Finding Amsterdam

by Sara · 14.12.2012 · Escapism · 6 comments

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Ber­lin can be a big load of dis­trac­tions. Even if you’re just try­ing to have fun, there’s always some­thing else that wants to catch your atten­tion. A phone call, an Ins­tagram pic­ture, a new love interest, my favor­ite band is play­ing live, that exhib­i­tion I can’t miss, a spon­tan­eous rave in an over­frozen U-Bahn station.

But it’s not the size or the spirit of the city that keeps dis­tract­ing me from my life and my work, it’s me. It’s a mind­set and it’s the lack of com­mit­ment to the cause. So what if I miss out on some­thing? So what if my friends can’t reach me? As much as I want to see myself make some pro­gress with the mind­set of things — basic­ally giv­ing myself an inner vaca­tion — I real­ized I just needed to phys­ic­ally escape from all the noise, too. I don’t need to go far (not always any­way). I don’t even need to have a spe­cial, adven­tur­ous pro­gram. For what it’s worth: I don’t even need to go some­where new and excit­ing. Together with awe­some Isa from i-ref, we hopped on an easyJet plane to Ams­ter­dam. I’ve been to Ams­ter­dam about twelve times in the past ten years, I know what this city has for me and I know what it doesn’t, and it’s always just nice to be in a laid back place like this.

The Canal House

We had no interest in party­ing what­so­ever. We didn’t even want to go sight­see­ing and no inten­tion of fine din­ing, any sorts of sports or excit­ing things. We wanted to chill, hang out, wander the streets aim­lessly, maybe take a couple of pic­tures if they hap­pen, maybe rent a movie, per­haps walk­ing fur­ther away from the inner city than usual. That’s why we picked out a really com­fort­able and cozy hotel. Two nights in what might pos­sibly be the biggest bed I’ve ever slept in and a top notch view: The Canal House. If you’re not intend­ing to spend much money on activ­it­ies, you might just as well book your­self a great hotel that you feel com­fort­able in. It’s a bit steep, but totally worth it. It was per­fect for us. We even ended up play­ing Chess in the lobby, and at no time did my phone ring to dis­tract me. I’d like to high five myself now.

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The Canal House is loc­ated at the rim of the Jordaan, the eye candy dis­trict of Ams­ter­dam. It’s full of posh boutiques and break­fast cafés, gen­er­ally tidied up and less packed with tour­ists. The Jordaan is named after the gar­dens in the court­yards of most of the build­ings. The Canal House has one of those gar­dens. That’s a rare sight in the nar­row streets of Ams­ter­dam, where the build­ings are usu­ally as close as pos­sibly to the water and shaped too tiny for some actual green­ery. On the edge of the Jordaan loc­ated is the Anne Frank House. On my last trip to Ams­ter­dam, I vis­ited this extraordin­ary museum and left shaken and cry­ing. I know, that doesn’t sound like much of a pos­it­ive exper­i­ence, but it’s worth it. Same goes for the FOAM, the pho­to­graphy museum of Ams­ter­dam. As I men­tioned before: this time around, we didn’t do any of that. I’m just men­tion­ing these things because A’dam, as the loc­als like to call it, has more to offer than lying in bed and play­ing chess.

Being a tour­ist in Amsterdam

If you haven’t been to Ams­ter­dam: I can only recom­mend a short city trip. I love everything about this beau­ti­ful city, even the tour­ist traps. The inner red light dis­trict is very inter­est­ing in archi­tec­ture and people. Also, there are the cof­fee shops which are usu­ally packed with ama­teur tour­ist smokers. Makes for a fun exper­i­ence to all those who reg­u­larly hang out in Görl­itzer Park.

