Saturday, April 26, 2008

Ping Ping and A Midnight Bus To Berlin

As we approached the girl's house whose couch we were staying on, Brian asked if we should come up with a code in case she turned out to be a weirdo and we felt it was not a suitable place to stay overnight. It's really nice to have a travel buddy, not just for company and laughs, but for safety too. We already have a secret code for ''hot man nearby" (I could tell you the code, but then it wouldn't be secret anymore). Right as we were in the middle of this new safety code conversation, we see someone in the distance waving at us, calling out ''Brian?" Uh oh, no time to decide on a code in case she turns out to be psycho.

Thankfully, our fears were completely unfounded as she turned out to be absolutely wonderful! She's a fifth year dutch medical student (med school here is six years) who likes to travel and make new friends. She was super sweet. Had gone to the grocery store and picked up fondue supplies and put a bottle of wine in the fridge to chill. So, we ended up cooking dinner together that we then enjoyed by candlelight at the table she had set for us. She even let us use her computer and gave us towels for the shower and blankets for the couches. What a gift! I don't know why, but I'm always so surprised when I encounter kind strangers who are so willing to go out of their way for you. This was absolutely exceptional and completely restored my faith in how kind, caring, and considerate people can be. Unfortunately, it is not something we encounter every day as people are mostly too absorbed in their own worlds to extend themselves for you.

We weren't sure what we could do to repay her kindness as she has no plans on visiting Chicago or Detroit any time soon. The least we could do was to take her out for brunch today. So, that's what we did. But, even that turned out to be another gift because she showed us this amazing breakfast place we would never have discovered on our own. We enjoyed amazing youghurt/icecream/fruit shakes and sandwiches that were out of this world.

After that, we said our goodbyes and split up. She was off to get a haircut for her date this evening. Brian and I went to check out the Heineken brewery (thanks for the tip, Pete!), but found to our disappointment that it was closed. :( It is closed for renovations until August. This is the second time I didn't get to see (or taste) the brewery. But, I did make it to the Van Gogh museum, and that was definitely worthwhile. The only thing was that it was packed and difficult to fully appreciate each painting as there were about 10 people hovering about each painting at once. However, they also had a John Everett Mallais exhibit that was not at all as crowded, but mighty impressive.

A few parting notes on Amsterdam before we head out to enjoy the last few hours before catching the midnight bus to Berlin:
I absolutely LOVE this city. It is so progressive and filled with such energy and fun. All the bicyclists make me feel very much at home. One of them made me laugh yesterday. His bell was broken (they use their bike bells quite a bit as space is rather tight for sharing between pedestrians and bicyclists). In the U.S., you're used to hearing ''On your left" or something to that effect. Not here. "Ping Ping'' is the call out of choice, apparently (no doubt to imitate the sound of a bike bell). Ping Ping had Brian and me cracking up for hours.

Another thing we noticed and learned about on the free tour is that urination in corners and alongside buildings is a big problem in the city. To curb this, they've put up public urinoars (that's what they're called) for men. Women protested as they also wanted their public bathrooms in which to urinate. However, as women needed more 'coverage' than men, the women's bathrooms soon became havens for injecting drug users seeking privacy to shoot up. So, the women lost their public toilets. Even though men have their public urinoars, they still cannot refrain from relieving themselves on buildings and in corners, so the city has had to put up specific urine shields in certain heavy use areas. The urine shields are designed so that they will spray the urine back at the person urinating on them. Pretty clever. They come in various shapes and designs. I have pictures, but yet again, not able to upload them to show you at this point. But, they do look like they would work pretty effectively. Barcelona could learn a lesson or two from this and would definitely benefit from installing a few of them across their urine smelling city.

Uh oh, I just realized that that was supposed to be my closing comment, but boy, what a topic to end on...urine. Yikes! That is definitely not how I want this great city of Amsterdam to be remembered. Instead, dream with me about the waffles or pancakes with ice cream I'm hoping to indulge in for for dinner. Ok, we are off to go and catch a free ferry for a little last minute sightseeing.


Pete Eriksson said...

I have my own understanding of "ping ping" which involved cold weather and bra-lessness. : )

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