last day.
We took our time, enjoyed the sights, and relaxed the day away. Sunday was also our best weather day.

All in all, we didn’t cross that many things off the “sights to see” list in AD, but we certainly took in the culture and vibe of the city. We were happy to not have an agenda, not have a plan or direction for the weekend, but to be content sitting on a canal bench, watching the people, birds, boats, tourists, bicycles, cars, trams, and clouds all pass us by. I was thankful to be there, at that moment in time. So pleased with my surroundings that I took a mental picture. If there is one thing that I know, it is that a mental picture can capture the beauty, feeling, smell, sound, and awe of a moment unlike any picture from a camera.

I would like to close this blog post with a suggestion. AD’s slogan was I AMsterdam (like I am….sterdam, maybe with hopes that AD can be whatever you want it to be…a “personalize-able” city if you will). I suggest they change the slogan to “Amster…..DAM!”…and have a tourist tripping over a curb after passing by a 6’3” tall black woman in lingerie licking her lips.


Anonymous said...

u should be expecting a special package courtesy of jenny&greg wittreich postmarked halbury iverson
ps we need your parents address

Susan Iverson said...

Hey Hal! Nice photos! I especially like the ones in the Heineken Brewery! Like I said, the ticket takers on all public transportation in Europe will come out of the woodwork when you don't have a ticket so be sure to have a ticket, always! I am so glad you are having these experiences. You will need to remember these when you are back in the real world someday! I love you. Mom

Hal Iverson said...

real world?...NEVER!!

Anonymous said...

Okay, I'm gonna try leaving a comment but Aaron is not home to make sure Mom is doing this right...I logged on today to see if you had been to Ireland yet. I can't wait to see your pictures from there. I'm going to look for the name of this place that I thought was so interesting when I was's this ancient tomb thing with crazy rock formations. I know I saved information about it -- I'll get you the name of it soon. I believe it was on the west side of the country near County Gallway. I was wondering if you were considering going for St. Paddy's Day. Interesting trivia... St. Paddy's Day was traditionaly a religious holiday in Ireland - Bars were closed on that day till like 1995 or something. I will tell you, I regret that I didn't kiss the Balarney Stone! We drove by the castle but didn't have time that day. So, if you make it there... kiss it for me! We've just loved reading about all of your adventures! So glad you are posting all of this.

BJ said...

Long time reader first time poster.

Loving the blog, sounds like your having a great time! Wish you the best brother and look forward to hearing more!


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