Amsterdam, The Netherlands

My maiden trip to Amsterdam was in 2002 – in fact, it’s where I spent my twenty-first birthday. Coming back more than three years later, it almost felt like I was visiting it for the first time; not because the city had changed but because I have.

My impression of it at the time was that it was chaotic – the roads were thronging with trams and buses and people and cyclists and cars. The fact that I felt this mainly reflects how little I had seen of the world. This time round I was mostly struck by the fact that Amsterdam is really very pretty and has lots of interesting and quirky details. Little wonder that it’s such a popular tourist destination.

The Albert Cuypmarket on Saturday morning was a real highlight with lots of traditional food like dried herring and pickles. It’s also where I bought my new winter coat, the kind with a furry hood that I would never really need back home.

In the week leading up to my trip to Amsterdam, I managed to track down a copy of Anne Frank’s Diary at Bookmongers in Brixton. I had never read it before and wanted to immerse myself in Anne Frank’s world before visiting the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam, which I hadn’t been to previously. To cut a long story short, I was incredibly moved by the book which is a vivid account from an inspired and passionate young girl, and visiting the house after reading it was a special experience. I still feel pretty tearful thinking about how cruel human beings can be and how tragic it was that these eight people had to hide just for being Jewish. The spark of hope is that Anne Frank left behind a legacy that has the power to move us still, more than fifty years after it was created.

PS. Drugs are bad!!!

Grand Potato – great for ‘vlaamse frites’ (Belgian fries).

Sinterklaas is celebrated on 6 December in honour of St Nicholas and is basically the Dutch version of Christmas. What kind of spooked us out about this celebration is the fact that Saint Nick’s sidekick, a Moor called Zwarte Piete (Black Peter), is mostly depicted like a twentieth century racist caricature of a black person in the United States with jet black skin and thick lips. Or he’s otherwise kind of evil looking. We even saw lots of fair skinned kids dressed up as Black Peters with black paint all over their faces!! We saw Black Peter dolls and pictures absolutely everywhere which sort of suggests that the Dutch mberal as they appear to be because they seem pretty damn happy to continue on a tradition firmly rooted in their colonial past…

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2 thoughts on “Amsterdam, The Netherlands

  1. I looooooove Amsterdam. I ventured out into the city for about 3 hours in March 2004 (during a layover) and I’ve been dying to make a real trip there ever since. It is astonishly beautiful and full of its own special quirks.

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