Travel journal – morning:
“I don’t think the website mentioned that you have to walk through the Redlight District to get the ‘best cappuccino of Amsterdam’. But it was well worth it. It indeed is the best one I’ve tasted since I’m back in the Netherlands, and this coffee&design-store has a nice feel to it.
So here I am. By myself, sipping on my favorite drink in one of my favorite cities in the world. I needed this, a day of my own. I missed traveling, I missed spending a day by myself, exploring and observing life around me with only my camera, journal and open eyes. I stepped into the train this morning to do these very things, to travel within Dutch borders.”
Travel journal – late afternoon:
“I sit down with a sigh. I found my spot, not too many people around me, but enough to observe some interesting interactions. It’s busy in the Vondelpark, of course it is. Tourists and locals spread themselves on the grass to enjoy the sunshine . I take out my books, two of which I bought today. I adore bookstores, especially the old, English ones I found today. It’s a paradise for the learner, the writer and the ponderer, all roles that I gladly fulfill. Soaking in all the worlds that are yet to be discovered between those book covers; I could stay in these stores for hours, which was exactly what I did this afternoon.
My feet hurt, my brown sandals have left red straps on them. The miles of Amsterdam have left their mark. I almost never use maps or other navigational tools, because my dad gave me his sense of direction and taught me how to know which way to go. But although I come to Amsterdam numerous times every summer, she still isn’t mine. I’ve been walking in circles and taking random detours until I eventually gave up and took the tram to the park. But it all doesn’t matter, not today. Detours are just extra opportunities to find unexpected treasures in streets I’ve never been and meet random strangers I otherwise would have missed. If you don’t know where you’re going, any route will take you there. This day embraces detours as just as an important part of the journey as the straight lines.
What a good way to end this day. It’s not that I want to make this moment symbolic, because that’s not necessary, not on a day like this. But still, the resemblance of my surroundings with my inner world marks my mind. The sounds of busy traffic is reduced here to a pleasant background noise, like a soundtrack that underlines the peace that dwells around me. It’s exactly what I’m doing today. I cannot pause the flow of daily life, but I can step out of it for a day and watch it fade away to the background for a moment. I can’t change it, but I can change my position, perspective and attitude towards it.
I have spoken very little today. There’s a gentle stillness that I need to wrap around me sometimes, a silence I need to defend. It’s not just a lack of words in human interaction, it’s also not forcing my mind to push thoughts and emotions into vocabulary that reflect the soul. It’s an effortless emptiness that’s so full of being, that the only words that are really enough is the sound of my breathing. Just letting me be.
I put my books back in my briefcase. I don’t know what time I came here or what time it is now, but it’s been good like this. I’m hungry, I want to go home and I’m excited to see my family again. But most of all, I’m satisfied. Vondelpark has given me what I wanted, Amsterdam has offered me enough. I don’t need to stay around for another couple of hours to get more, it’s good like this. Maybe that’s why I move around from place to place so often. I’m just easily satisfied.”
When in Amsterdam – my favorites:
1. Visit the “Negen straatjes” (Nine Streets) in the Jordaan. It’s one of the parts of Amsterdam that’s still quite ‘local’, full of cute stores and nice places to sit down and have a drink.
2. Visit one of the seven ‘coffee specialty bars’ (see photo). If you ask for the ‘koffie omfietskaart’, you can get a stamp at every coffee bar, and you’ll get a free coffee when you have all seven stamps.
Ps: Don’t go looking for coffee shops in Amsterdam, just don’t.
3. Visit the Vondelpark. Especially when the weather is nice, you will find lots of (crazy) people sitting around, making music and enjoying life in this park.
4. Although I don’t like touristic activities, I did enjoy taking a canal tour through Amsterdam. If you can, get a boat or waterbike of your own instead of going with a sightseeing tour.
5. Leave the ‘Kalverstraat’ en ‘Prinsengrachts’ behind and go into the little alleys. The unique shops and local favorites are found at the smaller streets.
Amsterdam in photographs – click here