When arriving to Amsterdam via train, you will most likely exit from the Amsterdam Centraal Station. Centraal Station dominates the landscape its established atop, can be seen from many places in the city, and is probably the best marker on any map of the city you’ll use.
Of course, markers and maps are only as good as your ability to apprehend your present position in relation to those previous and/or your ability to decipher the names of streets or important landmarks nearby. In Amsterdam, I found my self either to be sufficiently lacking, or the city to be an all-powerful and omniscient conspirator against my cause.
Like me, you will come to see, my friends, that booking your hostel before you arrive at your destination is best. It secures your accommodations against unscheduled uncertainties, it locks in a reasonable price, the required deposit acts almost like a savings mechanism to help your toward achieving your total trip goal, and most of all, it makes you aware of where you’re going when you step off your plane, bus, boat, or train. In all these points, except the last, my journey to Amsterdam mirrored these ideal benefits. When plotting the location of my hostel, I had saved google maps as PDFs to give me directions from the station. Well, somehow, I was walking around for at least two hours looking for the hostel walking this way and that and ended up asking people who thought they knew where it was and people who didn’t.
When I discovered the general location of the hostel I almost jumped into the canal out of anger. The Google rendition was horrible as it had placed the hostel on a main street, when it was actually on a side street branching off from it. But Google wasn’t fully to blame for my protracted detour as much as the city planners were! The city is designed in a way that makes walking long distances when looking for unrecognizable places totally necessary (unless you can get your hands on one of the many bicycles for rent). Within the bounds of the old city, a large amount of its streets are placed in a semi-circular pattern radiating from the area of Centraal Station. The distinctiveness of the area is also enhanced by a very handsome and ubiquitous element, the canal system. Although aesthetically pleasing, however, the canals that run through the middle of each street in this section, make answering the perennial question of “why did the chicken cross the road?” really easy: either he was really into walking two-block distances or he liked swimming.
To be continued…