266. House of Bols

In Amsterdam we were met with some pretty disappointing weather, so indoor activities were bumped higher up the priority list. Thanks to the wonderful iPhone app that is Tripadvisor Cityguides, we were able to download a guide to all the attractions, with map locations and reviews, and even a compass feature that points you in the direction of an attraction/restaurant/bar, all without needing to be connected to the internet. With that, our scavenger hunt began.

The House of Bols turned out to be quite the hidden gem, and probably something we wouldn’t have stumbled across if it weren’t for the bad weather, and the Tripadvisor app! Bols, creater of the Dutch spirit Genever, was an unfamiliar name to me, but once I arrived and saw the bottles, a realised I had seen them before, probably many times on the back walls of bars.

I had always assumed they were just another version of cheap and cheerful flavoured liqueurs used for cocktails. As it turns out, Genever is an apparently famous type of spirit, with a price tag to match, and careful effort has been made to create a range of different flavours.

The tour of the House of Bols goes through the history of its creation, gives an opportunity to smell all of the flavours, watch panoramic films and most importantly, try a few cocktails and sample shots.

The thing I liked the most about it, being a marketing geek, was how well designed the displays were. Given I was paying for a tourist attraction for a drink I previously thought was cheap, and came out knowing all about the product and realising it was actually quite nice and far more upmarket, I’d say it was a pretty succesful marketing campaign on their part. Now they just need someone to make the bottles less tacky.

189. Berlin Jazz Festival

On arrival in what proved to be the best hostel ever (Grand Hostel Berlin, if you are interested), I was unfortunately a little early for check-in. Reception gave me directions to the Berlin Jazz Festival in the mean time, which happened to be very close. It turned out to be such a great stroke of luck! I’m not sure where the name comes from, though, as I ended up spending quite some hours there and not once did I actually hear jazz among all the music.

It was a really great festival though, and when the rest of the team arrived at the hostel a few hours later I took them down there too. There were all these amazingly intricate food stalls and bars, with gourmet food from all over the world displayed beautifully in front of you, and impressive cocktails being whipped up. The food and drink were really cheap too, and it was really nice to be able to wander up and down the streets and alleys with a delicious and cheap cocktial in hand! There were also a tonne of good stalls selling everything from second hand goods to jewellery to crafts. But of course, being Berlin, it was all really cool, trendy stuff, not junk on a table. As well as all of the stalls, the surrounding shops were also open, many of them really great vintage/second hand stalls.

One most laughable moment was when I discovered that yet again my market [stall] theory had not been disproved, even on the opposite side of the world: it simply isn’t a true market without someone hawking ponchos and pan-flutes. This one did have the spanner in the works of them being in different stalls, but I still found them. I’m really not sure how there is such a big market for ponchos and pan-flutes the world over, but hey – to each his own.