March 7, 2006


So yesterday was a perfect kind of day for me. I met up with my friend Hans, a local skinhead from Amsterdam. (I should point out that in America, the term skinheads and neo-nazis are almost used as if they're the same thing. In Europe, that's not the case. A skinhead is no different than say, a cowboy. There's a certain type of dress, along with a type of brotherhood, camaraderie, pride in self and place and customs and traditions - but not necessarily a political statement or belief that has any part in the identity.) but I digress...

Hans had the day off and I had the afternoon to kill between my hotel checkout and train for Berlin, so we went a few blocks into the village (a direction I hadn't gone) and stopped for coffee at a local corner shop. (travel tip - the bar of nougat that comes with the coffee is to eat, not to stick in the coffee.) After a while, Hans decided he was going to give me a quick tour of rural Amsterdam and the suburbs. We drove through little villages and along plains that were held in by dams, past land that didn't exist a few years ago - but when the Dutch want land, they build some dams and make land! It was a great diversion and a side of Amsterdam I never would have seen. I suppose I have to eat my words about the friendliness of Amsterdamers.

In the afternoon I jumped a train for Berlin. (travel tip #2 - make sure you pay attention to the smoking or non-smoking symbol on the door of the train compartment you sit in.) Germany is going to be a challenge - I thought I was lost trying to figure out Italian!

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