5.25.2009

Amsterdam

It is familiar: the flavors and feel, the bright colors and sentiment, the delft and tulips, and everything dairy. I am Dutch, after all, and throwing myself headlong into my country of origin feels like taking a deep, sentimental breath.

I love that being here adds dimensions to my understanding of what it means to be Dutch. (And although I don't speak Dutch, I took years of German in high school, so at least pronunciations come easily and a little crossover applies---whew). I even got kudos this morning while at a neighborhood cafe, for my efforts in pronouncing biologisch spek, which is Dutch for organic bacon. Even funnier? On my other blog, talk of tomatoes, I actually made an appetizer using spek just a few months ago... not even knowing its origins. What a hoot!).

I am only just beginning to wrap my mind around this lovely culture and experience, but highlights most certainly include the intimacy of the city, canals everywhere, the sea of cycles and the regular bustle. We adore adore adore the well groomed sense of transportation. It made an immediate impression, and when we hit not-so-bike-forward parts of Europe, we will no doubt long for it.

The bar is set high for efficiency and smart integration: there is a lane for pedestrians, a lane for bikes and scooters, a lane for cars and street cars, and a lane (canal) for boats. And it works seamlessly. Everyone knows the drill: bikes have the right of way, pedestrians belong on the walking path (bollards sometimes separate the two), and along canals bikes, scooters and cars share the brick roads. Smallish van-like buses and boats alike, provide accessible transport. We have been spoiled---giddy perhaps---about the fact that bikes function with equal clout to cars and scooters yet when push comes to shove: cycles have the right away.

Like James, I read Lust for Life---a story about Van Gogh's life---and loved it. It brought the visit to Van Gogh's museum to life, and I loved every minute of it. I understood, then, why people can stand before a painting mesmerized and moved to tears. So many paintings made an impression (yep, a pun), above all the Potato Eaters and his infamous Sunflower painting. Both I think, were from his soul, perhaps more 'him' unleashed, than many of his other studies. And they were riveting.

We spent time at the Rijk's museum, rented a tiny motor boat and ate broot and kaas (bread and cheese) while touring along the canals. We drank beer at canal-side cafes, enjoyed neighborhood shops and cafes, walked endlessly, and played soccer in Vondel Park.

Here is a picture of Maxe Euweplein---a square that gives tribute to the Dutch world chess champion (in the 30's)---where we relaxed for some time to watch, well, chess.

Souvenirs? Stickers and postcards, beer coasters, a deck of Van Gogh playing cards and I succumbed to taking up a wee-bit of pannier space: a smallish book on Dutch Food. I am already half way through it and love the quick summaries on Dutch food culture. Consumption includes lots of vegetables (which they use to boil to death, but now cook only lightly via saute, steam etc.), with piles of fish---especially a quick herring snack, bread galore, tons of dairy and dairy products---the boys tried and loved vanilla pudding (they said: like creme brulee without the crust)---and every kind of topping imaginable for bread (most notably the chocolate sprinkles). And mom: the book includes a recipe for ollie bollen!

We are looking forward to much, much more. Today we push off from Amsterdam, and ride for about 20 miles north for a quick visit to Monnickdam (cheese makers) with a final landing in Edam. Perfectly, it stormed last night with tons of lightening laced with booming thunder, and intermittent pouring rain. We laughed and know that without a doubt, we will get caught in some showers today. But without complaint, as the skies delivered bright blue all week in Amsterdam---as blue as the new Dutch soccer jersey we bought Anthony (see pic).


2 comments:

  1. I love reading what you're up to! May I request more blogging from the boys? :)

    ReplyDelete

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