Amsterdam. City’s on fire!

…/and literary it was the last day of my four day trip. How symbolic, – I thought, – looking at the flames and smoke. I was petrified that was my last day on Earth.

We were sitting on a bench by the The American Bookstore eating our frites drowned in satésaus (peanut sauce), dark thick smoke above our heads and sirens of fire brigade around.

  • I’m used to this in London, but sirens and helicopters in Amsterdam gives me the unsettling feeling, – I confessed to a friend.

Before I left, police caught the guy, who set the buildings on fire as a protest. I was told that the incendiary previously lived in one of the squats that recently were taken away and scheduled for renovation. Once again, the Dutch emergency services proved their name of smooth operators.

Four days before that, I landed straight to Koningsdag (King’s Day). The flight from London Gatwick to Amsterdam Schiphol took about half an hour. It took me longer (three hours to be precise) to get to the airport, because I decided to take a bus ride. Of course there was traffic, and of course there was an accident on a highway. It would have been quicker to walk. Never ever take a bus to the airport.

The weather prognosis scared most of the tourists away and, indeed, it was the coldest Koningsdag since 1995, but neither the cold rain, nor occasional snow defeated the festive spirit.

We took a slow walk to the centre of Amsterdam enjoying the tranquil part of the town. I did not realise how much I missed the culture and people. There is something about the Netherlands and especially Amsterdam, which makes one to come back.

I couldn’t capture what it was, but as soon as we passed a neon sign A Place Beyond Belief on a way to NDSM, I nodded in agreement. NDSM Amsterdam, the former ship wharf, now an up and coming area, hipster paradise with restaurants, bars, terraces, skatepark, new and old architecture, such as Crane Hotel Faralda. Who else if not Dutch would come up with such a bizarre idea to set up accommodation in an actual crane? Mesmerizing, indeed.

Crane Hotel Faralda

Crane Hotel Faralda

We settled in Pllek for a couple of drinks and live music. Perfect spot for warm summer afternoon and rather enjoyable on freezing cold spring day if enough alcoholic beverages consumed.

Before heading back to Amsterdam Centraal we walked around to check other stages, heading towards minimal techno tent I heard a lead singer of some British band discussing monarchy: We also have a queen, but she is fucking lazy, don’t know how your king is

I was ready to party the hell out but a friend of mine informed me that by law all stages will shut at eight o’clock, therefore it was best if we catch a ferry back to the centre at least a couple of minutes before. So we did and the feast went on for the next fifteen minutes with a DJ and personal entertainer. I failed to capture the spirit, but it was a sort of Woodstock comeback.

Evening ended at friends place with šaltibarščiai (cold beetroot soup) and a round of poker.

Next day a friend of mine left to work, so I cycled to dé bibliotheek van Amsterdam (OBA), where I spent most of the two thousand and twelve, to do some writing. The peace I felt there was delightful, words lied on page in even uninterrupted flow up until I felt hungry and it was time to grab a bite.

I met with a good friend of mine and his companion at Café Koosje. I was slightly disappointed with food, the quality changed drastically from the last time I was there for my graduation ceremony, but the all is going to be alright sort of atmosphere is still there.

Evening ended in the legendary jazz bar Alto. We were lucky to get a table next to the stage. Usually the place gets packed around ten. The band played three sets giving their very best performance of ballroom jazz. It was an engaging evening, in fact so engaging that a friend of mine missed the last tram and had to borrow a bike from a work colleague to cycle home.

Friday was all about culture and cakes. Prior an afternoon at Rijksmuseum, we popped to this little Barbie met Alice in Wonderland café called De taart van m’n tante (My Aunt’s Cake). Since the menu was Dutch, I asked my friend to order, she double-checked: what would you like? And I went: I want cherries and cream, see what you can do.

She did well. And so did the little aunt’s helpers: the cake was beautiful and the black coffee made the visit a heavenly experience.

Recently re-opened Rijksmuseum defeated me with Rembrandt’s Night Watch painting and Makerchair Hexagon proto 2 by Joris Laarman. A detailed analysis of Winter Landscape with Ice Skaters by Hendrick Avercamp was a pleasant discovery, I laughed childishly spotting a curious man’s head poking out an outdoor toilet.

Rembrandt’s Night Watch

Rembrandt’s Night Watch

Later in the evening I met my dear friends for a slice of delicious pizza, a bottle of red and a joyful gossip session at Da Portare Via, followed by a walk to Captein & Co, updates and another bottle of wine. It was hard to part but we agreed to meet soon, this time in London.

Since, the clubbing plan fell apart due to my incapability to manage time, a friend of mine who waited for me back home offered to grab another drink in the neighbourhood.

I was pleasantly surprised by the make-over of Javastraat, which now offers a vast choice of places to hangout, feast and consume all sorts of beverages. I had Bloody Mary and my friend enjoyed a glass of Gin and Tonic, we joked that probably there are still some people who are up since King’s Day and to prove the point a man who sat outside went to his bike and rolled out massive flag with Koningsdag written on it.


Flevopark | friends’ dog Vilnius

Saturday was quite, I felt like walking, so we borrowed a friend’s dog and strolled in Flewopark for couple of hours.

When I moved in to Amsterdam in early autumn of two thousand and eleven, a friend of mine, who also hosted me this time, took me out to meet her Amsterdam and I loved it, I remember her say: People call Paris a city of romance, but in my opinion, it’s Amsterdam. Therefore this time, before I said goodbye until we meet again, I felt like re-visiting all the places. We went to the Oudemanhuispoort and the book market, walked around the area, popped into a few design shops, flipped through magazines at Athenaeum.

Book market

Book market

As we cycled back to my friend’s place, I remembered the fragment of the conversation we had over the lunch at Koosje. A friend of mine invited me to his Airbnb flat terrace to enjoy sun through purple haze. I hesitated for a second, then said: I would love to, but I don’t want to lose any time, I crave to breathe Amsterdam in as much as possible.

I think, I did pretty well.


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