I turned 27 last week and crossed the German border to party with the Dutch in Amsterdam. I had typical American expectations about Amsterdam, but didn’t expect it to be so damn charming.
My Amsterdam knowledge, embarrassingly enough, is only based on what I had seen in movies, most notably “Eurotrip” but also “The Fault In Our Stars.” I had this idea that the streets would be crawling with petty theft, prostitutes and drug dealers. They were there, but were only a small part of this fairy tale city.
We stayed at the Amstel Botel (only 35 Euros a night, heyy) and took a ferry into the city each day, which seemed inconvenient at first but soon became a true highlight of our visit. The forecasts threatened that a storm was headed our way but then nothing happened. We were able to stuff our bellies with vending machine bitterballen and Dutch beers until our casual stroll through the Red Light District to see prostitutes in windows waiting for business while playing on their phones.
Many of the Dutch are great English speakers, so my lazy American self felt comfortable ordering the french fries and beers that now cling to my midsection. Even the Heineken Experience, a multi-level interactive “museum” for Heineken Beer, welcomed me with English narration and placards. We munched on barley, watched videos about the brewing process and even got to customize a beer bottle of our own (for a price of course) and enjoy a large extra cold Heineken. This stuff tastes better on tap.
We downed some semi-disappointing Dutch pancakes, I bought a pair of over-the-knee tights and gifts for my family and headed back to the land of bread and my looming German language exam.
So now I am sick with some throat and nose thing, and it’s rainy but Karneval is alive and well in Köln. The German and I, who didn’t wear costumes because we suck at planning, took the train downtown last Thursday for the kick-off to find large groups of drunk Germans in costumes dancing to modern folk party music and huddling under tents.
Drunk Germans are my favorite Germans. They really do live up to their stereotype of being serious people who seem unapproachable and intimidating. So to see this group suddenly dressed as clowns, monks, dinosaurs and superheroes was just, oh man, it was just the best thing. AND THERE WERE SO MANY MEXICANS. Like, really! Cultural appropriation and racial sensitivity is not a thing here. You can walk into any bakery right now and buy a Berliner with a paper cartoon of an Asian man with super slanted eyes wearing traditional Chinese garb. Really.
There was an increase in security at the event because of the sexual assaults on New Years. You couldn’t go anywhere in the city without seeing groups of police marching together. Honestly, it was the most German police I have ever seen in my life. You can typically go a whole week without seeing or hearing any police, unlike in my hometown, Houston, where police sirens used to sing me to sleep.
In the end, the best part about Karneval, and honestly, the best part about Germany, was the Reibekuchen. Well worth the 5 Euros, unlike the overpriced Kölsch and weak rum punch.
No other words needed. Reibekuchen, I love you.