Thursday, December 19, 2013

Juxtapose

Some final words on Amsterdam. 

It's a city of great juxtaposition where, for instance, you might have a corner gambling casino next to an apartment building next to a law office, next to the motorcycle shop, which we noted while waiting for a tram.

Even more startling, at least to me, is the prostitutes on the right, the cities oldest church on the left and down where the people are walking is a day care center.




Amsterdam is a city on built on a human scale and, because of the canals, a city whose center has changed little for centuries. It is a very easy city to walk, very compact with many streets too narrow for cars. An easy city to bike, of course.




 I read that 78% of Amsterdamers have bikes. No one wears a helmet and their fatality count is usually 5-6 per year, which means the death per kilometer pedaled is tiny. Bikes get their own lanes everywhere, which no doubt helps tremendously, but the bike lanes constantly cross streets and sidewalks. And the riders must contend with clueless and careless tourists who walk in the bike lane.

But for those who cannot walk or ride a bike, there are micro cars that are allowed to drive in the bike lane and park of the sidewalk. Just roll your wheelchair in the back and go. 


We easily located the place we stayed for two weeks long ago. It has changed names, gotten new paint and doubtless remodeled inside, but the building was still there and it was still a cheap hotel. Mark set the camera on a car and set the timer.  A man walking by asked why and I explained that we had stayed here in 1979.

"Ah yes." He smiled. "Where the erotica began. But why are you still together?" He laughed and strode away.

(It is coincidence that the address is Singel 69, and the post in the foreground is to keep cars off the sidewalk. The triple X has nothing to do with the city's famed openness, but is directly taken from the Amsterdam Coat of Arms and is seen on all city buildings, vehicles and uniforms. The three Xs are called St. Andrews Crosses.)


We met no one who didn't speak English, but that may not be true countrywide. We noted that much of their TV programming is British or American with Dutch subtitles. We also noted that two of our 22 channels showed darts on the evenings we tuned in. 

The written Dutch has so many words that are similar to English or words we got from them. Like koekje. (The J is silent). And their word for police is politie, which looks a lot like polite. Seemed very appropriate. We saw few police in Amsterdam and rarely heard sirens. In Paris, there were sirens constantly and police, armed and armored, were a common sight. Once, several vanloads pulled over near us and a bunch of officers jumped out and began walking in several directions and then one ended up pulling out a paper map over which they consulted. Despite their badass attire, it was comical.

Trivia answer-  Amsterdam hosted the 1928 Olympics, which were the first to allow women and the first to have a big torch. The torch and stadium are still there. 

And now some photos from the Amsterdam Festival of Lights. Not your traditional Christmas look.


Notes from and photos of Dutch Jews just before the Nazis removed them, projected on a wall. 

    This bed floated in the canal outside our window.


Festival of lamps in front of City Hall, which many locals call Shitty Hall because they don't 
appreciate the modern architecture. 



 






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