The Netherlands has been a consistent mixture of normality and surprise in a particularly Dutch kind of way. It didn’t take long to discover that the coffee shops don’t necessarily serve coffee, churches are just as likely to host techno parties as religious services, and that extensive research must be done before attempting to purchase unfamiliar dairy products. Arriving to a city under blankets of snow was a paradoxically warm welcome into the tail end of the European winter.
Expecting very basic student housing, I was surprised to find that I’d been randomly allocated a room in the middle of the city, and even more surprised to find that it’s actually really nice. Dragging my suitcase up 5 flights of stairs has never seemed easier. I feel a bit spoiled, I’m not gonna want to leave.
Being on the top floor gives a pretty cool view of the canal across the street and the enormous European sky. I put together a little time lapse video of the clouds on a windy day over the course of an hour or so.
After settling in, it was time to get me some wheels. I headed to the local flea market and grabbed this bad boy for a couple of euros. Trusty, but somewhat treacherous on the ice.
Good for ice-skating…. and cycling…
It wasn’t long until the snow began melting and it became obvious that this place is very beautiful regardless of whatever meteorological circumstances happen to be occurring at the time. I guess they call it “Spring Semester” for a reason.
But it’s not without it’s indoor attractions too. I grabbed a ‘museumkaart’, which basically grants you entry into any public museum in the country. It’s difficult not to become a connoisseur of eccentric displays which have been elegantly blended in with their relatively benign surroundings. One can only presume they do this to keep us on our feet.
But of course it would be wrong to say that the gallery is the place for art. The street works.
The party scene is also eccentric. Finding yourself inside an abandoned factory or ex-house of worship adorned with interesting aesthetic themes seems to be somewhat of a normality if you’re out for a night on the town with the locals
And the otherwise non-descript supermarket shelves aren’t without their bizarre linguistic blind spots that leave you wondering whether the product designer might’ve been having a little too much fun. “Douche” means shower by the way, so get your mind out of the gutter.
Outside of the supermarket, the frugal Dutch will agree that buying second hand is always a good idea. If you want to have nightmares for a week, that is:
Fortunately my horrible sense of humour is shared by others. The passover seder is much more widely celebrated here given Amsterdam’s heritage. It’s a nice thing to observe, but we took a slightly less conventional approach and took the opportunity to exchange a few laughs, copious amounts of alcohol and various herbal refreshments.
Thank you for reading my ramblings. If you need anything, I’ll be waiting on the goat.
Sam Freeman – Amsterdam, Netherlands – Spring 2013