Roam to Reykjavik - Part 4
I haven't been to Rome yet and I'm not sure what people do there, but in Amsterdam people smoke before and after most standard daily operations. The Coffee shop we frequented was a locals spot and devoid of the usual tourist epiphanies about how 'this should be legal at home'. The thing I didn't understand about the coffee shops in Amsterdam however was the austere decor. Hardwood or tiled floors, empty tables, rigid chairs. Then there was the clientele, the bulk of them between 35 and 60, all very much engaged in conversation with anyone who wanted to join in. Not nearly the lava-lamp-lit, plastic fern walled plush grotto I had expected.
We bought a few grams of organic, high laughter orange kush, with a balanced body-to-mind ratio (according to the laminated menu), and fresh mint tea to wash it down.
The rest of our time in The Dam was a blur of frosty bicycle rides and canals. Our visit to the Anne Frank house/museum was a highlight, and on the last night we stayed for free in a hotel room that we had been offered by a friend (Thanks!). It was in a bit of a quiet spot, hidden behind a shiny new, red-brick Mosque. Once settled, we felt the need for wine and cheese. Because, wine and cheese.
Searching around for a bottle shop we stumbled into a what looked like a standard neighbourhood deli... Enter cheese and wine Valhalla... Greeted by a dutch version of Basil Fawlty, we tasted all the little samples of artisan cheese, and oversized olives. Our goodies were wrapped with care in butchers paper and we scuttled off.
From Amsterdam we travelled to Cologne, Germany by rail. Cologne isn't very exciting. It has but one saving grace: The Christmas markets.
It turns out zee Germans are keen on sprouting a Christmas market on any patch of the city bigger than a boxing ring. They are packed with jolly Deutsch-folk sipping Gluwein and laughing with a "Yaaaaahh hooott oot oot oot yaa!". We pottered around and immersed ourselves in Christmas (and wine). We became excited about abandoning our 2 euro commemorative cup 'deposits' to keep our wine-stained "Weihnachten in Köln" (Christmas in Cologne) commemorative mugs.
A nativity play was in full swing up on the stage, a crowd had gathered and everyone was cheering and jovially-heckling along. After a few minutes a red-cheek-and-nosed German woman turned to me, asking "do you know what is the story of this?" to which I replied "It's your country! I was going to ask you!" we both laughed. The woman, after a short observation of the pageant turned to me again and said "I don't think it matters anyway we just drink MORE GLUWEIN! oot oot yaa oot".
This was a very fun time, but if it isn't December I'd avoid the city entirely.
We decided to avoid the inflated holiday train fares and use BlaBlaCar.com to find a ride to Strasbourg, France. After a few hours of periodical-awkward-busting small talk with our lovely, but slightly introverted driver, we were dropped off outside our AirBNB in Strasbourg.
On the 24th, with our two Australian friends now in tow we journeyed out to get supplies for our Christmas feast the next day. It turns out you can get quite a bit of high-quality French plonk and delicious food for 200 euro.
The idea to be in Strasbourg was to have a (Alexis and my first) snowy Christmas day. Morning came, the 300+ year old Church bells went berzerk and we looked under our makeshift tree (a stolen tree branch). Santa hadn't dropped much off, specifically there was no snow, sleet, hail or even rain... Not a sausage! Short of a few degrees the conditions essentially matched those back home in Australia, White Christmas FAIL.
The lack of snow didn't stop us having a crisp, sunny christmas-knit jumper picnic in a well manicured park nearby. We ate and drank consistently all day. Between four of us we made twelve bottles of wine disappear and a frightful amount of cheese to soak it up. We sat down to watch National Lampoons Christmas Vacation and somehow consume a large-ish box of chocolates. We floated off to bed as happy (sickly) little food balloons. Joyeux Noël!
On the 27th we all packed up and walked out to the train station together, farewelled and found ourselves in Baden Baden, Germany.