28 Aug

Tourists in Amsterdam

Every year thousands of tourists descend upon Amsterdam to explore the city and take in its many sights. They are usually easy to spot but it is not always their maps and suitcases that give them away. Sometimes there are more subtle signs that can be used to tell the tourists in Amsterdam apart from the locals.

11 ways to spot tourists in Amsterdam:

1) Tourists will be the only ones wearing any item of clothing with the name ‘Amsterdam’ printed on it.

2) Despite the many photo opportunities offered by Amsterdam’s beautiful canals, stylish architecture and impressive museums tourists will be the ones excitedly taking photos of Fabo.

3) Tourists will be the ones talking the loudest about visiting the Red Light District (and lying the most about what they are going to do there).

4) They will also be the loudest ones on the train from Schipol to Amsterdam and the quietest ones on the way back (usually due to hangovers).

5) They will be the ones who are most fascinated by wooden shoes and will be unable to resist the temptation of sitting in a giant novelty clog.

6) They will be the ones standing in front of a train ticket machine, holding a 50 euro note, trying to figure out where the paper money slot is (and inevitably try putting it in the debit card slot).

7) They will also be the ones trying to scan their home printed train ticket on the OV readers.

8) They will be the ones who are most surprised to discover that ‘vla’ does not mean ‘milk’.

9) A family of tourists will be the one cycling in a group down a pedestrian street and along the tram tracks oblivious to the danger.

10) Ironically, they will also be the ones who mistake a cycle path for a foot path despite the large amount of bicycles swerving around them.

11) English tourists are the ones who will look the most confused about Dutch waiters always ‘forgetting’ to put milk in the tea.

Are there any more signs that I have missed? How do you recognise tourists in Amsterdam?

15 Mar

The Escape

When I receive an email from someone offering to lock me in a room for an hour I am normally a little hesitant to reply. However, when the team from Claustrophobia invited me to play their latest escape room game (titled Wake Up) eager to let them do just that. I’ve always wanted to try an escape room game.

The basic premise of an escape room is that you are locked in a room and have to find a way out within an hour by completing various puzzles. It’s kind of like a live action point and click adventure computer game but without the load times. However, Wake Up takes the basic premise of an escape room game and runs with it, creating an amazingly immersive experience.

The game is based around the imagination of Matilda, a little girl who’s dreams are usually happy and cheerful places until something goes wrong. Thousands of fantasies, riddles and illusions become mixed up in one mysterious and unpredictable knot, and you are trapped right in the middle of it.

Before I went in I knew I would need some help so I assembled a team of friends. After we arrived the three of us waited outside the door to Matilda’s dream world, not knowing what to expect. The door opened, we entered a room, the timer started and then…

…this one thing happened and it was great…

… and this other thing happened and we all jumped… it was awesome…

…and later Luke figured out this one puzzle we were all be stuck on and we cheered…

…and later still we found this thing we needed for another thing… and we were all very pleased with ourselves…

… and all this other amazing stuff happened and…

Ok. I can’t actually tell you what happened after we entered the room without spoiling the surprises that followed. I really wish I could but I can’t. I have been sworn to secrecy. If you want to know what happens in Matilda’s dream you’ll simply have to enter it for yourself.

What I can tell you is that we were instantly sucked into the amazing atmosphere, and genuinely mind blown by some of the surprises that awaited us upon completing parts of the mystery and the many fun puzzles.

You’re probably wondering if we actually escaped (or if I am writing this from inside the locked room). We escaped. We completed the room in 41 minutes and 13 seconds, just a few minutes behind the record. Why not see if you can beat our time?

Click Here for more info about Claustrophobia: Wake Up

Claustrophobia Escape Cartoon
Claustrophobia Escape Photos

And don’t worry. They do actually let you out if you don’t complete it in time…… I think.

16 Oct

As I walk through a particularly busy part of Amsterdam on my lunch break I notice two girls across the street. I’d seen them there several times before, every day in fact. They were always standing outside the shop where they work, both wearing aprons and holding a plate of free samples which they would offer to passers-by.

At this particular moment on this particular day they had attracted the curiosity of a short middle age couple who were walking towards them. One of the girls notices this, holds her plate a little lower and asks if they would like a free sample. The man who seems the most interested picks up one of the free samples and sniffs it cautiously.

