The International Writers
Its Spring in
Amsterdam and with Spring come the tourists in their hundreds. Just swarming
out of the train station like busy bees, all clamouring to get a piece
of the action in Amsterdam. Clipped Brit accents, loud and excited Spanish,
smooth and pretty French and a guttural German, it is a babel of voices
in the coffee shops dotting the city. Amsterdam draws them all and there
is something for everyone.
Marianne de Nazareth
tram swings alarmingly close to the other tram going in the opposite
direction, bells clanging and swishing past with barely a couple
of inches in between. In time you get used to it, and if in Amsterdam,
a tram ride is the most fun thing to use to get across the city.
For 1.6 Euro you can jump on and jump off as many trams as you
like across the city within two hours. But if you plan to visit
Amsterdam a strong pair of walking shoes is the best way to see
the city. Just wander around soaking in the sights.
I love Amsterdam with
its old world air in the city centre to the more modern suburbs which
reflect a very different Amsterdam. The concentric canals in the city
centre draw me like a magnet and my tram card does not help much. The
card gives me the freedom to ride wherever I want all day all over the
city. So if the urge hits me like it did this morning, I just pull on
my jeans and tee and am off with my digi cam to capture the sights for
the travel pieces that I write. Doing my Masters in Journalism with the
Erasmus Mundus I am in Amsterdam for six months. Six months of unadulterated
bliss. Class is twice a week and in between studying for them and writing
my assignments I ramble around the city taking in everything I possibly
can. Its an opportunity of a lifetime which I am seizing with both
it sin city, call it quaint and classic, call it libertine, call
it the party capital of Europe. Amsterdam has it all from
cozy cafés where you can chat all day, to wild parties where
you can dance all night, from a Concert Hall to the Red Light District
there is something for everyone. The Dutch say café for pub,
but its the same concept as ours in India. You can sit outside
in the sunshine and relax, sip a beer, soak in the sun, read the
papers, or write post cards home while the pigeons peck around your
feet for the crumbs of your Broodje (sandwich). Gezelligheid or
Dutch conviviality abounds wherever you go.
The Art Museums are de rigeur for me an art lover. Not the post modern
splashes for me. I want what I consider art --- Rembrandt Vermeer and
Van Gogh. Those are men whose work reflects the kind of art I will pay
10 Euros to go and see. Its worth every cent going to the museums
and wallowing for a good two hours in their art. Imagine standing infront
of the real live Sunflowers by Van Gogh or Night Watch
by Rembrandt? A frisson of excitement runs up and down my spine when I
see these world famous pieces in the flesh so to speak! You
can even buy a museum card for 30 Euros and see all 400 museums in The
Netherlands for that. Once you have had your fix of high culture, then
ramble down to Leidserplien and sit outside a café and enjoy the
sun while sipping your chilled Orangeboom beer while the pigeons peck
for crumbs of your broodjes (sandwich) at your feet.
Leidseplien is the place for night life where you can take in a blues
concert or even dance the night away at one of the more up market night
spots. There is always something happening at Leidserplien which is full
of tourists now that its high season. Cafes spill out onto the plazas
and since its bright till almost 9pm everyone prefers sitting outside
enjoying the warmth of the sun.
My hostel is truly international with Greek, French, Polish, Spanish,
Danish, Belgian and me from India all living together happily on one floor.
We all have separate rooms and private toilets but the common kitchen
draws us all to cook and enjoy one another company whenever we are off
studying. My Indian curries draw the Danish and Polish inmates who have
fun enjoying how to cook an Indian meal and eat it with me! Agata the
Polish girl decided to treat us all to placki ziemniaczane (potato pancakes)
with brown sugar one evening. Thats Amsterdam for you, genuine Amsterdam,
a mosaic of many cultures all living quite happily together.
Floating Flower Market is buzzing with excitement in Spring with
Tulips in every conceivable colour kept in tubs for sale. There
are even Rembrandt tulips with their bold and colourful stripe on
sale made famous by the master in his paintings. There are orchids
from Thailand and Geraniums and Fuschias from the UK, there are
Clemantis and Amaryllis and of course the roses. The Roses come
from both Africa and India and their perfume scents the air all
around. Whats nice is on the other side of this really narrow
street the cafes spread themselves here as well!
Tourists sit outside
enjoying both the flowers and the sunshine with their coffee or beer.
Of course the start up kits of Cannabis made me smile. On
sale for as little as 4.5 Euros, these kits promise nirvana for those
Cannabis addicts who prefer to grow their own rather than fork out the
then, how can you not cycle in Amsterdam. Thats the national
pastime with the Dutch who are very fit with cycling, never mind
the number of broken bones which happen every once in a while. Its
something that is passed down from one generation to the next with
entire families out on cycles going to work and school together.
You can rent a bike for a couple of Euros in Amsterdam BUT be very
sure you have a sturdy lock as you can come out to find your bike
stolen quite easily. Junkies abound and bikes are the easiest thing
for them to sell to make enough for a fix.
Amsterdam and how can you miss the Red Light District? There is
nothing sneaky about sex in The Netherlands and dont be too
surprised if you run into a brothel on the same street as a beautiful
church. The Red Light District has its own attitude, where the women
stand in the windows and quite unabashedly turn around for the men
to ogle. Every once in a while a man knocks on the window and then
the curtain is drawn to signal she is busy. The red
light district comes alive at night when the red lights come on
and their rosette hue is reflected in the inky black canals in front.
There are sex shops
selling all your heart desires and there are live theatres where a sleazy
show can be watched, all in the name of art. This is where
the world got the famous term Red Light District apparently. But dont
you dare take out your camera here. You can almost get bodily harmed
by one of the prostitutes if you do. They dont take kindly to
ignorant tourists or journalists, I learnt the hard way!
Ride a bike with the wind in your hair, feed the pigeons in front of
the imposing Dam, eat slices of Gouda or sip a Grolsch beer in Amsterdam.
This is one city which is different from any other in the world and
worth a visit.
© Marianne de Nazareth April 2007
Erasmus Mundus Masters in Journalism and Media within Globalization:
The European Perspective
by the Indian Ocean
Marianne de Nazareth
Marianne de Nazareth
the real feel of the Indian jungle
Nagarhole National Park
Marianne de Nazareth
If you are a nature lover, only then make the trip down to Nagarhole
National Park where the long awaited monsoon has rejuvenated the park
after three years of drought more
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