I read an interesting news article (how often do you ever hear than anymore?) in the New York Times by Russell Shorto about 21st century Amsterdam. Much has changed from the Dutch Golden Age, when they were a major maritime power and world explorer. (Speaking of golden age, or olden age, the two photos above are from my very first trip to Amsterdam in 1971).
Perhaps in your travels and bucket list, Amsterdam has fallen off your personal radar. But things are changing, FAST, here. For one thing, the city plans to build 50,000 homes over the next ten years, to house newcomers both Dutch and migrants from Turkey and Morocco. And they are between the ages of 20 and 34, who plan to settle down, live here, and contribute to the craziness that is this city.
But that means real estate is escalating in price, much like many of Europe’s best cities. The Netherlands is one of the few places where it is possible to get a mortgage WITH NO DOWN PAYMENT!!! Rumor has it that Russians and Chinese are buying up these houses. As expected new hotels are ramping up, along with the Airbnb craze. For any of you global hipsters (I do not know any), Amsterdam has become THE place, a society built on coffee and beer.
Fortunately, much about this city has not changed. The heart of the city, the canal zone, still charms us with gabled brick houses from the Dutch Golden Age. Around almost every corner is a bakery, full of croissants and coffee. Don’t forget, Rembrandt lived here in the canal zone, and walked the very streets that I am now walking.
Renting a bicycle is a must. It is considered the only PROPER way to get around the city. Few venture beyond the central city, but head east, west, or north. Amsterdam quickly becomes working class districts colonized by recent immigrants. This split personality has been addressed by city planners, trying to bring the “Noord” into the mainstream of the city. A shopping complex and tunnel “pushes” tourists and cyclists past the train station and places them directly on the waterfront and the free ferries.
They say it is rather easy to become obsessed with the war, Nazis, and the fate of the Jews. The National Holocaust Museum recently opened. The Anne Frank House, now a museum, is a tourist attraction in its own right.
The famous Dutch traders and companies sailed the world, bringing exotic goods directly up to their front doorstep. I find it difficult to comprehend how great their reach around the world had been. Perhaps I can catch some of this spirit as I walk the streets of the city.
So, the flight here from Dublin had at least twenty loud, and obnoxious young Irish lads on board. Once into the city, I met some 40 ish Irish lads on the tram to Museumplein. They all want to talk Trump and Clinton.
But the big kicker to the evening was the nearby Seafood Bar, quite the happening place, I might add. I garnered a seat at the shucking bar, and the rest of the evening is now a blur. First couple I sat next to were from Luxembourg, how unusual is that? Then they were supplanted by a semi-Dutch couple, who live about 40km outside of town. They proceeded to so kindly feed me another dinner plus two more rounds of the best French champagne.
He is a famous veterinarian, and she is a holistic healer. They were just the nicest couple, asking about American politics, my Japanese heritage, and just about anything else. Good thing it is just around the corner from my hotel, since I had way too much champagne. What a way to start this leg of my trip, when I thought Ireland was the best. Now, it is Amsterdam, and the lively, friendly, and generous Dutch people.
I cannot wait for tomorrow!!
Oh, and both bar men were Japanese, one of them half Ethiopian as well. Great guys, I may have to go back and harass them a bit more.