Pt. 1 of the Exquisite Netherlands Trilogy
Ah, the Netherlands. An amazing place. If you’ve read my previous article you know I was left stunned by the landscapes in ‘Curtea de Argeș’, a small, deserted municipality. My trip to Holland, however, was a different kind of stunning: lush greenery meshed with inner-city marvels seamlessly. The whole experience gave the feeling of being in a utopia – one facing the constant danger of tourist invasions, of course. Contributing to that feeling of a utopia was the fact that even the worse-maintained areas in Holland still looked better than those of most modern cities.
On one hand, you’re in luck, bucko – well… if you like long articles, that is – because the recollection of my time in the Netherlands is going to be even more detailed and magnifique (if you will) than my previous article. On the other, however, whereas I immediately got down to writing the same week after returning from Curtea de Argeș, when I got back from Holland it took me 3 full months to even begin jotting down ideas. This might be to the detriment of the article’s accuracy, although let’s hope for both our sakes that it is not.
Everything started out rather simple: plan to go to sleep at 10 pm, realize that your luggage isn’t fully packed, calmly pack your luggage – taking over two full hours (because after all, sleep’s for chumps anyway) – realize that going to sleep at that point would be futile since in two hours you have to leave for the airport, and then sit fully dressed on your bed for the rest of your time left. You might notice that a common theme for this article series will be confusion. Y’know, the Curtea de Argeș one was about just an overall unpleasant time (other than that one view from the top of the Poenari Castle), whereas this one will be about having a great time, but being generally confused in regards to where you are, what you should be doing, how to get to a place, and so on.
So, the flight. ‘How was it?’ you may want to inquire. Well, seeing as how this was mid-pandemic, nobody in my family was feeling particularly happy to be seated next to numerous rowdy and just plain boorish passengers. I mean some of them were even arguing, and very loudly so. The three hour flight also seemed disproportionately long at times – for someone only having 2 good albums on their phone – and the only redeemably good aspect was the on board banana bread, neatly packaged in a transparent wrapper. Other than that the flight was arguably uneventful.
As soon as I arrived in the Schiphol airport, the tiredness hit me like a ton of bricks. I hadn’t slept for over 30 hours, since I’m a light sleeper and thus couldn’t really get any sleep on the way there. It was also jarring how many different nationalities – presumably at least, since I never asked them or anything – there were. I mean, throughout my whole trip I passed by more than 10 Romanians… heck, that’s more than the total number of people I saw throughout my whole trip in Curtea de Argeș. There’s some poeticism to the fact that a Romanian municipality had less Romanians than a Dutch city. (As an aside, you should probably make a point of guessing where I saw these fellow Romanians. It can be your own little way of feeling even more excited for this article trilogy).
Getting to the hotel was fairly easy. We had to change trains – and subways – a couple of times, which is by no means a harrowing task… for someone who got their fair share of sleep. For someone who hadn’t lain down in 30 hours, every single time we had to stop to check that we were going the right way felt like torture. In the end, I had to crash two hours at the hotel before actually going to check out the surroundings. I mean, I know I’ve got a duty to all of you, my loyal fans, but a man’s got to get his sleep in.
After having awoken from my slumber, I decided to check out the nearby mall, situated beside the Amsterdam Arena (which, as an aside, looked quite interesting, even to somebody who hates football with a passion). When I started heading for the mall, I never expected anything too grand, but I thought I’d at least be graced with something other than three full stories of just furniture stores. The Bijlmer ArenA mall – yes, the last A is capitalized, no, almost nobody knows why – is filled to the brim with furniture stores which had been mostly already closed by the time we showed up. There was also an interesting restaurant which was suspended on the same level as the third floor, but essentially over the lobby. Only three pillars held it up, and with its squeaky wooden floorboards, it made quite an interesting stylistic decision. ‘Hm… Let’s try and see how long it’ll take for us to indirectly kill a customer.’ Of course… the restaurant too had closed, and two hours earlier in fact. So we promptly skipped on over back to the hotel, ending our first day.
As the second day started, I realized that I didn’t particularly have any plan. As such, me and my family took the subway from the Bijlmer station to the Centraal Station, and proceeded to just stroll alongside the canals. The many bridges over the canals allowed for numerous photo locations. My family had a quick photo shoot near the Munttoren, which sounds like a Viking warrior’s name, but is actually translated merely to ‘Mint Tower’, the clock tower situated in the Muntplein square, one of the busiest in all of Amsterdam.
You guessed it! Time for some fun facts again!
