Defining Amsterdam

A few more odds and ends from my Amsterdam wanderings and musings. First off, they might be pretty darn serious about their flowers, as mentioned previously, as well as their ice cream, but they are also equally serious about cheese. And I can’t fault them for this.

Imagine that your town replaced every Starbucks with a shop like this.
Serious cheese, people.
Grocery stores will not be outdone on the battlefield of cheese. Lactose intolerance as far as the eye can see.

And speaking of grocery stores, it turns out some very random things can make one feel closer to home. Take, for example, this sign outside their grocery store. Very reminiscent of a certain chain from the US:

Albertsons? Nee, we noemen het “AlbertHeijn”

Now, while walking around I’ve found many a pooch trundling along with its human, or riding in a basket on the bike, or just chilling at a café. However, this city is not about to let the town go to the dogs I just can’t let that horrible line stand. Let’s go with “not about to let the streets run rampant with poop”

Literally “Dog in the gutter”. I just appreciate the icon and the fact that it’s a stencil they paint everywhere around town.

Also, what post about Amsterdam would be complete without a couple more images devoted to language? None, I tell you. None:

Luckily, I found a bar whose name conjures surprising images:

Wait… Beer, Café… Golem? This is a café where they make a golem out of beer? I’m not sure if that’s scary or awesome.

Also, as mentioned they take the ice cream seriously. I’ve done my duty to take a fair sampling. Repeatedly. I’ve landed on a favorite shop, and I’m lucky it’s a chain with many stores around town because I would never be able to ask for directions to it.  Ben and Jerry, as well as Haagen, should both be happy the marketing department for this store hasn’t considered how to spread beyond these shores with a pronounceable name:

Pretty sure one must say “Gesundheit” after pronouncing this.

While walking around town, you will experience more canals than you knew were possible while still maintaining a thriving city. Eventually you might wonder, as I did, how do they ever construct these things in the first place? I mean, how do you build things *IN* water? Luckily, reconstruction of bridge number 5 (such a romantic name!) is underway providing me with at least a modern insight of how this is done:

How bridges over troubled canals are done nowadays.
Originally wood, then stone, now being re-constructed with sterner stuff.

But I’m left trying to sum up Amsterdam. For each place I’ve been to there are scenes that stand out in my mind that kind of define my experience there. For example:

Mexico: having lunch with a woman and her three adult daughters who I met randomly and just wanted to help me learn Spanish and talk with someone from the States. Nicest people you’ll ever meet. The mom wrote Spanish cuss words on the back of a paper place mat while her daughters debated proper use and translation of them.

Spain: Boggling at the Sagrada Familia with my new friend Mimic.

London: Legos on the carpet with Baylor’s son, with my leg elevated in it’s moonboot.

So how to sum up my time in Amsterdam?  Well, its not over yet, but there are many candidates:

Awesome buildings and monuments that date back 800+ years.
A water view for everyone in this city.
Baby strollers. Not for babies in this town.
Even the nightclubs are pointedly friendly.
Love, right next to torture. That summarizes this place well.

But I think I had the defining moment tonight. I hobbled over to a small restaurant near my hotel. I ordered some bruschetta and a fish / vegetable dish along with some green tea, and I watched as the late evening sun splashed on people cruising by on bicycles, wind in their hair, smiling and care free. A pair of dark skinned Italian women sat by the window next to me, and a group of  middle aged guys behind me discussed spy novels and technology in Dutch, English, and what I think was occasionally Swedish. The food was fabulous, the people broadly European, and the weather was perfect.

So while Amsterdam has many sides: the pot and red light district, some impressive clubs and nightlife, beautiful buildings, streets and canals, I think it’s extreme multi-culturism defines it. At least for me. And just like the United States, I think great things come from a mixing of so many cultures and nationalities. This is an unforgettable city.

4 thoughts on “Defining Amsterdam

  1. Hilarious – your ice cream joint translates to “ice cup”. I love Dutch. It’s like speaking Swedish with a better sense of humor.

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