Saturday, August 13, 2011

I AMsterdammed

Amsterdam almost did not happen. For some strange notion I wanted to stay on in Berlin. Well it was not a strange notion- I went on a couple of dates and it was fun and I wanted more romance. And then suddenly I realised I am giving up the opportunity to visit one of the coolest cities in the world for a date. With some sense knocked into me, Irene and I booked ourselves on a bus that left that very night and we were on our way to Amsterdam.  2 days nonetheless it was going to be an adventure. We arrived really early in the morning after a pretty bad bus ride (noisy people, 3 am immigration check etc).We headed to Diemen where Irene's brother Philip lives in a nice student housing. Yes we were crashing in the dorms! Thus began the Amsterdam adventure.
My first observations of Amsterdam- the visual graphics in public spaces were really fascinating. The exploration line and color was beautiful. From the moment we arrived at Central Station the heart of Amsterdam (looks much like VT) I was a bit like Alice in Wonderland. We walked along the canal, I had never seen anything like this. Quaint narrow homes 3- 4 storeyed high lined next to each other. Each one a different characteristic, beautiful flowers along the side of the road. These homes Irene explained were very expensive to buy or even rent. The ground floor of most of these houses were shops, cafes, restaurants, tattoo parlors. Strange kinky signs for tattoo, invitations to come in and smoke and you know exactly what. We walked down Amsterdams famous red light district, women in their underwear flashing their goods in the windows. Sin City it is, fascinating to me. I was warned not to take any pics of the women as their pimps might chase me down the street. The signages and names of streets were so diffeernt from the German ones. Double 'ee-s' and double 'oo-s' seemed to be common creating a sense of a language spoken with much emphasis.

Philips dorm building. A gorgeous riot of bright green

land of Heineken. YEA!
Irene and I bought our two day I Amsterdam card- for the trains, buses, museums- a really decent value and started with looking for a Dimsum place for lunch before we headed to the museums. Chinatown in any city in the world is always delightful. This street was narrow and filled with little windows with broiled chicken and pork, hello kitties, chinese kurtas and also a Chinese temple. Right across we settled for a seemingly decent Dimsum restaurant which served green tea with the meal. It was not expensive and eat all you can. Rice, noodles, cabbage, chicken, beef, pork and ofcourse dimsum. It wasnt the best Chinese meal but considering our hunger we gorged and were ready to start the cultural exploration. Irene's grand ma lives near Rotterdam so she has been to Amsterdam many times. 
Our Chinese Buffet and Dimsum meal.
Lots of Argentinian Steak Houses- just like in Chicago
Heineken was definitely the popular beer- well it was a dutch product. Unlike the Germans, the Dutch did not seem to big on beer except for this and Amstel. Despite knowing from friends who had been here about the cannibis cafe scene in Amsterdam, each time we passed a cafe, my jaw would drop at the familiar smell and watching people just sitting around and smoking pot. The pace was slow in Amsterdam- no one seemed to be in rush to get to places.
Irene picked us some sweet buns from here. A place she frequented in her childhood.
More traditional Dutch food. The salted herrings, an array of cheese, smoked salmon, the shrimps in olive oil.
Man with the strange camouflage jacket and lavender crocs.
Most decked up bicycle
Lovely Delft Blue tiles
One of my life's dreams was to visit Rembrandt's home in Amsterdam. Its amazing to walk around this well preserved home which served as his living space, his studio, his meeting room with clients. We also attended the print making workshop where we saw Rembrandt's technique. Of all the painting I loved were his portraits of the rich and powerful men, looking slightly down at him - the lighting across their face creating magic- dark to light and his collection of strange objects.
Self Portrait - Rembrandt
Self Portrait- me
The Printmaker

Bicycle city- watch out or you will be run over.

Cute half car
psychedelic cafe
Psychedelic healing books
Because the stairwell would be too narrow to carry furniture so each house was provided these cantilevered hooks to help pull the furniture up using a rope. This system is still in use.
Amsterdam's uber famous Red Light distract. I got flashed at by a woman in the window. Erotic museum, sexy tattoo parlor, toy shop etc.
We met up with Philip and his friends at Cafe Greenhouse where I had my first outdoor pot smoking in public experience. Aah the bliss of Amsterdam.

As the afternoon went on, Irene and I decided to cash in on our canal ride. As you can see every bit of Ansterdam was fascinating me. Flowers on the bicycle handle bars, cobbled street, old church that was de-religionised, houses along the canal, strange Australian tourist- raving about the cost of the 'Charlie'. 
 Aha- Burgers in a vending machine. I had seen this on the travel channel on Japan. Febo!

And finally our late evening canal ride with the sun going down.

No standing on the table
Fairy tales on the building tops
My friend Prashant will be showing his film Patang in this very theater this week.

Vondelpark (named after the poet Joost van den Vonde as my Dutch friend Lucas informed me) a great place to catch cinema in the Amsterdam. Alas it was closed when we got there so we just hung outside under the trees staring the sky as night fell creating silhouettes and shadows. I smiled. I am so glad I came to Amsterdam. A must see, still had not tried any real Dutch food but the city was so intense it was hard not to enjoy its energy. Tourist yes, photographs a plenty, but I Amsterdmmed!


  1. How did you pack so much in so little time? Great stuff. I thinkthis should be a book. A picture book.

  2. I like the "half car" ... very fuel-efficient. I wonder if there's another half you can latch on if you need to carry more passengers.

    My 2009 Amsterdam pics:

  3. ooooh naaice! next time we should goto europe together! and i second the picture book idea..... one image with 4 lines of story per page!

  4. ok i have been trying and trying and T-R-Y-I-N-G to comment on your post but its just not happening. anywho, want to tell u that reading your blog is bad for my health :) i love love LOVE it. that auto ride did prove 'fruit'ful huh?