Getting off the plane, Amsterdam struck me as a weird, welcoming place. Amsterdam, the birthplace of Bohemia. As someone who lived in the east village for several years, I was curious about its birthplace. First things first, eight hours wasn’t enough to know the essence of a place, rather, I was given an impression of the city which I hope to capture.
Amsterdam’s city center is frightfully confusing. Like an accordion, it’s streets come off of each other looking remarkably similar. Looking back, It seemed like the least “Amsterdam” part of the entire city. Gaggles of tourists walked around the myriad of coffee shops watching those who actually lived their lives in the city which seems to be the first initial attraction of Amsterdam, it’s population.
These people go about their day riding their bikes, it’s easy to see they have a system. Like clockwork, there is an organization which the average tourist isn’t privy to. As such, I immediately walked out of the city center and purposely got lost.
Sitting in a café, I did what everyone in Amsterdam seemed to be doing; I smoked a spliff and ordered a coffee. The grandma next to me was smoking a fat blunt as she played on her iPad, her nonchalance seemed representative of the city. In the midst of birth and death, there wasn’t much for these people but glorious life. It was a nice enhancement to my trip, however, I couldn’t imagine how annoying some of the tourists’ behavior might have seemed to Amsterdam’s population. As one person explained, “In Amsterdam we Dutch have a system of tolerance. To the Dutch, the first question we ask ourselves is, how are we going to pay for everything? This sets in motion everything we do. We don’t mind the people coming here unless of course, they become violent.”
Later on, while lost, I went to a very bohemian bar which I felt the bars in the east village were trying to emulate. A retired police officer bought me a glass of wine and we had a chat. He mentioned that it was often Americans with no experience trying mushrooms and that once he had been bitten by an American soldier which was, in theory, a war crime. We had a great laugh over this. As the president of the time, Bill Clinton personally sent him 1500 dollars as an apology.
The Dutch have a way of speaking which is very direct. I also noticed many are very comfortable with humorous sarcasm and irony in a way that would strike Americans as rude. My favorite was their name for America’s current president: The Dick. To me, their use of language seemed labrythnian, similar to how walking around the city felt.
In the twilight hours, there is something ineffably beautiful about Amstetdan. Shadow and light work together along the canals to create a scene of beauty. Sitting down, I felt like my perception of time dissolved as the evening whittled away.
I was very happy with my first day abroad. Things went well though I found the degree to which tourism was based on consummation and commercialism to be troubling. To me, the purpose of travel is to grow from your experiences but the kind of experience I saw many of the tourists having If it’s any different than shopping on Amazon.
My next post will regard my first day in Istanbul and include getting lost and ending up in the “bad” part of Istanbul. Making friends with these people and my first of two trips to the Hagia Sophia