Ams­ter­dam is Europes poster-child city. Untouched by the wars and built on these beau­ti­ful water streets, I can­not fathom how Venice should be any more mes­mer­iz­ing. The loc­als seem totally unbothered by the swarms of tour­ists, I guess here’s some­thing Ber­liners could learn from the Dutch. On those rare occa­sions when the clouds broke up and let some sun flood the streets, we headed out­side and mingled with the tour­ists. We had fries at Man­neken Pis, the fam­ous Belgian/Dutch street­food vendor (but really I don’t know what the fuss is about, I eat there every time and I still don’t get how these fries are so pop­u­lar. They are fatty fries with a kilo of Mayo on top!), and vis­ited the Patta store for a bit of streetwear inspir­a­tion. But shop­ping was the last point on our list so we just kept on walk­ing. You can’t get lost in Ams­ter­dam, I promise.

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Although I’ve been to Ams­ter­dam so many times before, this was the first time I actu­ally did some of the touristy stuff. We had a boat tour through the Grachten. That’s what you do when you have time to waste. Turns out it’s not as lame as I would expect. On the other hand, you’ll prob­ably find bet­ter tours on bike.

Besides the boat ride we also spent an hour atop of the Sky Lounge. It has a top-notch view over Ams­ter­dam. We were told that the lib­rary right next to the Sky Lounge had a rooftop café as well, but we felt like splur­ging (totally worth it). It costs no cover to get to the Sky Lounge but the drinks are fairly pricey.

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We ended up at the Oude Pijp, another nice quarter of Ams­ter­dam I have never been to. It flashes more cul­tural diversity and some mod­ern archi­tec­ture than the inner city… that’s only how far my witty obser­va­tions go. I was on a nat­ural anes­thesia most of the time, mind you. We enjoyed Sur­i­n­amese food (AWESOME) in the Oude Pijp, some really good stuff if you’re into East Asian kit­chen. The res­taur­ant was recom­men­ded to us by a local, and I would love to pass it for­ward: War­ung Spang Makandra was not only deli­cious, the ser­vice was amaz­ing and everything on the menu affordable.

No Ams­ter­dam visit without a walk through Vondel­park! I real­ize I’ve only seen Ams­ter­dam in the sum­mer­time twice, so this was only my second time in Vondel­park. It’s a large park that feels tiny rel­at­ive to any park in Ber­lin. And we just kept on walk­ing this mini­ature city. It’s a big plus to Ber­lins vast­ness. You can reach everything by foot or bike in a short time… con­veni­ence at it’s best.

And then, you know, that’s pretty much it. I love Ams­ter­dam. It’s my home away from home. I never feel the urge to “dis­cover” stuff, I don’t have to go out of my way to enjoy myself. I don’t expect much from it, either, and I think that really does the trick. When I came back to Ber­lin I had already star­ted work­ing on my mind­set and on all these dis­trac­tions lately. Maybe I can find a bit of Ams­ter­dam peace in this city, too. Cross fingers.

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6 comments
  1. BABO-style. Mal wieder.

  2. Nice to see cool pics of my home­land :) The war may not have left many traces on the sur­face, but very ugly scars remain from the large Jew­ish com­munity that was killed with help from the local author­it­ies, and count­less city plan­ning cockups (the new metro line is Amsterdam’s ver­sion of BER air­port).
    Next time per­haps skip Mokum (as the loc­als really call it!) and check out some other beau­ti­ful and much less tour­is­ted places like Leiden, Utrecht, Gouda… true Ber­lin fans should like the energy and mod­ern spirit of Rot­ter­dam too. All within day-trip dis­tance of Ams­ter­dam, if you must stay there.

  3. Nice, though in real­ity it’s less impress­ive then how the pho­to­graphy makes it look, that nice hazy effect and soft light­ing is all in the cam­era and post.

  4. Nice art­icle about Ams­ter­dam, good pic­tures. Keep it up!

  5. Very nice travel report about Ams­ter­dam and abso­lutely great pho­tos. Liv­ing in Düs­sel­dorf and think­ing to do a week­end trip to Ams­ter­dam. Thanks for the tips!

  6. Ams­ter­dam is a won­der­ful, and I think you really cap­tured it’s spirit. Indeed it’s not a huge city, but it’s a clas­sic case of qual­ity over quant­ity. And that’s really it’s biggest strength… a high con­cen­tra­tion of cool and quirky. Ik hou van Amsterdam!