This is a case of You begin, and then you’ll see which way you’ll go or where you end up. Amsterdam.
Every so often you come across someone, or something that has it’s own style. Today it’s a boat. Tomorrow? Who knows…
An exercise for your orientation muscles: every once in a while, shut down the pocket communicator and find your way from A to B using a paper map. Even better: get from A to B using pure guess work*. *do not use this method when in a hurry.
There’s a way everything is squeezed together that only happens in Amsterdam. Every millimetre used for something. Everything living in harmony—except when it doesn’t 🙂 And when there is friction, it’s generally low-level stuff: shouting, lawyers, and colourful insults.
Do you have any idea how many people travel by boat? I don’t. But a lot of peace can be found cruising along the canals.
According to certain definitions of what makes a city a city, a city is not a city when there are no corner cafés!
Some days the people in the city appear (to me) as groups of performing artists: each with a story to act out. You see… proof again that there’s no reason to ever get bored in Amsterdam.
The bicycles rested at the altar of Child with Man and begged for mercy. “Our riders!” they cried. “Our riders have lost their minds. They’re moving us around like crazy wheels and making us attack the tourists!”
You have to wonder who came up with the idea to build pointed spires.
So there’s this grey thing with a blue bit at the top and an illuminated rectangle that you need to press with your fingertips. Then you take a small piece of plastic and push it into a slot near the rectangle, tap your finger on the illuminated surface (a couple more times), and then wait for permission to leave your seats-with-glass-and-doors-and-four-wheels machine at the side of the road.
These days you can stand for minutes at a time and watch someone stare at the magic in their hand.
Another pair of gymshoes suspended high above the rest of us. How do they get there? And what is their plan? Perhaps the street lamp knows. “Er… Streetlamp? What are those shoes doing up there?” “No idea mate. I went to sleep and when I woke up they were here. Didn’t ask permission, or anything like that. They just moved onto my cable as if they owned it. The worst part is they’re blocking my view into the Jansen’s kitchen. I mean, the bleeding nerve of it all!”
Another corner, another café. This time around I was caught and held captive by the large blocks of red.
At what point during the evolution of the step did we realise they were also great for sitting on?
Someone stands, at peace, their own private bubble, in the middle of everything. In their hand is an open book: the reader’s stance tells us she has recently jumped into the pages and set off on an adventure.
…And sometimes there appears to be nothing going on but the perfectly ordinary. A trio of boxes patiently standing on the left; a mini-auto waits for its owner; two pedestrians cross two different road; two ladies share a terrace — close enough to see one another, too far away for conversation…
An almost typical Amsterdam street scene—except for the cyclist in the blue t-shirt* who manages to be in two other places at the same time. * not necessarily visible on a phone screen.
There’s nothing new about human beings waiting for things. However, waiting in lines… well, that must be the sign of a thoroughly modern society. The reasons for lining up range from the inexplicable (waiting in line to be the first one to buy a phone that will be in the hands of hundreds and thousands of other people within the hour) to the unavoidable (waiting in A&E for them to reset a broken arm) to the understandable (waiting to visit the Anne Frank House).
A gang of cycling tourists takes a break, tries to gather their collective thoughts, and discuss how best to keep their bicycle wheels out of the tram rail grooves. No one told them cycling around Amsterdam can be (though it isn’t always) pretty rough on the nerves.
I have no idea what I was looking at, or what (my version of) the story was here. Will probably figure this out a few years from now…
Remember those cyclists? Well here they are again—coincidentally. They’re on the move, but don’t look at all stable. I’ll assume they eventually reached their destination.
Of course it’s none of my business, but still… When I see an arch like that I do wonder what kind of people live beyond it. Most probably just like the rest of us. On the other hand… Under different circumstances…
It’s been said before, and I’ll say it again: the best television is whatever you’re watching when sitting on a terrace as the world goes by.
I can’t imagine living in a city without canals and boats. Other places are cool: great to hang out, or live in for a while. But that slow, easy back and forth of the boats is in perfect sync with my spirit.
Whenever I come across a set of white stripes—brightening up those dark rivers of Tarmac, two questions spring to mind. 1) What would happen if they took away all the stripes? 2) What would the city look like if the stripe painters lost control and turned the streets into one continuous zebra crossing?
The guy with the wild white hair caught my eye. There was something about his movement, and the way he gazed up at the circling seagulls. You do know young polar bears are exceptionally good at disguise and camouflage. Just saying…
An opening on the other side of the water. Watching faces at an opening is a personal favourite pastime. An endless supply of the most wonderful facial expressions: an interesting contrast with what hangs on the walls.
In a not so faraway future most of the boats gliding through the canals will have electric motors. I wonder how the City will sound then.
Some days—and this is probably caused by a combination of humidity and air pressure—an age old feeling jumps out of a cupboard in my head. Way back in childhood I believed the windows in buildings were in fact eyes. No amount of logic or science could break my conviction that buildings watched everything we got up to. And then I ’grew up’, but that didn’t put an end to my suspicions about Windows.
And here’s to all those ordinary buildings on ordinary street corners. You know, the buildings we live and work in, but for some strange reason we never really stop to admire.
If I were Prime Minister, Mayor, or someone with great powers, I’d make street trade a compulsory part of the higher education curriculum. Some of my best, most absurd, wonderful, and frightening conversations have been with street traders.