Friday, August 7, 2009

Follow the Tram

It is my last night in Amsterdam. I must get up at 4 AM to get ready to leave for Schiphol Airport by 6. So I think I won't go to sleep tonight. Most people around here don't seem to go to sleep before 1 AM anyway. It really doesn't get dark until 21:30 anyway. I will wander a bit tonight & watch the people as I've been doing quite a lot of.

One evening, early on, I met a wonderful Canadienne while eating dinner near Leidseplein. She is a flight attendant for a charter airline so she obviously has done quite a bit of travel. She was biking through Amsterdam & had paused to eat at the same traditional Dutch restaurant as we had & we soon struck up a conversation. During our super discussions, she mentioned that one way to get through Amsterdam without too much trouble was to follow the tram-lines. That was some of the best advice I got. It is very easy to get lost in Amsterdam--& that is not necessarily a bad thing. But if you find the tram--well I knew that if I walked in the direction of Centraal Station, I'd eventually find the Dam. That's the big square in the center of the old part of Amsterdam. The hotel is quite close to that so I could find my way home late at night. Getting lost, as I said, isn't necessarily a bad thing.

I loved watching the canals at about 18:30 or so. It was just as busy as the streets. I looked down & watched boat after boat of every conceivable shape & size pass by. Sitting inside most people were eating dinner--pizza, full-course meals with white wine, beer & frites, etc. Younger people smoking cigarettes, etc., laughing & sticking their feet over the edges of the boats. Families with their dogs & bicycles thrown in the front of the boat, serving dinner while they putt-putt down the canal honking before they come to a long canal bridge they must go through. It is again an entirely different layer to this complex city.

People are everywhere here. The Grand Cafes serve on the sidewalks on the major squares in the city--with chairs & tables practically to the street, but look down any tiny street & a restaurant has thrown a few outside tables in the middle & sure enough, dinner is served. Last night we ate at an Indian restaurant just like that & had another converation with two native Amsterdamians. We again discuss European's perceptions of Americans. There are a lot of women here who look like Paris Hilton--fakey tan & all! According to Jants, who we ran into again, all the girls want to look like her in Germany. I told him that they really could do soooo much better! It is funny but all of the waiters, etc always asked if we were from Canada. At first I thought how odd, but then I asked why. Apparently people from Canada get insulted if the staff asked if they were from America! Hey, thanks a lot!!

Brussels was interesting, especially the Magritte museum but I was actually homesick to get back to Amsterdam. Once our train pulled into Centraal Station & we blended back into the teeming multitudes, I felt a nice deep sigh. I love this city--it's vibrancy, enthusiasm, & laissez-faire mentality really works for me. I will miss it.

The end of our trip was the Anne Frank Huis. I really have no words--but encourage everyone to go--be prepared to go early & wait to get in. Regardless--it is worth it!

Karma has been vey good to me recently--I feel very fortunate to have had this experience this summer--I won't forget it soon.

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