(Translation: Feeling ‘DAMaged).
Wednesday morning saw PMS and I rising to catch a 5.45am ride into Amsterdam with Richard. We had booked two nights on a hotel boat (yes, you read right; accommodation on an anchored vessel) to do some (Amster)damage.
What with the drive only being 40 minutes or so, we were in the city of sorditity just before 7am. Richard dropped us on the outskirts at a tram stop, taking off with a “toodle-oo!” and a toot toot, then PMS and I wandered our way into the city centre.
We ambled through the Vondelpark, a park to the side of the city that had been inventoried on Annelies’s list of what we should do in Amsterdam. There were many a jogger and power walking pairs doing the laps before work, as well as people walking pets (well, dogs it must be said – no cats or turtles or anything. The all-encompassing “pets” just went way more well than something of a different first letter. Alliteration always takes ascendancy over absolutely accurate aspects, it must be admitted).
Something that really appealed to me was a “Findfence” in the middle of the reserve, which had plentiful pegs on this green cage-like structure for people to fasten found things from the forest. Although the only secured at the time were a plastic cup, a few pairs of single socks and a business card, I thought the concept of the construction went a lot deeper in its function; say a person had found a really cool scarf or a set of heavy duty headphones or something and decided to appropriate them for their own – on leaving the grounds and clocking eyes on the Findfence, it acted as a sort of questioning the conscience. I loved it. Mate, I just love the Dutch.
From there we roamed the roads and went into the Red Light District for a little looksie. It was so, almost exclusive, to see the city of sex and stonage in its early morning light; the street sweepers, the closed coffee shops, the drab and dullity that it was when it wasn’t all lit up in carnal character. It made me like it a little bit more – Amsterdam is just like anywhere else really, when it comes down to it. (Though Amsterdam does “get down” in ways like nowhere else too).
As per the previous post, I shall gestalt the going-ons in bullets.
- So Amsterdam is obviously famous for its coffee houses and the opportunity in them to smoke a spliff, scoff down space cakes and have hash cookies. And they abound – every sixth shop (after the two souvenir, one chip cone counter, tour ticket booking office, ever-present Albert Heinz and immutable McDonalds) sings out in signs declaring it as so. But the way to tell if it is in fact a marijuana marketing vendor? Well, if so it says “coffee shop” in English, while those disclosing themselves as “kaffe huis” are actually cafes selling beakers of roasted beans. And there are only one or two coffee houses that sell both alcohol and weed; for the main most part it is either one or the other – “don’t mix and mingle” – so you cannot beer and bud in sync.
- I’ve talked of the infamous Gable Houses before, the long and lanky forward-leaning gingerbread like houses along the canals. What with taxes being priced on the width of the home, they were erected up and not along, leading to the skinny structures. And the reason for the frontward slant? It stems from two: one, that the lean makes them look larger and more imposing to passing people, and the second that being built on swampy land and wooden stilts they are slowly sinking in on themselves (cheers tour guide to the side of me who I nestled up next to in pretence of retying the Nikes to listen to his verities).
- Astounding me as well was the number of groups of lads “on tour”. Great groups of males in the 18 to 25 or so age range had obviously gotten straight off the bus and bounded right along to the nearest coffee house to get buddy. I passed so many boys walking along stating their one and only intention was to get high, evident from the, “Let’s go get blazed as fuck” outbursts overheard as I went by. Although it made me laugh it also made me feel a tad scathing; like this was them coming to experience Holland, purely for the sex and smoking.
- Now to a brief* (asterisk as I am never compendious) (have to insertation here: I always thought that little star was called “astrix”, like the French comic cartoon. However when the squiggly red line wiggled out beneath it – as does often whenever I am writing, what with my tendency to make up terminology – I Googled it and found out it is actually called an “asterisk”. Brain is blown right now) overview (well, overview-ish) of the “Dam days.
- After checking in to our hotel boat at 12pm we went around the markets, stopped off at a brewery for a beer and checked out all the souvenir shops. Returning home we came across a group of Germans, all made up of pairs. The group of us took up table and sipped back on swills, them all very much titillated by my go-to calimouche. “In Germany it’s called kalte muschi,” one Kathinka said. “It means “cold pussy”.” (This gave a lot of laughs throughout the night, especially later on at a bar where we went to watch one of the German girls take part in mike night the bar girl asked me if I wanted another drink; I responded, “I’m still soldiering through my cold pussy.” And later as the alcohol took a bit more hold I got all confused and started referring to it as “mushy pussy”). Before we went out yet another German pair pulled up pews, this time one guy and one girl from Freiburg. They had been hanging at a coffee shop and were hilariously high, pulling out cake and brownie and custard and what not and smashing back the lot. After they had finished their feast we all got to our feet and headed to a bar down the way.
