This is my favorite street art yet. Two and three dimensional mixed, with a little reminder of how karma might work.
By some stroke of luck with a healthy amount of magic factored in, we discovered that Eli's second cousin, Judd, and his girlfriend, Elena, live in Amsterdam. Add to that even more magic - they are super, wondrously friendly, kind, and interesting. We had already decided to visit the city when finding this out, and ended up staying with them from Thursday June 23rd until Tuesday the 28th. Happily, the weather was more than generous during this time and decided to give us a really good dose of summery heat and sun. Americanos with shaved ice, breeze from the bicycle rides and a delicious evening dinner outside with good company cured us of the fuzzy brain and sweating.
After becoming accustomed to the continuous mist in Scotland, I'm not sure either of us realized how welcome the sun would be. The general feeling for visiting Amsterdam was fairly laid back for both of us and centered around people watching and exploring without much direction for hours on end. This usually includes a wander around the local supermarket (more to come on this habit-in-progress soon). We found ourselves looking for picnic treats which is, of course, far less spendy than lunches out each day - but also helps us have some quick study time for some of the basics of food in Dutch. In short, it is neither easy nor logical to our English geared brains. Additionally, a large part of the diet seems to consist of a bread product of some kind. A friend, who is living in Rotterdam, commented that it seems that the Dutch are never without a roll, pastry or sandwich of some kind. It is not an exaggeration - the wee pancakes, croissants, and brodjies (pocket sized sandwiches) were offered on almost each corner. Though, finding the 'best' one is a game of conversation and comparative research. Thankfully, Eli was able to order things that I would snip a small taste of - angering the gluten free gods but satisfying the taste buds and the desire to share in culinary customs of all kinds.
Plus, these famed fries (hot chips) were shared equally and totally delicious:
Those of you who share my love of mayo understand. Those on the other side of the fence are probably so grossed out by that photo. The little stand that sells them must make bank and their rent can't be too crazy since it is a hole in the wall:
There is obviously no need to enlighten anyone to the bicycle culture here - it is well documented. Still, we are a little sad to not have any photos of the two-wheeled mini-vans and pick-up truck bikes we saw everywhere. It truly is a whole different understanding of travel altogether. This becomes particularly obvious when you spot a woman cycling in a dress and wedges, checking her cell phone, with a barrel full of groceries and toddlers attached to the front of her bike, breeze past you through cars and people on foot while you awkwardly try to maneuver your rental cruiser to just get rolling. To be fair, the rental I had was not quite the right size.
However, the point is that I have it engrained in my every pore to be on constant guard for pedestrians and wild or inattentive drivers (thanks Boston and Milwaukee!). Unfortunately, this makes me a mildly skittish first time bicyclist in Amsterdam, where it seems folks are born on two wheels and the culture of it is utilitarian to the core. The flat roads help this along tremendously, of course. The idea of lumbering through Boston traffic on an old Dutch cruiser is dreamy and all kinds of stylish, but horribly unrealistic. Eli and I found the clear lack of 'holier than thou' super biker mentality refreshing, but also noticed that we were regarded as slow, in the way, or frustrating at times to the rest of bike traffic if we had even a hiccup in our momentum or questioned which turn to take. I found it best to keep with the current and get the hell out of the way to make any decisions. Regardless, it was encouraging and entertaining - and further fueled our love of the bicycle. Maybe when we settle in somewhere, we will have the flair of this young man and decorate our mobiles with as many lights and roses:
There is also no lack of insanely cool old model cars here. Though I certainly don't know the names, quality, or anything mechanically inclined about them, I have a penchant for the design of most. We loved seeing them tucked into little spaces next to canals or coffeeshops, imagining the characters that might be their drivers. Yes please:
Lastly, if only for the sake of minor alliteration, the library. Designed by Jo Coenen
, the building is six stories of crisp, well organized, inviting and playful space. The last two adjectives are most important to me and have been perfectly balanced - I would hang out here a lot if I lived in the city and we even considered going back for a second visit. Sadly, to us, the building is currently eclipsed by some gargantuan construction that detracts from the whole aesthetic experience of seeing it from across the water. That doesn't take away from the inside having nooks full of light installations, comfortable seats everywhere, space age study pods, a children's section that made my childhood jealous, and a cafe and balcony at the top floor (so logical!) with a view of the whole city. It quickly became one of my favorites.
You enter the grey kiosk from the back and there is a table, seat for one and power outlet - childhood (and college) dream fulfilled:
A classy, albeit mildly austere, story time room:
Walls made by a Dutch fiber artist with chartreuse wool all over. I want:
Basically, I'm fairly sure we feel about Amsterdam the way Eli feels about this wall. Four full days of letting things steep, observing people and ourselves, and being gentle about it all. It was around this time that we reached the point of saying 'oh, we are still moving east'. After so much time researching, saving, blogging, doing...our minds always a bit ahead of our feet in this travel process. It seems that we may have aligned ourselves a bit more here - our bodies have finally caught up with our brains and we are moving in unison onwards.
Location:Amsterdam, the Netherlands