Day 3 – Samstag

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This morning, we got an early start and left our quaint little Cochem by 07:00. We somehow got ourselves onto a nice country road and ate our breakfast on a ridge overlooking the Mosel. It was quite nice. We also took the opportunity to get our car organized and our bed put together. We then continued along the Mosel. We even found a Walmart Supercenter just outside of Trier. It was very different from our stores. For those who think that Walmarts here are sloppy stores, well, you certainly don’t want to go there. Shortly after leaving the strange Walmart we crossed our first European border. We entered Luxembourg with no fanfare. There was no border station. There was no big, pretty “Welcome to Luxembourg” sign. There was no welcome center. We just happened to notice that the language had suddenly turned from German to French. One of the first strange things that we noticed was that every few miles they have a wooded overpass for deer crossings. It was strange to see overpasses that a) didn’t have roads extended from them and b)had trees and shrubbery. We stopped in Luxembourg City to get out and walk around. The goal was to find a Luxembourg postcard. A few weeks ago, while pondering over having been to 49 of the 50 states and having not collected anything from each of them, I decided that postcards were the perfect collection (yep, now I need to go around to all the states again). So I figured I would begin this nice, simple collection on this trip. I found a Luxembourg card with little difficulty and we resumed our northward journey. Much like the first one, the border crossing into Belgium was barely perceptible. And there wasn’t even a language change to signal our arrival. Luckily, I happened to catch out of the corner of my eye the very small sign on the side of the road that said Belgium. It was a very shy and unassuming sign. We stopped in the town of Visé to get a postcard. We walked around several streets of shops before we finally found any postcards. Not a one of them said Belgium. Only one of them said Visé (coincidently, it was the one with the picture of ducks). We decided that that was as close as we were going to get. It seems like finding postcards here might be a little more challenging than I would have thought. We bought the ducky Visé (sans Belgium) postcard and hit the road again. I’ll have to admit, crossing into the Netherlands was really very noticeable. Mostly because, quite suddenly, I could not read the signs anymore. It was all Dutch to me. Confidence waned just a bit. We headed toward Amsterdam — can’t go to the Netherlands without seeing what all the hype is about right? First, if you’re driving into Amsterdam, don’t. Parking was a nightmare. We must have driven around the city a dozen times trying to find an open parking place. We finally found a space big enough to accommodate our station wagon in a line of cars parked up over a curb. We parked. As we walked into town, we noticed that everyone was wearing orange and there were decorations all over. We inquired later in the evening and discovered that we were fortunate enough to have made our visit on Queen’s Day. There were tons of people there. Lots of loud bands. Many yard-sale-type setups. Several men urinating publicly on trees or buildings. Even saw one woman squatting in the grass near a dumpster. Clearly, they had to go. It was an interesting party. But all in all, Amsterdam was not what I expected. The stories make it seem as though it is an everyday thing to see people sitting outside or walking along the streets smoking cannabis. We walked around four or five hours on a Saturday night with a big party going on and I never saw the first person using cannabis. Never even smelled it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like we were looking for it or cared to be around it, that’s just not my scene, but it was still surprising after the stories we hear back in the States. We did stumble upon one cannabis store, which was interesting. Who would have known that it even came in so many varieties? The other surprise was the red light district. Seems like the stories we hear in the States are a bit exaggerated. There were red lights. If one was turned on outside a door, there was a woman in the window. But the district itself was really nothing more than a couple of alleyways. And the women sat in their windows fully dressed, most of them smoking cigarettes and barely paying any attention to the passerby. It was interesting, but not nearly as outlandish as the stories that we hear about. Heck, I’ve seen more public debauchery on Bourbon Street and not even during Mardi Gras. Around 22:00, when the sun had finally set, we started to try to find our way back to the car. We found a place to camp in a little town outside of Amsterdam.