Finding Amsterdam

by Sara · 14.12.2012 · Escapism · 6 comments


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.

Tagged as:  ·  ·  ·
Next Post:
Previous Post:
  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!