Between them the two girls start to happily explain what it is and that their shop sells a lot more of them inside when suddenly he does something that (it seems) neither of them were expecting; he takes a great big bite.

There is a sudden look of horror on the girls’ faces. The man simply looks confused. The two girls suddenly start talking very fast, trying to stop him from doing it again. They are too late. As if in hope that the taste might get better with a second try he takes another bite.

But the taste does not get any better because these two girls are not giving out free samples of cake or sweets or anything else tasty or edible for that matter. No. They are giving out free samples of soap.

The man slowly starts to chew.

Suddenly realizing that he is a tourist who does not speak any Dutch or English, the two girls resort to sign language. One of them starts to frantically mime bathing with an imaginary bar of soap while the other repeats the word ‘soap’ over and over again in a desperate attempt to stop him swallowing.

This only results in the tourist looking even more confused as he tries to work out what on earth these two very strange girls are doing and why they would have given him such terrible tasting candy.

Eventually he decides that he has tried enough. He spits the mouthful back into his hand and shakes his head apologetically at the two girls as if to say sorry but in his opinion their baking is not very good. He walks off, talking to his wife in a foreign language (probably about the strange eating habits of other countries) and throws the sample in a nearby bin.

The girls, looking slightly stressed, breathe a sigh of relief.

I carry on walking down the street, chuckling to myself.

A few days later I returned to pick up my own sample for this photo. The first thing one of the girls said to me was, “Do you speak English? Don’t eat this. It’s not food.” It seems they are not keen to repeat the incident with the soap snacking tourist.

22 Jan

A Poem About The Netherlands
By Stuart B

Holland is a country without mountains, hills or even a slight bevel,
That’s quite alarming when you consider everything is below sea level.

The terrain is large, flat and rather featureless you see,
That’s what happens when most of it is reclaimed from the sea.

But never underestimate its importance in the euro zone,
After all it’s where all the most beautiful tulips are grown.

Oh… And calling it Holland can make the locals quite stressed,
It’s The Netherlands. Not just that province to the West.

Tourists often come for a weekend full of booze,
But leave with a pair of souvenir wooden shoes.

The drugs here are legal and can provide a lot of thrills,
But is there really anything better than visiting one of the many windmills?

During the winter the climate can be cold and rather freezing,
But the Dutch do not mind, they find this rather pleasing.

In fact the Dutch spend the whole summer waiting,
For the winter, Elfstedentocht and a chance of ice skating.

I like living in Holland. I think it is very pleasant and rather nice,
Even considering Amsterdam is overrun and controlled by mice.

But never forget that the country is completely flat,
And if the dykes ever break we’ll all get een beetje nat!

15 Dec

If Amsterdam was ever overrun by hostile forces, evil doers or ill wishers the inhabitance of the city would be able to rest easy in the knowledge that these invaders would not make much progress, quickly lose motivation, soon give up altogether and returned home in a very disgruntled mood. The reason for this cannot be attributed to any superior tactical advantage or any well designed fortifications that the city has. It is because of one thing and one thing only; moving vans.

A single moving van is capable of blocking an entire canal street thus making passage by bike quite impossible without the risk of running over a pedestrian, cycling into a dinning set, being decapitated by a wing mirror and/or pushed in to the nearby canal by the driver opening the door.

The presents of a stationary moving van usually forces a diversion which will most likely turn out to be blocked itself by another moving van. In fact it is entirely possible to have your attempted detour continually thwarted one street after another until (before you realize it) you are cycling from East Amsterdam to West Amsterdam via Rotterdam. This also means that several moving vans working together could easily shut down entire sections of the city and bring Amsterdam to its knees if they so desired. Moving vans are above the law. They answer to no one. They are the law.

Things get much worse if you are unfortunate or foolish enough to be driving around Amsterdam because a single moving van is also capable of creating very long traffic jams.

If a car encounters a moving van the driver is forced to wait and watch as every piece of furniture is paraded in front of them like some kind of Ikea drive through. Although it might feel tempting it is important to know that beeping of the horn is ineffective at this point, especially if you wish to generate sympathy for your current predicament from those living in the surrounding area.

Only once a moving van has been fully loaded with furniture, unloaded, rearranged to fit an odd shaped sofa, reloaded and the movers have had their fifth tea break (in view) will the moving van finally be ready to move. Victory is usually short lived however as most of the time the moving van just stops again after a few meters to start unloading at the new destination. Amsterdam is a small city after all.