DID YOU KNOW THAT…
The Munttoren got its namesake from the coin-minting that went on in its guardhouse during the 17th Century. After France started occupying much of the Dutch territory, they were forced to move their coin minting to a new location, which would be the guardhouse of the Munttoren (which before that stood nameless)?
It is comprised of four clockfaces and a carillon of bells?
The tower is also 40 meters (130 feet) tall?
Perhaps that is precisely why all of the selfies my family took only have the bottom of the clock tower in them… (I was not in the pictures, luckily for me… because those photos are an atrocity). Among the deplorable pictures are two or three taken in a literal Dutch-angle (with the camera tilted on the roll-axis). How in the world is that coincidence possible? Luckily I was able to rummage for an actual good one to include here, even though in it, Munttoren is quite far off in the distance.
Near the Munttoren is the famous flower market, which I’ve passed by countless times, and each time the colourful tags in the various shops seemed to stand out more and more. To be frank this seems like a legitimate business technique, since the multitudes of colours in these shops subconsciously draw you in. But more importantly, now I’d gotten to the point where I had to find something to eat… and in a foreign country it’s quite difficult to strike gold on your own. Thus, I was forced to look up restaurants close-by with good reviews. And what I managed to find was this burger bar called Bar-B. Which then got me thinking: what if I pioneered the restaurant B-Ratz (the bar where they feed you rats, also named after an insanely popular American product line of fashion dolls)?
Jokes aside, Bar-B is the first restaurant I’d been to which let me make my own burger! And no, I did not proceed to hop over to the kitchen and take over the chef’s job… What I did was merely create a recipe, and a perfect one at that, if I do say so myself. Not only can a burger with almost any conceivable topping be made, but it can also be named (naturally, I named mine the ‘Diddy MC Special’). Since we’d already taken a stop, we took what little spare time we had in the bar in order to order tickets for a canal cruise later in the day, as well as to ask directions from the chef (since he was a local), who was surprisingly friendly and open to conversation (not unlike the rest of the staff).
Soon enough, we were on our way to the visit a few universities. On our way to what we believed would be the University of Amsterdam as a whole, we passed through an enclosed passageway. Seen in multiple photos on the internet, the roofed alleyway has become an attraction itself, known as Oudemanhuispoort, famous for its historical value and its book market. Truth be told, some of those books had become so rare (such as a 1998 published Hanna-Barbera Cartoons artbook) that I could not help but buy two. Those two books would be a costly mistake, as you’ll see later on in the article. For now I’ll say just this: having to lug them for the rest of the day was not the best idea on my part. Oudemanhuispoort was the only way to reach this oasis with the University of Amsterdam’s Faculty of Humanities, as well as a place for student accommodation.
On our way to the actual, current location of the University of Amsterdam, we passed by this well-maintained garden near an abandoned modern-seeming building. A gardener near the building stood out like a sore thumb, tobacco pipe in hand and all. The man was actually a local, and he was able to give us a few pointers (which would ultimately lead us to the correct location). What was odd, however, was how much care he was putting into gardening. It seemed like that was actually his passion. He also had this odd accent akin to a British one (and I say odd, as he was a native, and did not seem particularly well-versed in the English language when looked at from afar).
After having seen the University of Amsterdam as well as the Royal Palace (both of which I’ll talk more about in the next part of the series), we finally started heading towards the canal cruise’s pick-up point. I was quite on edge, as I’d been carrying the two books weighing four kilograms each for a good three hours of walking around, but a massive bike parking lot, with actual hundreds of thousands of them, helped take my mind off of that.
When we finally got on, I noticed that the canal boat was quite spacious, and if you were immature enough you could even imagine that it was a spaceship (with metal coated walls and all)! WOW! This is the point of the article during which I have around thirty photos and I’m not even sure which one to pick, as they are all too great. Point is, the sun was just setting, so the rays were perfectly bouncing off of the water. There was also the point where more than seven arches could be seen over the water, with countless bridges aligned in a row. And guess what? This is also where the first Romanian cameo is. There was a group of, well, a few of them! I don’t really know why… I mentioned that though.
Last noteworthy thing on the second day was the view I got when returning to the hotel. Since Bijlmer had quite a lot of hotels and even a few shops around, which would light up at night, you’d get a homely feeling passing by. At the same time it could be argued that the homely feeling was just because of, y’know, me being on holiday and all.
But I suppose that is it for today! Tune in next time for a more in-depth visit to the University of Amsterdam, as well as countless ferryboat rides and a description of the tourist attraction ‘This is Holland’ (potential heart attacks and all).