Things To Do When You’re Alone In Amsterdam
Still, one food memory that will stick with me is that of a simple stroopwafel, which comprises two thin waffle-like wafers with a treacle-like syrup in the middle. It was something I had tasted before, but never like this — served hot after an exhilarating and emotional day in the rain, running among tulips at the famous Keukenhof in the town of Lisse. Also known as the Garden of Europe, every inch of this place is breathtaking on its own, but what made it special was the nostalgia. The Netherlands had welcomed me once before so, unsurprisingly, a great many of my favourite childhood photos featured my parents and me amongst the tulips. So the day that I visited the garden as an adult was exceptional not only because I was there during their year-long celebration of Van Gogh and lucky enough to witness the early stages of a flower bulb mosaic of the artist, but also because I got to spontaneously run around with a group of enthusiastic girls who helped me recreate my first visit. By the time the camera shutter clicked for the last time — in front of a windmill that still looked the same after 23 years — we were drenched, shivering and out of breath. In that moment, nothing could have warmed my heart and hands as much as the golden brown delight from a friendly cart owner did.
THE NOT-SO-USUAL SUSPECTS
Most first-timers in Amsterdam are surprised to discover that you’re never more than a walk away from where you want to go in the city. Still, most folks already know where they’ll be going, even before they arrive. What I learnt from my time there, though, was that extraordinary experiences happen on a whim, because this city is one of stark contrasts. There are the usual suspects like the notorious ‘coffee shops’, cannabis novelty stores and the Red Light District, but there are also jazz cafes, buskers, flea markets and a plethora of great design.
For art lovers, of course, there are iconic museums and galleries that must be checked off your list — the capital is proud of its Dutch masters, and with good reason. Even though I managed to visit both the Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum, I wished I had more time to gaze at the tortured artist’s brushstrokes and letters or be dwarfed by the frenzied grandeur of Rembrandt’s The Night Watch. In contrast, the unknown side of Amsterdam’s art offerings is one that drew me in at first sight. A hushed-up yet rich street art scene thrives here, a major part of which comprises graffiti artists. You will most likely see large colourful murals while walking through Spuistraat, but if you really pay attention, the entire city is speckled with little masterpieces.
So yes, Amsterdam is a paradoxical city but, because of this, I could discover it on my own terms. I understood that it is probably why the people here are so mesmerisingly audacious, inspired, provocative and, most importantly, happy. It taught me that it’s okay not to have everything mapped out, in whichever sense you choose to read that. I was lost many times, even with my phone and maps; I was recklessly lost, and it was wonderful. Of course, there were times that I felt intimidated, times that I wished for a familiar hand to hold; how could there not be? But these were the moments that pushed me to turn fear and uncertainty into trust. Trust in the city, in the thoughtful strangers who reached out, and in myself. Because, somewhere in between it all, I became my own ‘home’.
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