“playing pianos filled with flames”

7/16/10   –   23:53

It was cold enough to make me not want to get out of bed this morning, and that is definitely a first for my time in Europe. Alright this makes sense. I checked google maps and the Netherlands is further North than Montreal. I had a little bit of breakfast and then got dropped off at the train station. Checking the weer today in the Dutch newspaper, it announced a high of about 70 degrees. That’s what I like to hear.

For such a tiny country, the Netherlands is a pretty huge country. It takes about 2 and a half hours to get from Schinnen to Amsterdam which means I can’t go see the Aalsmeer flower auction. That’s ok though. I’ve seen just about six billion flowers already and I don’t need to take any more pictures of them. Besides, the tulips are passed their blooming season and now its just a big warehouse with boxes of plants. Like home depot, except in the third largest building in the world by square meter-age.

If you’ve never been before, Amsterdam has several museums and a couple of other attractions, but really enjoying the city consists of walking around, really. So that’s what I did. It’s a very compact city center, organized around a series of concentric canals. Fact of the day: Amsterdam has more canals than Venice. Fact number 2: the Dutch reclaimed this land from the water and constructed a city on it. [We built this city. Yeahhhhh. We built this city on {dikes and dams}♪]

Walking around, I hung out in lots of the big squares and people-watched. The Dam square, the square near Westerkerk with the Homomonument, and I stopped by the Anne Frank Huis, which is the apartment where she was stowed away. It looks over a canal and a line of eager visitors. I decided against waiting and paying. I’m sure it was a nice place on the inside. I keep hearing that it was a pretty comfortable size, though. I guess I’ll never know now, haha.

Oh, I also found the Dutch version of Urban Outfitters. It had all the amusing wack stuff that’s in that shop sans the clothing. And it’s located in Amsterdam, so you can imagine how much of a hipster heaven that place is. I’d have some photos of the inside, but “Sorry, sir. No photos.” I hate getting yelled at for that.

In addition to the funky stores, there are a couple more things you need to know about the city:

– Bikes are srs bsns here. For real. Apparently 40% of the population travels on two wheels. I don’t have a hard time believing that.

– Around every corner  you will find an Argentine or a Thai Restaurant, a Chinese massage place, and a coffee shop. Do note that you are in Amsterdam where the term “coffee shop” does not mean “an establishment for the sale of coffee.” That would be a café. Coffee shops sell weed and hash.

I figured I would have a go at it because I’m in Amsterdam and it’s legal. I feel like it’s just a whole part of visiting the city. It’s basically obligatory. Rick Steves suggested a shop called “The Gray Area” and it was tiny and cramped with lots of people rolling and smoking. Everything was slow, there was a line, and nobody wanted to do anything. [I was sort of expecting as much.]

I walked down by Rembrandtsplein in search of another coffee shop and while walking down Regulliersdwarsstraat [these street names are horrible], I came across Betty Too, which didn’t have too many people downstairs. I sat down and the bartender [is that the term?]. Well, the guy behind the bar gave me a menu and I ordered a pre-rolled joint.

[Well hello there Bureau of Censorship! What? I shouldn’t be divulging people’s personal information? Got it, officer. Actually, yeah. That’s fair enough, haha.]

At some point, this girl named Karina dropped in and we started talking. She’s from Zurich, Switzerland and she just got accepted into design school so she took a month to celebrate. She’s half Brazilian so that makes her able to speak Swiss German, Standard German, English, Spanish, and Portuguese. I’m so envious of Europeans. But anyway, she asked for water and the bartender broke out this jug filled with what looked like sticks of really thick vanilla. It was actually charcoal. “We say that it purifies the water. Makes it safe to drink.” It doesn’t taste like anything, actually, and the water tasted clean. Good stuff. Maybe it does work.

I had to take my leave though to start heading back to Amsterdam Centraal. I took a shortcut through the Spui [pronounced spow] book market. I didn’t buy any books, but I hate that I’m in love with lithographs and prints because I wanted to buy them all. I blame it on Married to the Sea. I bought a print, but I didn’t buy the one book that I thought looked interesting. It’s called “253” by Geoff Ryman. It looked like an interesting read, but I have too much crap to carry in my suitcase to stuff in another book. Besides. It’s on the internet.

There was a strange man sitting on a box with a sign that offered in English and Dutch “A Translation from One Language to Another.” If I could offer translation services like that and make money, I would. Then my life would just be perfect.

With just about half an hour left before my train left for Sittard, I stopped by this shop called Kantjil to get some Indonesian food. [Indonesian food in the Netherlands? That’s not very European of you.] Well yeah. Indonesia was a colony of the Dutch. And I miss rice. So there. It was good and it tasted like Indian food. I want to recreate that beef satay upon arriving back home, along with the million other dishes I want to make.

I made it back to Schinnen around 8:30 and Gregg took me to the pub next to the station where he had a beer waiting for me [can he be any nicer?] He was also with his friend from work, Johnny [Gianni?] and we stayed there for a little while because it started to rain. And then it got worse. It was decided that we were going to make a run for it [Yeah. the 5 kilometers from the station to Gregg’s house] and it wasn’t that bad. The rain was hard for about 4 minutes, but then it let up a little. We walked through lots of open fields and my camera loved it, even if it got a little damp.

Gregg was up for a “pajama jam” [not my term], wherein we played video games, watched a movie, and ate manly food [steak!]. Plans for that sort of fell through, though because we were all tired as shit, his neighbour wasn’t home to make cake [haha], they gave all the brownie mix away, and his parents packed up the grill. [His family is saying goodbye to the Netherlands to go back to America pretty shortly] It was all cool, though. I had time to make that [belated] blog from yesterday and I was ready to hit the hay by the time I was done with that. And that’s what I did.

“So where to next?” Maastricht. “Where?” Yeah. I know, lol.

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Comments
4 Responses to ““playing pianos filled with flames””
  1. bettytoo says:

    Dear friend, I have something to ask you, so could you please send me a mail. Many thanks. BT

  2. Guano says:

    I am absolutely smitten by this entry. From the “coffee shops”, to the bikes, to the reference to Wind-up Bird Chronicle, to Tetsuro, to your damn pajama jam, and to your awesomeness. Also, I have something sort of a love interest in the Netherlands which I must tell you about when you get home, please. She was actually in Amsterdam a day after you were. Can’t wait to talk about all you’ve seen =].

    PS When do you get home?

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