04 September 2006

transit typing

I am sitting on the train going south from Amsterdam, after a weekend in the city. I still love it as much as before, even though the weather is just the kind that reminds me of why I like living in Iceland- a day that SEEMs cool and fresh because of the wind, but the humidity in the causes everyone to go limp and soggy. Still, the cafe living and the texture of the city is enough to make me overlook that, just for the weekend.

Yesterday I went back to Cahmen's favorite cafe, just for old time's sake. I chose a seat at a wicker chair with a thin-legged metal table under the yellow striped awning in the uncertain sunshine, watching the waiters cross the street with their full trays to the bridge seating. Another cafe on the opposite corner had pigeons plaguing the guests and tables, so the waiters there would come out with a supercharged water gun to chase them away every few rounds.

I ordered gazpacho to start, my second of the weekend. The one I'd had the night before contained apples and shrimp, but this one was just honest tomato-vegetable goodness, topped with crispy, flavorful homemade croutons. Accompanied by a citron pressé mixed just as I like, the combination made the most of the summery weekend and the relaxed afternoon there.

As I sat, bicycles, horse carriages, and delivery wagons passed occasionally- just enough activity to give a lone diner plenty to watch, but not so much that I couldn't appreciate each individual ping of a bell, clatter of horse hooves, and hum of Dutch from across the street. Tourist packs wandered by occasionally and moved on- all flavors of visitors, from the Sensibly Shod American types to some fierce Italian guys sporting waistpacks like it was the next Hot Trend (is it? They were the kind of Italian man that can wear whatever and make it look like the latest thing).

Sometimes I feel like this brand of tourism is not the most productive, since I have now been to Amsterdam twice and not been to the Rijksmuseum (in my defense, the line was discouraginly long when I went by yesterday and today, and there is a notice informing visitors of the construction that closes part of the museum). Still, whenever I'm sitting and having these lazy lunches or walks in the neighborhood, I am always fizzing with internal glee that I am HERE, in whatever legendary city it may be.

I found myself in a similar position this morning when I took a detour from my hotel on the way downtown. I ended up in what I will dub the South End of Amsterdam. Anyone who has been to the posh parts of the South End of Boston where all the gay couples are buying brownstones will know the vibe I am talking about. Astounding late Victorian to early Edwardian buildings with a few on the early side of Deco, the tree-lined streets were silent and rain-washed this morning. The wealthy, well-maintained feeling still exuded from the silent facades, and glimpses to the inside revealed sleek, book-lined interiors stocked with beautiful art.

After about twenty minutes of wandering I ended up on the edge of Vondel Park, a construction I think Olmsted would have approved of- networks of bike and walking paths, willow trees drooping into the ponds and meandering brooks, and wrought-iron humped bridges that crossed in convenient spots into willow-draped glens. In spite of the blustery weather that hinted at the changing season, people were out jogging and strolling, and I followed a mother and her two young children on puddle patrol around half a pond (this means going to the puddles and stomping in them a lot, to decide which is the "best" puddle. Important to wear rubber boots for this one).

I could wander all day just looking at buildings there. The architectural periods are among my favorites, and the detailing goes all the way to the font on the mail slots. I love spotting things like that. The activities in the neighborhoods are also much more interesting to witness- parents teaching children to ride bicycles, people coming home with their grocery shopping, peeks at people reading books curled up on their couches inside, and I even came upon the arrival of a bride in a vintage white VW convertible Beetle (top up due to the rain). I want to know how everyone lives here, not what I am directed to see by the sign posts, the stripe on the sidewalk, or the guidebook paraphernalia at the hotel desk. Sure, I miss a few things, but so do all the people who come just to stand in front of the Night Watch. Maybe next time for that. In the meantime, I'll remember the hand-knitted bike paniers and the guy with the two dozen green and purple balloons walking down the street.

Ship sighting: On the way out of town on the train, I passed the Amstel Botel, which looks like a joy of tackiness to stay at. The rooms are shipshape, and it even has a pool table. Neat!


Jen said...

Wonderful entry! And I love citron presse, too. Happy thoughts for your ongoing adventure.

sb said...

