We had been planning for at least two month to travel to Amsterdam for twenty-four hours to spend time with an American girl friend who had a layover there after her trip through Scotland and Ireland.
Turns out though, that there was a nasty storm that hit the UK with gale force winds (around 110 miles-an-hour and 102 MPH in Edinburgh), with possible flooding and severe disruption to commuting (including travel plans). Because of this storm, she was essentially trapped at the airport in Edinburgh. The problem with this was that both of us planned on exchanging goodies once we saw each other. Our friend was bringing us local reading material and cooking goods (I mean just look at how big the bag of chocolate chips is!):
When we really knew our friend was not coming, we were terribly disappointed. Not only were we not going to see our friend, we were stuck in a city that I am OVER being a tourist in. I began to complain out of frustration, but did ask for ideas on Facebook and Google+, but all of the suggestions coming in involved either smoking pot or one of the top ten things to do in Amsterdam – all of which we had done before (at least according to the list by About.com):
- Take a Canal Tour
- Explore Dutch Art
Remember Anne Frank and the Dutch World War II Experience
Smell the flowers at Keukenhof
Explore De Wallen (the Red Light District)
Hop on a Bicycle
Taste Traditional Dutch Cuisine – and that of its Former Colonies (like Suriname)
Get out of Town (Den Haag, Haarlem, Delft, Leiden, Zaanse Schans, etc.)
As an alternative to this list, I found a better one…this one by Thomer M. Gil but, I have to admit I found this just recently while researching this blogpost. I would suggest reading it if you plan to take a vacation trip to the city or the Netherlands in general in the future. I should probably write a blog post about the cities I am currently “over”. As I said at the beginning of this post, Amsterdam is partially on this list. I am tired of the city center, or the area inside the main canal ring. Although, the first time I traveled to Europe, I did come to the ‘dam three times in seven months, I loved it but I was also 19 years old. Now, I am in my early thirties and I am not excited about much of the same things I used to be. I remember the city center, especially in De Wallen, being like a live human zoo with sailors from all over the world (my first time there Amsterdam was holding some international Naval conference), stag parties around every corner, and the smell and look of debauchery everywhere. Today, the city has seemed to mature a bit, probably in part to their crackdown of their sex trade industry as a once magnet for sex trafficking (I believe you now need to hold a Dutch passport/citizenry to be legally employed as a prostitute). Also, the “smell” once so common everywhere in the city has also lessened. The truth is, I actually LOVE Amsterdam and the Netherlands as a whole, I am just super tired of simply going to the same places and doing the same things thanks to going with or meeting up with friends who have never been there before.
My lovely husband, bless him to bits, did his own internet research (I love technology, what was life like without it again?) and said that we should explore the Jordaan neighborhood. Despite the spitting rain (thanks to that storm) the walk was a little less than pleasant, but we made it in part, thanks to the tram! According to Amsterdam.Info. this neighborhood has quite a rich history.
“The Jordaan was build at the large expansion of Amsterdam in early 17th century, as a district for the working class and emigrants. The population increase during the next centuries was enormously, caused by the stream political refugees like protestant Fleming, Spanish and Portuguese Jews and French Huguenots who mainly settled in the Jordaan. It was a poor district with small houses and slums, every little room stuffed with families and lots of children. The entire area was one ghetto with open sewers, canals served for both transport and sewer, and no running water. Around 1900 there lived about 80 thousand people, nowadays about 20 thousand (Amsterdam.info).”
Honestly, this place reads like a who’s who for places and people historically significant for Dutch art and life, not to mention it is also like an ode to the original working-class, in neighborhood form. I think this is where I will be hanging out from now on while I am in the ‘Dam. In fact, a little bar hopping and discovering a Surinamese restaurant restored my faith and love of the city. By the end of the twenty-four hours I was trying to brainstorm with my husband what we could do if we moved to Amsterdam. It entices us both, although we recognize it would make us something of a cliché. On the upside, more of our friends/family would visit us because it is far easier to get to than our little town. One rule we have made though is that we cannot move on until both of us can speak German comfortably, which honestly may take some time. I mean, I have been learning it off and on for two and a half years and I live here!
Thank you Amsterdam for sharing with us something new about yourself. It is this reason that I will forever love New York City and London (and a few other places), every time I go I learn something new. You have restored my love for your city and its’ quirkiness while also reminding my husband and I that, oh yes, that’s right, we live in Europe and that is AMAZING!