Three days and countless stories to tell. That sums up the last three days spent in Amsterdam with my sweetheart.
Whereas Schiphol airport has often been the hub to fly and see the world, I have neglected the city proper so far. A mistake now corrected. I can truly picture myself living in this town of old.
Want to hear some of the stories? Of seemingly toppling over houses, leaning every which way? Of picturesque streets lining ever-present water? Of live music and countless restaurants and bars just about everywhere, only interrupted by the odd bike repair outlet? Of fearless cyclers roaming wintery streets? Of an average of one car per week rolling into the many canals, despite the one thousand gulden per meter of protective rail the City of Amsterdam has spent to prevent this frequent nuisance happening? Of parking lots providing plugs for electricity driven cars? Of an industrious, puritan people always up against wind and water, fighting for every square meter of ground, the swamp they call home and defend against the forces of the sea? Of tulips, tomatoes and cheese – the produces they are best known for? Of their entrepreneurship and trading skills?
Well, all of the above I learned during the last three days. But two facts will stick: The greatness of their art collection in the Rijksmuseum and their cosmopolitism. One cab driver just about summed it up for us: “Right wing politicians the like of Wilders just try to separate us, try to draw up walls where none exist. Here in Amsterdam folks of 80 different nationalities live and work together in peace and there is no problem at all. No need to create one, is there?” And this was the overall impression I took home: a colourful mixture of skin tones, bustling through the streets and working side by side with an implicitness that made me feel embarrassed about even noticing it as something out of the ordinary.
Because it should not be, but still is. Even in so-called “Weltstadt” Berlin, where folks are quite tolerant but still keep to their “Kiezes” (part of town, often characterized by a hegemonic population that can vary from Kiez to Kiez) and tend to spend their time within their own circle. To Amsterdamers, it seems to be as natural to truly intermingle as it is for a duck taking to water. In bars and restaurants on their spare time or at their place of work or in the neighbourhoods, just about everywhere I have noticed this.
About the Masters of Old, I could go on for ever. Since childhood, I have been taken to the Dutch way of painting. Owed to a book, my parents owned, a complete collection of the writings of Theodor Storm that was adorned by pictures and drawings of many of the Dutch Masters, that fascinated me no end. We spent an entire day at Rijksmuseum and have not seen half of the collection. There is just so much one is able to take in on one day. Not to mention all the other museums on Museumsplein and elsewhere in town, we could not visit for lack of time (and energy, I have to add). I am sure, there will be another post, just on the great works of art, I have come across on this brief visit.
Both sweetheart and I are determined to visit this impressive place again, as we have to catch up on everything we missed this time. To wrap up this somwhat eclectic first report of our trip, I want to give you one fun fact about Amsterdam, that made me choose this post’s opening picture: I’ll be Amsterdamned! Caused by the countless stories of legal marijuana and coffie shops galore in Amsterdam, where one is allowed to consume pot, both sweetheart and I were sure, we would have not trouble to find places, where one could smoke. But to the contrary: smoking (cigarrettes) is strictly prohibited pretty much everywhere. It even is prohibited, to smoke tobacco in the infamous coffie shops! One isn’t even allowed to mix tobacco into one’s dope, when rolling up a reefer. Amazing, isn’t it?
Here’s a little overview of what we’ve seen: