April 8 – 11, 2011
After weeks of wasting away hours in the Studenterhuset (my favorite cafe in Copenhagen), my friends and I finally planned a two week long adventure across Europe. And the best way to do it was through CouchSurfing, an online community dedicated to hospitality exchange. The concept is simple: people let you stay at their house, and you let others stay at yours. Of course, you have to fill out a profile, so others can now what type of person they are letting crash at their place for a couple of days.
After what seemed like forever on the Hogwarts-Express-like train, we finally arrived in Amsterdam, where our CouchSurfing host, [K.], picked us up at the train station. He stuffed us with our heavy backpacks into his Mini Cooper, blasted electronic-techno music, and drove all of one minute back to his house. My friend [S.K.] and I exchanged incredulous glances in the backseat, half-expecting him to start fist pumping while driving. I felt like I was in the Dutch version of the Jersey Shore. It was my first time CouchSurfing, so I didn’t really know what to expect and what kind of people I would meet along the way.
When we dragged our things into his house, he showed us where we would be sleeping. He had a small room with a king sized bed, an air mattress, and a love seat.
“We can share the bed,” K. said casually, “We’re all adults here, right?”
He then proceeded making us all sandwiches, while chattering away about his busy social life, random hobbies, and favorite YouTube videos. When I tried declining the third sandwich he had made me, he stared at me intently, smiled, and pushed the sandwich into my hands. I was amused at how excited he was that we were all here, especially when he started showing us all of his photo albums — all of which consisted of him partying in different countries around the world. Including a “frat” house in France.
When he was done showing us all of his pictures and funny YouTube videos, he took us to our first Amsterdam “coffee” shop. Afterwards, we went to all the different sights, including the famous Dam, the palace, and the house of Anne Frank. We even went on a canal cruise around Amsterdam, hoping to learn history behind Dutch architecture. K. had just moved to Amsterdam from Germany a couple months ago, and he told us that we were giving him his first tour of Amsterdam.
“So what have you been doing instead?” we asked.
“Partying,” he replied, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. “Ah, just last weekend, I found myself lying on the ground in the city at around 7 AM with my friend, with a joint in my mouth, and we were like ‘Wow, that was a great party, huh?’ and he was like, ‘Yeah…great night’ ”
We never really understood the actual point to his stories either. Needless to say, by the end of our stay with K, we started getting used to his random stories of crazy nights in Amsterdam (or elsewhere around the world). I found him to be one of the nicest people I’ve ever met, and he really did make our experience in Amsterdam so much more fun.
On the canal cruise, led by a man who was obviously under the influence, my friend and I got into a discussion about prescription glasses. I told her that I only had a slight astigmatism, and she told me she was almost legally blind without glasses or contacts. The entire time, we thought K had fallen asleep. We really couldn’t blame him — it was a very boring tour. The most we learned was how expensive boat houses were on the canal and how rich and extravagant the Dutch are.
Around midnight, he took us to the Red Light District. When people used to describe the Red Light District to me, I always thought they were exaggerating. It was really one of the most fascinating places I’ve ever seen. Scantily clad women were posing in front of red neon lit windows and seducing all the men that walked by. Most of the street was filled with wide-eyed tourists, who all couldn’t believe that this place was real. Maybe it was even heaven on Earth for some.
In one of his random stories, K had told us about the first time his friends forced him into a peep show. There were stalls all around one circular room, where you could view live porn. Once you step into the stall, you face a grey veil until you put in 2 Euros into the machine. Then the veil goes up, and voila, a show!
And before we knew it, he had led us to a place called the Sex Palace.
“Oh, that’s nice,” I said, as I started to walk on.
“No, come inside!” K said enthusiastically. “Come on, as tourists, you have to come inside!”
K. opened the doors to one of the stalls and motioned one of us to go in. I didn’t want to go in alone, but you weren’t allowed to go in more than a person at a time.
I reluctantly stood next to the open stall door, peering inside. There was the grey veil I expected to see and the machine to insert your 2 Euros. Suddenly, K pushed me inside.
“Wait, really?!” I said in protest, staring at my two other friends in horror, who watched helplessly.
“Really! Just try it,” K said, as he abruptly shut the stall door. “Remember to lock the door!” I heard him say from the other side.
“Good Lord,” I muttered to myself, as I stood in the dark stall. I took out 2 Euros from my wallet and inserted it into the machine. The veil suddenly lifted, and … well, I got what I paid for, so I don’t think I need to go into details. I will say that it was strange that I could see all the other people in the other stalls. After a few seconds, I opened the stall, where K and the rest of my friends were waiting for me.
“That was weird,” was all I could offer.
Later that night, K took us out to a really crowded club. Around 3 AM, we were all about to fall over from the lack of sleep from the night before. All the trains had stopped running, and K had no idea which bus we had to take to get back to his place. He handed us his keys and wished us a good luck; it was obvious he was not going to give up a good night of partying for a few Americans.
We finally made it back to his house at 5 in the morning. I woke up to a loud tapping noise coming from the window at 8 AM. For a while, I kept wondering if I was dreaming, until I realized that K. was throwing rocks at the window. After we let him in, we fell back asleep. At around 10 AM, we woke up, and he was still awake, watching a movie on his laptop.
“Did you sleep at all?” I asked.
“No, not yet,” he said with a shrug.
“Do you ever sleep?” S. asked, as she rolled over on the bed to face him.
“Not really,” he said. “I’ve slept a total of, like, five hours this week.”
“That’s crazy,” S commented groggily.
“I think it’s crazy that you’re blind…”