Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Amsterdam

Becky and I arrived in Amsterdam Saturday afternoon (Oct. 14) and were met at the train station by our host for the weekend, Hans. We met Hans on an online traveler's network called Couchsurfing.com -- it is simply a meeting place to connect travelers looking for modest, but free places to stay (anywhere in the world where there are members) and hosts who share a wanderlust and like meeting new and diverse people. Needless to say we were a bit nervous at first, and both of us knew we wouldn't be doing this for the first time without the other. However after only a short while with Hans and his roommate Cathy (from England) and her Dutch friend Maaike, we felt very comfortable and even at home in their small apartment near the center of the city.


We went out to a couple bars and a nightclub that evening with our hosts. The city at night, particularly where the nightlife is concentrated, has a very loose and relaxed feel... the Dutch were once described to me as more easy-going germans, which doesn't seem entirely off base; maybe it's the drugs. [incidentally, it is not a stereotype that biking is popular in the Netherlands]


The next morning we headed into the center to a photo museum, passing many of the beautiful canals for which the city is famous. The river incidentally, which we also saw, is the Amstel (thus the beer; Heineken is also Dutch, and based in Amsterdam in case anyone wondered). After stopping for a coffee and then some lunch we sought out a paddle boat for rent to satisfy Becky's nostalgia for having done so when she was last there at the age of ten. Aside from getting briefly lost on the canals and nearly capsized by the large and numerous tour boats that roam them, it was actually a very pleasant way to see the city.

While my travel companion departed for Spain Monday morning, I had an extra day in the city, and a single night in a hostel. I wandered more of the city, taking in one of the large public parks, a number of bustling public squares, and past several interesting buildings, including a few old museums. In the afternoon when I ran out of steam I bought a ticket to "An Inconvenient Truth":
The film alone is a powerful and poignant one (and one I should have seen much sooner), but to see it in Amsterdam made the experience more moving; seeing a film that is aimed first and foremost at US as the grossest polluters and spenders of natural resources from outside our country, was enough recontextualization to make the point more salient. In addition, to see it in a country, the Netherlands, which will be the most dramatically changed worldwide (totally submerged), heightened the effect further still.


Tuesday morning I woke early and headed to the airport for Madrid.

1 Comments:

Blogger The One With Many Names said...

Ah, yes, travels abroad are great for recontextualization of one's domestic milieu...

Wow, the Couchsurfing thing sounds very potentially sketchy, but those situations also end up making the best stories. (Like the time I went hitchiking in Scotland... well, both times... just don't tell my father ;-)

1:20 AM  

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