It is amazing how some neighbourhoods in Europe are similar to the South End, especially in that part of Amsterdam. The insides of some of these houses is amazing.
The reason also for the houses to be so narrow, is because when they were built, the owner paid taxes I believe per size of their front side. The wealthier they were the wider the facade, the more annual property taxes they paid. These houses can extend quite far back. And if you notice the tops of the buildings, some are more detailed or elaborate than others. The more decorative, the wealthier the owner of that property. People showed off their wealth by the facade in size and ornaments. You'll see that there are hooks or tallies, all the way at the top of some of these buildings which were used when people needed to move in or out. The stairs tend to be extremely narrow and steep. Also the top floor was usually for the maids, just like in France, the 'Chambre de Bonne'
Even still to this date, some of the top floors of the Amsterdam apartments are not heated, brrr it got very cold there in the winter time.

Sometime in the time of Vermeer or Rembrandt the price of a tulip bulb was at times as expensive as the price of a house.

The word Tulip originates from Turkey, when the Dutch merchants were travelling around the globe, and when they arrived in Turkey apparently one day a guide took them out to the fields, where the Dutch merchants saw Tulips in abundance. The Dutch man pointed and said what is this. The Turkish guide thought he was pointing at a man in the field, wearing a turban.
Not so, but the word in Dutch sounds extremely similar to Turban or Tulpen.
The Dutch were the first to cultivate the Tulip, which used to be one of the wild flowers native to Turkey.

So much info :D Holland is a good place....I hope I'm not repeating myself here, phew ...if so, I'm having a brainfahrt once again...my apology then :D

Enjoy your stay, if you go again, you can skip upon a train and travel to Paris, London, Prague, just for the weekend ;) could be lotsafun too

dtw said...

Ah, I love traveling without having any hurry to visit all of the most famous sights there are.

When I was doing my North American tour last summer, I didn't plan pretty much anything beforehand. In Toronto I found Wayne Gretzky's restaurant by pure accident. I knew such existed but I never bothered to find out where it was located, just happened to stroll in front of it. Too bad the service wasn't just as great as how Gretzky's linemates had it back when he still played...

Then there's a pretty lovely memory from London when I was there for the first time with my dad. We were starting to be a little tired in the noon and found a nice little pub in a peaceful alley just off Oxford Street. We ordered pints of Guinness, went to the tables outside. I miss the serenity of watching the hustle going on at Oxford St. in our quiet little safe hold.

Although when I'll eventually end up visiting the Netherlands, I'll HAVE to go see the Escher museum in Hague...

ECS said...

Jen- thanks! I really enjoy Amsterdam so I'm glad some of that came through.

Sirrý- A lot of the neighborhoods I was in on Sunday were later than the period I think you're talking about, but the information is definitely interesting. I was actually wondering if those hooks are still used for moving in, since there is a building I have now passed 3 times just south of the train station that looks newly constructed and still has those hooks. Maybe it's just one of those architectural carryovers from the past.

As for the tops of the older buildings, it's too bad they're so frosty, since that is where I would like to live best. I am a big fan of attic and top floor rooms. It's where I always want to be if I can.

On trips to other countries, I had actually considered going to Paris to visit family that lives there but there was not enough advance notice to coordinate anything. Hopefully next time I have to travel here I will have better luck!

DTW- Sounds like we agree on the serendipity of wandering travel! I've had great times walking around some of these great European cities. The only thing that dampens my spirit is extremely hot weather. I would love to go back to Rome on my own time in a colder month and wander there, since June's temperatures were not encouraging me to roam in Rome.

Liz said...

Handknitted bike paniers?

ECS said...

photo is forthcoming, liz :-) I knew some knitting friend would be curious about that one! I just am on a different computer on this trip and I forgot my flickr password. They were pretty awesome.

dtw said...

Heh, I don't like heat either. Pretty much the only thing I didn't like in my NA tour was the constant heat of August. I'm apparently built to endure cold, not heat. Some friend have apparently stopped asking me whether it's cold outside if we're going somewhere. I guess I don't feel cold that early.

When I was in Rome, it was in late February. The climate was rather perfect, 10ish Celsius in the morning and 15ish after it warmed a bit. The locals had their fluffiest, heaviest winter coats on while I was pondering if I need a college shirt on top of my tee or not. When in Rome, I couldn't do as Romans did... But I can easily suggest going back around that time of the year. I don't think I'm too wrong if I said that you'd love it. The spring seemed already to be blooming in the Mediterranean.