Paris was in our rearview mirror as we boarded the train on our way to Amsterdam. The pressure was off. My Mom’s dream had been lived, but now we are heading to one of my absolute favourite cities. At the time there was a wave of heat, as hot as hell on our tail. Our hotel was a bit outside the city center but also nestled right up to the water, so what would a 4o minute walk bother us? It was fine, totally fine. We would arrive and toss our luggage and then go right on back and walk the same route to the center. I mean who doesn’t love walking 4 miles right off the start? You don’t? Weird.
Coming out of Amsterdam Central light beams down and shines the spotlight on throngs upon throngs of people. They are bumping you, stepping on your toes, breathing on you and pushing you into the bike lane (which is a death wish). Within the first few minutes, my Mom suggests a canal tour. I haven’t done one before so we hop into the closest vessel we can find. Our first expedition was a fail, due to the bulletproof plastic blocking our views. They call these windows, but let’s just be honest shall we? They were dizzying plastic shield and all open-aired seats were taken.
The next boat would leave the dock in 45 minutes so naturally with my face still scarlet red from confrontation we stumbled into the nearest pub and let the beer work its way to our bellies. Conversation swinging back and fourth as minutes fly past, empty glasses left on the bar. A little swing in our step as we boarded our boat, fully prepped to meander through the canals of Amsterdam while the wind blew in our hair. No matter how many times my eyes fall upon the gabled houses splashed in dark colours amazement always sets in. My imagination takes over and I imagine myself sitting upon a windowsill or feet dangling into the canal off my houseboat while humans buzz through my city. A quick cry for an undeserved tip as the audio recording clicks out and I am back to the reality of our tour that was muffled with infant screams and the slapping of the water.
Over the next few days we slowed down our gruesome pace, mostly because the heat was suffocating and I might break my Mom if we kept it up. I got mad at Google Maps and disregarded street art as we made our way to Vondel Park. Crossing through unfamiliar streets we picked up some lunch and eventually found ourselves protected from the heat underneath a canopy of green. Vondel Park provided endless amounts of people watching as we wound through walkways in an attempt to avoid the vicious stream of cyclists. It was clear that this was their city and if we lost attention for just a moment, we just might end up as a hood ornament.
The carbonation of the cider sparkling in our veins as our feet lead us down heavily draped canals. Walking into the Jordaan district nestled next to the sleepy canals as we we went on a failed expedition to find some tiny houses and experimental tapas before the clock struck eight. There was a sea of people waiting for their entrance into the Anne Frank house, and we became one of them. It’s amazing to watch hoards of people flowing through these hallways in complete silence listening to an audio recording explaining the horrors these walls have witnessed looking for the ghost of the souls that once existed here. The atmosphere in the Anne Frank museum is heavy, the air is nearly frozen and the sound of Anne’s causes your skin to chill. In a single room there could be over 12 people who comes from different corners of the world and for that moment while our eyes are glistening just a bit more usual, vision is getting blurred, our throats tighten and somehow we realize every one of us is connected. If only we could remember this feeling of interconnectedness outside this house and take the lessons of a girl saw light in darkness and remind us that “What is done cannot be undone, but one can prevent it happening again.” Maybe then the world could be a little better of a place.
The rest of our time in Amsterdam was spent knee deep in cider and sipping on beer with a Turkish Delight outside a windmill bar. The three of us cozied up in a local Italian jaunt which was dripping in authenticity and prosecco. In fact, it was such a delight, we went back and had it twice. In a couple days we navigated ourselves around canals, made new friends who were draped in rainbows while dancing in alleyways, dodged bikes like bullets and succumbed to the heatwave that had finally caught up to us…