Beep. Beep-beep. BEEP-BEEP!! 'Urgh. Time to get up now. What time is it? 5:30 in the morning? Ah, bus to catch at 6.15 of course.' A flurry of action ensues, involving showering, dressing, chowing down some breakfast, doing a raincheck on 'essential items' and then dashing to catch the metro. Destination: Amsterdam.
I amsterdam. Amsterdam. A city built on water. House-boats. And its very original bike-cars. Trams, buses & bikes. People who often speak 4 languages. Tulips, delicious food, 50+ museums, and rated the 13th most livable city in the world in 2008. It's got a rich history, rich being a word which conveniently hides all the not-so-pretty details of what we call history.
Indeed, Amsterdam is filled with tourists, criss-crossed with canals which, although similar to Brugge in Belgium, are generally larger and are filled with boat-houses. Amsterdam's bikes are everywhere. Motorcyclists and cyclists alike mostly without helmets. Faites attention ! (They drive fast, albeit zip right around you as they are pros with all the tourists. ) Cobbled roads and streets. Open-faces of locals, who seem to all have an impish smile as you ask for directions.
So what could I there? Well, we have about 7 or 8 hours to work with, so it is going to be pretty rushed. But I'm quite relaxed; I'm now used to trying to 'take in a city in a day', so I'm just going to soak it up.
I'm with a bunch of friends who quickly look for a bite to eat. We eventually find the city centre, and then oh-so-tourist-looking check out the maps and try to get our bearings. We walk into to a dimly lit café- restaurant. The waiter, a man of few, rapid-fire words, ushers us. We dig into some pancakes, mine plain, the others more creative with bacon- or egg- or even mushroom-pancakes. Er, I mean literal mushrooms, ok? Speaking of euphemiums for cannabis, the cafes in amsterdam are masters of playing with words. We pass not a few oh-so-suble references to pot such as Mellow Yellow or Free Adam signs with a Bob Marley-looking guy posing with a smoke. You would have thought the national flag was green, yellow and red (with a green herb in the middle) rather than France's blue-white-red flag, if you turn it 90deg anti-clockwise!
I don't go into the red light district, but some of my friends do. But for the curious, it is hardly necessary--almost every tourist store had postcards of it. A friend who walked along the street of sex shops described it as an 'educational' experience. Her response kinda surprised me.
Something I love here is the Dutch handmade work such as the ceramics like below, or beautifully painted shoes with that delicate curl of the toe. Of course, the ubiquitous 'I amsterdam' is on a lot of products. It makes me reflect on 'what does it mean to be Dutch, to live in Amsterdam?' And then in my boy-logic, what does it mean to be an Australian? After all, I celebrated Australia Day a few weeks ago, but it might be worth thinking a bit harder what I actually celebrate it for! But anyways, I figure I had to have a bit of fun with the I amsterdam.
Amsterdam. A city, which to many, is synonymous with marjuanna and sex shops, actually is home to many global business giants partly due to the ideologies which it represents. Liberalist governance. Tolerance. Creativity and wonderful sense of humour. I hope to tackle the ideals of liberalism and tolerance in upcoming blogs, as well as write a short novel based on Amsterdam, so stay tuned...
|made in Holland|
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