Travel Oops — “Did I tell you I had a bad experience the last time I was here?”

© Ciell

A show at the Melkweg © Ciell

I think it was while my college friend Amy dumped water all over my face as I lay on the concrete floor outside of the Melkweg’s concert hall that I decided hashish in Holland was not for me.

The “Black Afghani,” which I had tried earlier in the evening, took over during the show at Amsterdam’s famous venue. As everyone gyrated around me, I stood still. Staring at my feet, I was focused and determined to synchronize my heartbeat with the drumbeat.

© estakiweb.deviantart

© estakiweb.deviantart

Finally synched, I saw a blue light shoot forward. Then blackness settled in. Only vaguely aware of anything, I fell forward, slamming into the people ahead of me. A barely audible “Steph,” Steph,” STEPH seeped in with the black. “Man, you are dead weight!” I heard someone say in the fog.

Also altered, my friends dragged me out of the main music hall and into a busy corridor. People whooshed by without even looking down as I lay on the ground. Tourists passing out in the bars of Amsterdam was about as common as tulips blooming in spring.  Fortunately, my friends, whom I had only known for three weeks when we began our Dutch study abroad program, surrounded me.

steph steph

The first coherent thought that came to mind was: “Damn! My parents are going to find out about this!” That thought, along with total embarrassment, contributed to the major paranoia I experienced for the rest of the night. On the train back to Leiden, I was convinced that all the passengers returning from Amsterdam at 2:30 a.m. knew what had happened and judged me for it.

During the rest of my stay in the Netherlands, I avoided further encounters with THC. I also avoided telling anyone I really just didn’t like it.

Six years later and back in Amsterdam:

“So it’s 25 guilders for 2 grams of Black Cobra light hash. You also serve space cakes, magic herbs and herbal elixirs, correct?” I asked. “All righty, that should do it.”

© Mr. Clean

© Mr. Clean

“Would you like to sample something?” suggested the hash bar’s balding owner. Wearing gold hoop earrings, he so strongly resembled Mr. Clean that I thought he should be hawking kitchen cleanser rather than drugs.

“I can’t. I’m working, but thank you for the offer. Dank u wel” I said while scribbling a few bulleted points into my notebook.

I was back in Holland. This time I was revising and writing for the 1996 Berkeley Guides Europe edition. Fodor’s created the Berkeley Guides, compiled by UC Berkeley students, to compete with Harvard’s Let’s Go budget travel series. Although I wasn’t a student, I worked as a copywriter for the university. My job and past experience in the Netherlands were connection enough.

© Stephanie Glaser 1989

Amsterdam © Stephanie Glaser 1989

As travel writer/updater, it was my job to ensure that travelers read new, accurate and reliable information. Fact checking is a huge part of the job.

Consequently, I confirmed hours of operation, prices, bus routes, wheelchair accessibility and cultural norms. I visited museums, parks, cafes, hostels and, of course, hash bars. This was for the Berkeley Guides after all.

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Travel Ahh….Rivers

© Stephanie Glaser 1989

© Stephanie Glaser 1989

Rivers are compelling — whether they’re slow and meandering or fast and furious. With a dual personality, rivers represent both nature and civilization. Regardless, they take you on a journey that metaphorical and literal. The above photo is the Amo River running through Florence, Italy.

© Stephanie Glaser 2006

© Stephanie Glaser 2006

The Danube River is particularly beautiful. In Visegrád, Hungary, its “S” curve is almost always in view.

© Stephanie Glaser 2006

© Stephanie Glaser 2006

The Danube, Budapest, Hungary.

© Stephanie Glaser 2006

© Stephanie Glaser 2006

The Dnieper, Kiev, Ukraine.

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Travel Oops: The Queen’s Birthday — A Royal Rager?

© Stephanie Glaser

© Stephanie Glaser

The Orange crush streaming out of Centraal Station and on to the streets of Amsterdam indicated that the Dutch — especially young people — must love their Queen Bea.

© DirkvdM

© DirkvdM

Throngs of Dutch citizens waved flags and sported the Netherlands’s national color, orange — lots of orange. Revelers even dyed their hair in flaming shades of tangerine, tangelo and clementine.

To be honest, it looked like my roommates and I had stepped into a Florida citrus convention.

It was Koninginnedag — Queen’s Day, which recognizes the Queen’s birthday and is celebrated every April 30.  As an American, I could barely say it let alone did I know exactly what Koninginnedag would be like.

© Emiel Ketelaar, FrozenImage

© Emiel Ketelaar, FrozenImage

But, like her loyal subjects, I figured I could drink tea with my pinky up in the air, eat crustless cucumber sandwiches and wave to Queen Beatrix as she rode by in a horse-drawn carriage.

Leah, Amy and I, who were on a college study abroad program based 30 minutes away in Leiden, wanted to check out the whole monarchy thing.

However, as we walked out on to the Amsterdam streets, we got sucked into the detour to debauchery. People spilled out of the packed bars, slammed beers on the streets and sat on rooftops. It was clear that we needed to start drinking alcohol right away. It was 9:30 a.m.

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The Travel Ahh…Alleyways and Side Streets

© Stephanie Glaser 2010

© Stephanie Glaser 2010

Side streets and alleyways often exude mystery. What’s around the corner or what will I find? Danger? Intrigue? Side streets and alleys often have a negative, managing connotation and are associated with dodgy activities. Perhaps, that’s the appeal. The photo collection of alleyways and side streets here is not particularly threatening — especially since the photos were taken in the daytime. However, each alleyway and street offered something interesting.

The shot above and the following two pictures I took in Melbourne, Australia. I was lucky to be traveling with Amy, a dear friend of mine who is an excellent photographer, and she inspired me to appreciate beauty in even the smallest detail.

© Stephanie Glaser

© Stephanie Glaser

© Stephanie Glaser 2010

© Stephanie Glaser 2010

I really like this shot above because you can see Federation Square — perhaps the opposite of an alleyway — A cheery meeting place with heaps of activity.

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Travel Oops — Should I add McDonald’s to the Guidebook?

© Stephanie Glaser 1989

© Stephanie Glaser 1989

No more creating copy about high-speed railways, long-span suspension bridges, retrofitted freeways or any other engineering miracles. I was going to be a travel writer. For nearly three years, I had worked as an editor in the public affairs office for the College of Engineering at UC Berkeley, and I longed to write about other subjects. I would, however, gladly examine engineering feats along the lines of windmills, dikes and bicycles.

berkeley guide

Hired to write insights about Europe — the Netherlands in particular — for the 1996 edition of the Berkeley Guides, a budget Fodor’s travel guide series produced by students at Berkeley, I had found a dream job. Although not a Berkeley student, I was a copywriter and editor.

Plus, I had studied in Leiden, Holland, for a year while in college. Ultimately, I could serve as a cultural anthropologist.

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The Travel Ahh…Rooftops

© Stephanie Glaser

Rooftops have always captured my attention like these in Florence, Italy (above). Maybe it’s the expression “a roof over your head.” Perhaps it’s that you know underneath is a home or business. A rooftop represents not only shelter, but people to me.

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The Travel Ahh….Boats

© Stephanie Glaser

There’s something about a boat (like the one above in Sanur, Bali.) Partly, I think it’s about water, imagining the waves sloshing and spraying against the sides, but, to me, it’s comforting to see boats — fishing boats especially. When traveling, I always try to get shots with boats displaying flags.

Again, scenes like this are part of a culture’s daily life that, really, would it be all that exciting if I saw this at home? Actually, I am just that snap happy, because, not even thinking about it, I took photos this summer of boats in my home state of Minnesota.

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Gimme Shelter — Cool Structures: Can I rent a Rubik’s Cube?

© Stephanie Glaser

These cool buildings are in Rotterdam. I came across them while I was updating a chapter on The Netherlands for a travel guide in 1995.  Known as “Kubuswoningen,” this neighborhood of cube houses, designed by Dutch architect Piet Blom, definitely are a tourist attraction.

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“Tossing cookies” into a Dutch Canal

One of Leiden’s many canals.
© Stephanie Glaser

“Overgeven.” It’s a Dutch verb that translates as: “to vomit, barf, spew, puke.” It covers pretty much every way to expel your insides. And, really, it is one of the most effective verbs in any language, because when pronounced properly with a “guttural g,” the word sounds like what it is.  A global onomonopia. The result, indeed, sounds like heaving or at least clearing a stubborn popcorn kernel out of one’s throat.

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The Friday Travel Ahhh…

© Stephanie Glaser

As anyone who travels knows, there are missteps, mishaps and misadventures, but then there are those perfect moments when we say: “yeah, this is why I travel.” I’m choosing Fridays to be the Travel Ahh… day

I love this photo because this Dutch man is so in the moment. I ran over to take his picture when I saw him dancing on a wall in Amsterdam on Koninginnedag or Queen’s Day. The Netherlands celebrates this holiday every April and it is not about having tea and crumpets while Queen Beatrix waves from a balcony. It’s a day when the normally somewhat reserved Dutch really revel. The day has a huge sense of community — everyone is accepted as Dutch on Koninginnedag. To me, this photo captured exactly the feeling of the day.