- And what a fun filled night we had! We hung at there for a fair few hours, yarning away and discussing nationality nuances (they were all very very very strict on the whole hold eye contact whilst “prost”-ing – if you don’t you curse yourself with seven years of bad sex, you see; and two of the German girls went a stride further, declaring that you must drink straight away before you touch the table, else no one will be getting lucky that night), celebrity lookalikes (ok ok, for all you FB friends and Insta followers, that was not James Franco – it was a lad called Rolf from Freiburg but he did look insanely similar to Oldmate Jameso) and plans for the next few days. After we roamed the RDL and visited the Bulldog coffee house where I went when in the ‘Dam with Contiki (made me really miss my matey Katie as that was where we first bonded as buds) (gettit?), meandered about the mistress marketplace (“That one looked like a little girl in a school photo!” I said of one of the woman, with her crimped hair – although I must say, I don’t know any primary school that allows crotchless undies and nipple tassels as appropriate school attire), came across a Danish sitcom film set (I don’t know what the plot was, but we all agree it looked pretty shitly story lined), got taught some thorny German words (my fav being “chuchachaschtli” as “cupboard”) and jointly hung on the dock (again, gettit?) before boarding the boat for bed.
- Day two had us up back adventuring the area, starting with the Heineken Experience (ok, half Heineken experience) (actually, gift-shop-Heineken-experience; having been to the Guinness brewery in Dublin and PMS having been to the Heineken one before, we decided to skip the go-through, but went on into the shop to see. Oh my wordo, I wanted to buy all for Henio! An apron with a pretend pocket with a Heine bottle busting out the top – printed on, not an actual – socks, jocks, tees… it actually hurt my heart to walk away from it all with nothing (the quality wasn’t overly fab for the price, and I had bought him two other little tit bits – to add to the fair few already gotten – the afternoon before) ), the Anne Frank Huis (individual blog post for this one to come), a Delftware store (you know, that infamous blue and white Dutch china that every Holland home has some of?) and the Sex Museum (I took a lot of photos here but the majority are not at all appropriate to upload – I mean, the eight full on boards of porn through the ages (starting back in the 1800s) showed a lot more than you would want to see). We went back to the boat and met up with our German gang for some drink ups, then headed out to go to a bar and chill for a wee while. We met a lad from Belgium (whose name escapes me) who was really rather slamming, but as the night went on his somewhat stupid personality outshone his good looks and the two German girls still soldiering on kept muttering “fresse” under their breaths, being “shut up”. We agreed we would prefer if he was just instrumental, that being a song with no lyrics (I.e., just his looks without any talk). But he did say something I found really interesting; he told of the whole “huisje, tuintje, boompie, beestje”, being “house, garden, tree, baby before 30” as the “way” to go in society and how he was not all for it. (“Hear hear!” I acquiesced wholeheartedly, banging my calimouche on the table).
- The next day we rose to see it ‘Dam drizzling; having done all we really wanted to do in the district of debauchery, we decided to take the train through to Utrecht, as on heading to Bilthoven to meet yet another round up of relatives (to come) meant a changeover there anyway. (Insertation: while waiting at the platform a group of coppers charged up and questioned the lone lady next to us, asking to see her phone. The panic pin in me had me instantly thinking “bomb” so when the police plodded on at pace I asked her if everything was ok; “They had a call about a person about to commit suicide on the tracks,” she said. “So they are checking all of us alone to see if we dialled them.” It really struck me – I couldn’t imagine just sitting there in musing and someone beside me leaping to their end in front of my eyes. Having had someone I love having depression taking their life last year – because as his beautiful and strong mother said at his funeral, he didn’t take his life, it was the depression that did – my thoughts towards suicide have changed quite profoundly, but the thought that someone would do so in such a way really made me shudder with sadness. (Later on I told Richard of how this instance at the station had occurred, whereupon he told me how when he was 20 a young man on a scooter and driven up behind him and kept going onto the tracks in front of the train. “I still see it completely clearly,” he said. I can’t even conceive how such a sight would shake you) ).
