After several months away from home, I was finally on my way! After a six hour flight I stopped for a brief layover in Amsterdam. I had about five hours, and an insatiable desire to experience my first European city; so I tried not to waste time. After landing at Schiphol Airport, I passed through immigration then found my way to the train station, the quickest route I knew about to get to the city center, and I was off to the Central Station. The train stopped at a few other stations first, I had to ask my fellow passengers whether the first station we were approaching was the Central Station or not because I couldn’t read the station signs. The people were very helpful and spoke excellent English, luckily for me. When I finally arrived at the Central Station, I was told that my stop was next, and I got off of the train. It was still dark, and I was in need of caffeine and so began my lightning tour of Amsterdam at a coffee shop. I entered and found a vacant table then removed my backpack and set my camera down. As I did so, a number of people entered the establishment and the proprietor asked them for identification. After being satisfied that everyone was of age he set a white wooden box on the counter. I got in line. The box opened to reveal small plastic bags clipped to the inside of the box. On the top of the right side of the box I saw a label that read $12.00 on the top left there was a label reading $25.00. In each bag was a small amount of marijuana. I ordered a cappuccino. After drinking my cappuccino and noticing that daylight was beginning to illuminate the city so I put my pack on, picked up my camera and set off into the city in search of unknown.
Just outside the coffee shop I encountered a man who offered me “help”, he asked if I was alright, or if I needed something. I told him that I was looking for interesting sights to photograph, and he directed me to the canals. As I walked away, another man told me that the information would cost $10.00. Since it wasn’t the man who had assisted me, I kept walking.
I walked through the neighborhoods near the Old Church, finding incredible views everywhere I looked. The canals were fascinating and, as I was informed by a pair of Dutch soldiers I had passed several hours with in the Kuwait City airport once provided transportation routes for boats carrying goods which were stored in the tall houses nearby. During my visit, boats were moored in the canals, but they looked like mostly pleasure and tour boats. As I was walking the streets near the canals I met a man named Glenn who offered to show me better places to take photos. He showed me the way past the Queen’s Palace and explained that although Amsterdam was the Capital city of The Netherlands, the business of governing the country was conducted at The Hague, and that the Queen did not actually reside at the palace.
In my wanderings, I happened across an open air market located in front of the Waag, where vendors were setting up their products in preparation for the day’s business. The Waag itself, originally constructed in 1488, now housed a restaurant called “Café in de Waag”
I was running short on time so I made my way back to the Central Station and on to the airport where I continued my journey home with a resolve to return and explore the beautiful city further, and the rest of Europe in its turn.
Michael Cahoon recently returned home from a one year deployment in Iraq's Anbar Province and is now residing in Bremerton, WA where he is available for assignments including travel, portraiture, and event photography . He has enjoyed and studied photography from a very young age, particularly landscapes and portraits.