We’ve been back for a week and no posts! I just haven’t had the time or brain power to write about our trip, so I’ve been avoiding it.
Oh Amsterdam, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways:
1. I love thee for thy civilized culture. No arguing, no cursing, no honking of horns. Just melodic jingling of bicycle bells, like a polite little, “Would you kindly step out of the way so I don’t mow you down? Dank u wel!”
2. I love thee for thy lovely bicycles. Like nothing I’ve ever seen before, bikes seem to outnumber cars by 10 to 1. Everyone rides the same type of oversized vintage looking models – business men, elderly people, mothers with kids piled on. And absolutely no one wears helmets.
3. I love thee for thy crooked buildings. I love that since it’s built on marsh land, there are all these buildings that lean over menacingly, or have completely skewed and slouched, yet they’ve been there for hundreds of years and will probably be there for hundreds more.
4. I love thee for thy lack of rules. Apparently the way they do things is that everything is legal until someone gets hurt, and even then it’s probably still legal. It made me realize how in the US, there are so many oppressive laws that were made because of a select few rotten apples or whiny complainers. Over there it’s like, “Hey, here’s a windmill that you can go up into, but you have to climb a crazy steep ladder with no railings or safety nets. Be careful!” In general it seems like they’re not really into modernizing things for safety and convenience. And there’s something refreshing in that. Over here I feel like so much crap has to be done to a historical building to bring it up to code, that it becomes this unsightly anachronism. Over there it seems like safety issues are mostly left to personal judgement and common sense, and I guess that works for them. I’m not sure it would work for us because we’re such a litigious society. I doubt anyone over there is suing for being burned by a cup of coffee, that’s for sure. It just makes you feel like more of a grownup when you’re allowed to actually make your own decisions about things.
5. I love thee for thy cafe culture. There are more bars and restaurants than I’ve ever seen, and you can just go and sit for hours nursing one drink, they really don’t care. There’s no rushing you out to get to the next people who will leave a tip – you have to ask for a check if you want one.
6. I love thee for thy art of relaxation. People there really seem to go the extra mile to make things nice for themselves. Everyone seems to have some sort of boat that they cruise around in, and it really doesn’t matter what it is – a beautiful yacht or a crappy motor boat. Everyone brings all their friends, and an ice bucket with wine, and they just cruise around. A boat could be totally old and crappy, and there are still pillows in the bow for relaxing. And people love to be outside. If there is a tiny patch of sidewalk, they have a table and chairs on it. We walked past this place that we thought was a cafe, but it turned out to be a lighting shop. The owner and his friends had just set up a table and were having their happy hour out there. If we did that in front of our house, the police would probably come by and fine us for drinking in public.
7. I love thee for thy lack of curtains. No one seems to have curtains in their windows, which is so fantastic for nosy types like me who love nothing more than to look into people’s houses. And boy oh boy, do these people have beautiful apartments.
I could go on forever, but I won’t. I thought we would have better internet access so I’d be able to post here, but no such luck. Actually there were a few days there where we had no way to communicate with the world back home, and no one knew where we were – it was such a weird feeling, but sort of refreshing.
We spent five days in Amsterdam, two days in Bruges, and then back to Amsterdam for another three days. We pretty much walked all day for ten days straight, which is probably what saved me from gaining weight after all of the frites and pancakes and waffles. No bike riding for me, as I’m still a little shaky and this was definitely not a place for beginners.
I’m in the process of going through the photos (all 600-something of them) and am planning to put together a slideshow that I’ll post here, hopefully in the next week or so.