- And I’m so glad we did do the impromptu train through! Utrecht was beautiful, probably my favourite Dutch city so far (aside from Alpen a/d Rijn, of course). We wandered the ways and saw some shops (I finally got to go to a Scotch and Soda, the Amsterdam attire store that sells my fav label for t-shirts that we sell at Rumor, Maison Scotch), saw St Martin’s Cathedral (“Domkerk”, it was the cathedral of the Diocese of Utrecht in the Middle Ages and has been a Protestant church since 1580. Its 122-metre tower if the hallmark of the city, which stands isolated from the actual church itself – back in 1674 the central part of the cathedral was destroyed in a tornado splitting it in two and it has never been rebuilt) and went to the movies (Bad Neighbours 2 – honestly, ten minutes in my heart was sinking at the shitness of it but it came back in a big, big way and I totally shukka it). We bought a packet of freshly made heart-shaped stroopwaffles to take with us to Bilthoven to give my family we were going to dinner with, then trotted off to catch the train. (Next post shall pick up from right here).
So my “word” for Amsterdam hasn’t changed – it’s still Intriguing – but just no longer for me. I’ve seen all the sleazy, seedy and shady scandals it is nefarious for and it just doesn’t huggermugger myself no longer – but is definitely holds that lure for all the others venturing there to see the skulduggery.
I’m just going to add in another “word” for it based upon a revisit. Amsterdam? It’s Overly Amped Up. I think what with all the sordid stories and reprehensible relations you hear of you expect a lot – and yes, for the most part for many it would absolutely fulfil the fantasies. But for me, it was not as great as I had sort of anticipated and I much prefer other locales of the land. (And my “word” for Utrecht is “pretty” – apologies, not that amazing, but only being there a very few hours and not seeing so much, it’s my interim summation).
Just to end, six things of note. (And I prise, it’s only six!). (Ok, technically seven. But two come under one bullet point!).
- So the Dutch tell the time in 24 hour; a meeting at 1pm is discussed as “13:00 hours”. At first I did not realise it and was nonplussed as to why deciding on a time was seemingly confusing to those talking to – it was because “AM” and “PM” were purely being used so as to not bewilder me. Took me awhile to clock on, but then I had to hand it to them for their watchfulness of me.
2. I love it – at the preponderance of cafes, sugar is on the tables as lumps in large jars, both brown and white. It really made me feel warm as it seems so much homelier and old fashioned – as well as much better for the environment.
3. Yet another point to prove how adroit the Dutch are – at the cinemas, rather than have the seats labelled with a letter on the rows on the ground by the first chair and inadequately lit up by a shitty floor light, with numbers of seats on the arms and pretty much invisible, the ones here have it in the top left corner of each seat in bright white, almost glow in the dark markers. Like, so so smart – why oh why would you ever not do this? (And second point within point – the only thing I didn’t like about the Dutch movies – the seats were really deep, almost like sitting in a bucket, and the cinema was really sparse and stark and not at all cosy. I mean, we only went to one, I can’t say if it’s the same for others, but I didn’t like the layout).
4. Cafes – tables and chairs are set out to face streets and squares, so those at them can look out at the going-ons and people watch! So apropos and properly done! I mean, often when you sit and what not you want to watch around at the world, and the Dutch do it so you can.
5. How fantastic is this book? I had a good chuckle (ok, orotund outburst of euphoria) when I saw it at a Utrechtian (again, not an actual word) bookshop. (FYI, it’s legitly a scone recipe book with the Game of Thrones theme running through).
6. And lastly – then I’ll leave you to it, I promise – the whole profusion of bikes? Well, for those who catch transport and need to ride not just from A to B but from C to D and sometimes even onto F after the train station of E (are you following?) and thus cannot leave their cycling machine at the massive bike stands (I’m talking three-story buildings to park bikes, not some little steel stand) there is the transformer bike; bikes that you literally fold down to be like a briefcase. Thus, the ability to board the bus/train/tram/[insert-other-mode-of-moving-here] with your bicycle held firmly in your hand.
YOU’RE NOT MUCH IF YOU’RE NOT DUTCH.
(Well, you are. I don’t hold some ethnicities or nationalities as being superior to others. But you must admit – the Dutch are pretty fucking fabulous).