28 October, 2013

on the road again, third bit: amsterdam

having had his fill of lieges waffles and belgian brew, mister monkey took off for poland the following morning, leaving me and c to spend one last day in brussels, mopping up the crumbs of sights and sites. alas, the day was one of rain and wind (a deadly combination that throttled c's umbrella literally within an hour of its purchase) and after a half-assed hearted meander through the leftover sights, we gave up, found a cafe with wi-fi and drank until our train came in. and so it was, that when c and i came into amsterdam centraal, it was indeed a dark and stormy night, and the streets around the station were littered with the sad carcasses, skeletons and various other remains of umbrellas whose lives had come to a premature and violent end, may they rest in peace.

thanks to c's foresight, our hostel was within a 5 minute walk to the station. this one, oddly enough, had no age restrictions even though its main floor was a rambunctious pub staffed by various british, aussie and american expats who were likely engaged in "finding themselves" (oh, do allow me this snark; it's merely jealousy because i never had the guts to do the same at their age), populated by youth in various stages of hairiness, drunkenness, cheer and/or travel ennui. it was loud but friendly.

over the next week, c and i spent 4 days on our urban sustainability course with a bunch or surprisingly friendly* architects, and several days doing day trips on our own. and whoa, what a ride it was.

*the ones that started with our cohort are, for the most part, rather standoffish: they will respond to your hello 8 times out of 10, but rarely offer one themselves. one gets tired of this. i mean, we're all of us busy and important; get over yourselves. 

we visited:

java eiland




rotterdam (meh, again with the looming glass buildings - not a reason i go to europe, no matter how well designed they may be)

as well as spending some time wandering the beautiful streets of old amsterdam.

so how was it, you ask breathlessly (it's this boundless enthusiasm for my words that makes me love you, my little poultries, even if it is almost entirely in my head).

let's just say that i've seen many gorgeous places in my life, places i want to visit and revisit, places that spark my imagination and soothe my soul, but there are very few places i would want to live. amsterdam is one of those places. in amsterdam, in holland as a whole, i found my place. why holland? why there, when even the thought of living in the US or poland (both lovely places) again makes me shiver with a profound sense of wrongness, even though both are close enough to home, either geographically or culturally? i don't know. but i know that i felt like i could make my home in amsterdam with no difficulty at all.

some reasons (most of which are ridiculously shallow and don't really explain the real underlying reason which is that i want to be there. the end.):

1. they eat at a normal time. i could never live in a mediterranean country where attempting to have supper before 8pm is considered uncouth. i can't eat that late. my stomach thinks it's stupid and i listen to my stomach.

2. they drink milk instead of pop. no explanation needed, other than to say that i fucking love milk, and all you naysayers can stuff it. i may be the only mammal that drinks another mammal's milk, but this mammal likes it. a lot.

3. they ride bikes everywhere all the time and don't wear spandex to do it. nobody should wear spandex to ride a bike unless they're taking part in the tour de france, most certainly not to ride to work, where the outfit is likely to shave entire seconds off your commute. unless you're a triathlete, spandex makes you look like an asshole.

4. their bikes are simple, sturdy, free of frippery and shocks and turbo-charged wingnuts and whatever else most bike shops try to sell you these days. they look like a child's drawing of a bike. they are the platonic ideal of bikeness. i like that.

5. the place isn't littered with churches and overfed greasy-faced clergy, unlike the country of my birth, where i have been known to cry after seeing a veritable procession of pudgy pompous priests walk by  octogenarian beggars holding tin cups in their arthritic hands, standing in the cold outside the gold-encrusted churches. yes, it's never that simple, but sometimes it is.

6. my mom occasionally calls me on my german tendencies (i.e. unlike her, i am very organized and love rules. i am not what you'd call an outside-the-box thinker), and the dutch take the sometimes rather cold and clinical traits of the germans (no offence, germans, but you know it's true) and soften the edges with warmth. i like to think that i also take my organized and rule-loving side and temper it with the warm fuzziness of my own brand of charming nuttiness. if you think i'm wrong, don't tell me; it might break me.

7. they are tall. how nice it is to walk around a place and not feel like i'm godzilla tromping through the countryside, crushing cars and people underneath my giant feet. if i attempt to shop for clothes in poland, the haughty salesladies look me up and down and send me to the "specialty" section (euphemism for "jesus h. christ, you're fucking HUGE!). unlike me, polish women are tiny, beautiful and dainty. in holland, i felt i was a perfectly acceptable size.

8. they are RIDICULOUSLY good looking! all of them! their menfolk, yes, sure! but not just! their children look catalogue-ready! their women are stunning! their men are gorgeous! even their elderly are handsome! and did i mention how good looking their men are? no? because they are. good looking. their men are. yes. oh yes.

9. they aren't fat: the only overweight people we saw were obviously from the wrong side of the atlantic. it's a cliche, but as such, it is rooted in fact, and the fact is - you ride your bike all over the place, you're gonna look good. there were no indigenous muffin tops to be seen anywhere.

10. where canadians tend to largely dress in a practical and uninspired way (parkas, goretex coats, hiking boots, etc) and the polish trip around cobblestones on stiletto heels and wrap themselves in furs against the rain, the dutch strike the perfect balance: practical, weather-responsive clothing that looks damn good. they also know how to rock a scarf, and if there's one thing better than a really good looking tall dutch man, it's the same wearing a scarf casually wrapped around his neck.

11. their design aesthetic.

12. their urban planning ideas, including infrastructure, transit, the public realm, etc., etc.

13. their politics.

14. their ingenuity.

15. their architecture.

16. those utterly charming canals.

17. the fact that you could bike all over the country and not have to climb any stupid mountains.

18. because i LIKE the flatness. i really really do. it's uncomplicated: you could say it's the haiku of topography.

19. the dutch masters.

20. enough already. go do something!

21. psst! did i mention how handsome their men are? seriously! it's ridiculous!

(by the way, c told me today he is really enjoying reading about himself on these here pages, and who can blame him? gee, i sure wish someone would start writing charmingly about me... but he wanted me to tell you that despite having brought a gigantic duffel bag on the trip, he wore the same clothes every day, his words, not mine. i still have no idea what was in the bag, but whatever it was it ate things and made them disappear, swear to god!)


Tom said...

You would, yes you would, no argument, think differently about Dutch men if you lived next door to our Dutch neighbour.

Apart from that hyperbolic description of Dutch men, I thought your post was delightful and funny.

polish chick said...

oh tom, if you can't count on my hyperbole, what can you count on? and i agree, they weren't ALL good looking, every last one, but the stats were pointing in that general direction.

of course, now i'm curious about your poor dutch neighbour!

Zhoen said...

Ah, the flush of first place-love. I've never gotten over my crush on Boston.

Oh, and this, on umbrellas.

polish chick said...

yup. just like that. but many times over. so very very sad...

boston, huh? yup. i like it a lot. not as much as new york or chicago, which i adore, but quite a lot. it's astonishing how cities of one country can be so vastly different, isn't it?