Wandering in Amsterdam
One day I wandered the streets of Amsterdam. It was a Tuesday in mid-December. 10:45am. I sparked up the remaining bit of my creative silverhaze and walked and walked and walked. It was a cloudy, murky sort of morning; nothing out of the ordinary for the local populace and so it was with me. The streets were much quieter today than they were over the weekend and I filled that extra space with personal thought.
I like this place. The vibe, the humble groove, the spunk. I feel it in the air. I'm finding myself walking the same streets as I was over the weekend. This time under a Tuesday morning light, alone.
Wandering in Amsterdam means keeping your head on a swivel. I've never seen more bikes in one place before. Add in the mopeds zipping around and you're in for an environment that consistently reminds you to look three times before you cross the street. The Dutch bikers are stern in their path and I had a few close calls during the trip. The lesson? Stay the hell out of the way.
I found it comical that everyone here appears to uniformly agree on bicycle style preferences: wide-set beachcruisey handlebars, hipster-y paint jobs, slender frames, guards everywhere to protect the bike and body from rainwater... and nobody wears a helmet - a ludicrous thought on the streets of Boston. Yet it feels like the cyclist well-being exists at a higher standard of safety (don't take my word for it).
If you ever travel to Amsterdam, you absolutely have to take a ride on the ferry across the river to the Noord area. The experience is one-of-a-kind. These things run every 5 minutes to transport people, bikers, and mopeds across the river and it's beautifully Dutch. My favorite time to ride was during the morning commute; when the ferry was sufficiently crammed, and misty rain was spraying on all of our faces while we rode, sights set on the shore, and when the ferry got close to pulling in everyone would start their motors and turn on their lights, getting ready for the release valve to open, so that we could pour out of the ferry's exit into the heart of Amsterdam in all directions. Every time I exited the ferry there was another herd of people waiting to board it for the other way. The ferry drove backwards for this. Or it had two fronts, I'm not quite sure. Anyway, the ferries run 24 hours a day and someone is always riding.
One particular ferry moment struck a memory chord in my mind about being a college student. I was walking through a white-tiled tunnel on the way to the dock and a stampede of loud, bustling youngsters was barreling towards me. I seemed to be the only person walking in their direction. I continued on and eventually breached the heart of the thing; yelling, laughing, gossiping, drunk rambunctiousness, and fun - this crew was heading out for a big night on the town. And as I listened to their chatter, I realized how far removed I was from this time in my life and how different I am walking in this tunnel today. Yet I could envision myself in their shoes, back in the college mentality, back in a distant epoch of time. It was a brief moment of time travel. Isn't it amazing how many lifetimes we lead? I'm not even old, but when you get to a point in your life when there's a time to look back to, you learn something about growing old.
A large part of what makes Amsterdam so charming is the layout of arterial canals that line the city - it's a functional Venice. There's something about water, something calming, something fleeting, something mystical. Some of the old boats looked like they hadn't moved in centuries and I sure hope that is the case.
I spent the better part of this day trying to locate a store with funky animal postcards. I remained stubborn for the morning portion of the search, choosing to rely on my instincts instead of consulting a map. There was even a moment where an epiphanic feeling swept over me and I was sure I'd turn the corner to see the store. My step quickened as I rounded the corner and caught the first glimpse of my failure. I'll admit, it was disheartening. I didn't have all the time in the world. But I knew that I was close, so I continued careening through the streets, legs feeling tired, mind elevated just a bit.
Eventually I found the store and the mission was complete.
These are my ruminations from a cascading green bleacher lounge at Schiphol Airport.