12.01.2011 - 13.01.2011 45 °F
The past two days have been rough, but things are starting to slow down and I'm ready to leave for Africa tomorrow. Yesterday's trip to the airport was dramatic and stressful to say the least. I hope Atlanta doesn't ever have a storm like that again.
After boarding, we had a few issues with the plane and weather, and we ended up delayed two and half hours. I quickly made friends with three people sitting around me who are also climbing Kilimanjaro. It was great to share stories and expectations, and they were genuinely surprised about me going alone. They are part of a group of 7 from a hiking club in Arizona. They are taking a longer 10-day route up the mountain, so I unfortunately won't run into them at all in Africa.
I also made friends with a guy from Colorado who runs a university exchange student program in Uganda. He's been living in Africa for seven years and was interesting to hear about his experiences living there on a day-to-day basis. He told me that they don't take any malaria medication and are able to avoid disease with just sleeping under mosquito nets. I didn't realize that a simple mosquito net could do so much. Needless to stay, I'll stick with the malaria meds just in case.
The weather in Amsterdam was terrible today, and the cold rain never let up. I was still able to see the highlights of the city, but the weather made picture taking and getting around very difficult. Amsterdam seems like it would be a great place to leisurely stroll around on a nice day. The entire city is lined with large canals, and it reminded me a bit of Venice, although Amsterdam doesn't have the extra small canals that act as private "driveways" to the canal homes in Venice. And of course, there are no gondolas here.
I took a canal "hop-on/hop-off" tour, so I was able to get the experience of a canal tour with the flexible to get out and walk around the city as well. I walked around the old part of town and then went to the Anne Frank museum. It was very interesting and sad at the same time. They museum was laid out very well, and the building was well preserved. The stairwells were amazingly steep and high with narrow steps. One of them needed to be climbed just like a ladder. The diary itself is in great condition and is displayed open to an entry.
I also visited the Rijksmuseum, which is one of the city's most famous museums. It features a lot of Rembrandt's works, including The Night Watch, which was absolutely spectacular. The detail was unbelievable. It had the definition of a high-def TV. While there, I ran into my friends Mark and Pat from Connecticut. They are also climbing Kilimanjaro but are taking a 9-day route up the mountain. I knew their trip was sometime in January, but I had no idea we'd both be in Amsterdam on the same day. They'll be on my flight to Africa tomorrow, so it will be nice to see some friendly familiar faces.
The Dutch are extremely friendly and always willing to help. I accidently took a wrong train and ended up in the suburbs. A college student, on his way home from a job interview, insisted on helping me get to where I needed to be. He rode with me all the way back to the city and navigated several train transfers. Afterwards, we had coffee and he told me all about life in Holland. Nothing beats learning about a city from a local!
Now, I am back at the hotel taking advantage of its free computers and internet. It's great! The hotel is at the airport and is very futuristic. If the Jetsons had a hotel, this would be it. I really wanted to stay in the city centre, but it is too much of a hassle for just one day. I love this hotel so much, that I probably will stay here the next time I visit Amsterdam again.
In summary, Amsterdam is great. I'll definitely be back for at least 3 days to see the rest of it and possibly some of the countryside. Spring or fall would be a better time to visit.