Wednesday, July 27, 2005


Ten years ago today - Amsterdam

If I'd had a blog 10 years ago while I was traveling through Europe, this is what I'd've written today.

10:45 am, 28 July 1995

If the tiny, twisting cobble-stone streets winding around the canals is Amsterdam's heaven, then its hell is definitely Centraal Station. It seemed innocuous enough at 8:30 yesterday morning when all I had to do was breeze through it. This morning, however, I thought I'd be smart and get my seat reservation for Sunday (2 days hence) to Koblenz. There's only 50 people in line ahead of me. I had to wait in line to take a number! If I had a guilder for every backpack in this waiting room, I could fly to Koblenz.

My first night in Amsterdam was pretty calm. I wandered the streets for hours, from the crazy shops in tourist hell (they seem to love "The Tie Rack" here - I've seen at least four of them. Go figure.) to the residential and artsy streets near the Jordaan. I took a nice canal boat tour (cliché, I know, but nice!) and was actually asleep before dark. No, really Mom, I'm serious!

7:25 pm
same day

I'm sitting in a sidewalk café drinking a cappucino, after having finished a light supper of a salami-and-cheese sandwich on a crusty baguette with a beer and some sort of pickled salad.

I've found eating to be a bit of an inconvenience, partly because I'm shy about entering a restaurant and sitting by myself, and partly because the menues are all in Dutch, and I'm not ordering anything I can't readily identify in a culture that prides itself on raw pickled-herring-and-hard-boiled-egg sandwiches sold from roadside stands as prolific as chip wagons in Ottawa.

It really is a fascinating city, this Amsterdam. It seems the tourists outnumber the natives 3 to 1.


8:25 pm


From my hotel room, I can hear the carillons of the "Westerkerk" or West Church. It's a huge, lovely old church with a tall tower called the Westertoren, for which this hotel is named. Oddly, the carillons chime on the half-hour every hour. For example, after the chimes, it bongs four times at 3:30 or nine times at 8:30.

One of the neatest things about Amsterdam is the furniture hooks on each canal house. The doors are so narrow and the staircases so steep that all the furniture gets hauled up with a pulley and goes in through the window. Every single residence in the old city has one. Just further proof to my building suspicion: you'd have to be crazy to live in Amsterdam!