We finally managed to get ourselves to Amsterdam last weekend. Friday morning we boarded a train at 11, and by 1:30 were weaving our way through swarms of bikes - not a bad way to travel at all. Unfortunately the weather report was correct, and it rained most of Friday and Saturday, with some fierce wind on Sunday, but all that really meant is that we took most of our pictures in the cozy confines of bars instead of outside along the pretty canals. We had spent almost a week in Amsterdam in 2005, and kept ourselves pretty busy just revisiting some of the highlights of that trip. We managed to get a delicious meal at the squat Overtoom 301 on Friday (something we hadn't been able to get into in 2005); visited de Appel gallery (unfortunately the current exhibit couldn't rival "On Patrol" with Jill Magid, Harun Farocki, etc) and checked out the opening of "Rehab" at the Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam. Most of de Appel was dedicated this time to work by American painter Richard Hawkins, but there was also a surprisingly absorbing video interview with "Adriano," an infamous Italian bank robber.
I think it was during our 2005 trip to Amsterdam that we really embraced Belgian beer and discovered the ever so handy European Beer Guide, so it was with great pleasure that we could enjoy it all again. At 't Arnedsnest (Eagle's Nest) we enjoyed a menu of exclusively Dutch beers, certainly not the norm. Imagine our surprise when we discovered not one, nor two but three different beers that actually contained heavy amounts of hops (one of our favorites - SNAB - actually contains Cascade hops from Washington/Oregon)!!!! It was like we were in Seattle drinking delicious IPA.
Fast forward to the next night, and we find that Trappist Westvleteren is actually available - not only at Cafe Golem, but also in the specialty beer store The Cracked Kettle across the alley (where they do take Visa, but they don't take Maestro). This is sort of a big deal. The last time we ran into this beer was in Leuven, where we passed on the the 12 Euro price tag on a .33 liter bottle. Since then we learned of the impossibility of obtaining such a delicious treat. Like all trappist beers, Westvlerten is brewed by monks. However, this particular monastery makes limited amounts and has no distribution, so tasting it legitimately means booking an advance appointment with the monastary, giving them your license plate number to get in, and buying limited quantities which you agree not to resell. But people do this, as the Westvlerten 12 bier is ranked by many as the best beer on Earth. Long story short, we brought back two different kinds of Westvleteren (the 8 and 12). Expect one very long post discussing our impressions of such a highly regarded and seemingly impossible beer to find.
Sunday evening we stopped at a cheese shop and bought delicious sandwiches for the train, and were back in Köln by 10 or so, where the locals were already showing their Karneval colors.