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.
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.
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.
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.