Amsterdam revisited

Hoards of young guys and girls, wearing team shirts, began singing and shouting as they

marched through the streets of Amsterdam, preparing for the soccer game that evening

between their team, AJAX, and Manchester United.(AJAX lost but the Dutch still celebrated).

The trams stopped running due to the chaos in the streets; the bars were overflowing with

younger folk waiting for the game to begin; my only option to get back to the hotel was by foot.

As I crossed Vondelpark, toward my hotel, it felt like a warm summer day in the country.

Couples were lounging on the grass in front of the lake, and bicycle riders were dodging the

pedestrians. It was a welcomed escape from the tourist drone. Back at the hotel, exhausted

from 2 days of walking and 24 hour jet lag, I went to bed at The next morning I was

traveling to a small town in Belgium.

Relieved to be leaving Amsterdam, I reminisced over my short stay. Becoming a tourist

destination is good for business but unpleasant for the locals; the cost of living rises but not their

salaries. Fast food restaurants replaced locally owned cafes. The infamous American chains,

like KFC, and Pizza Hut, had inspired so many Dutch look alikes. Along with food came the

trendy clothing stores. Of course Abercrombie and Zara were there and many look a likes with

names like Biggles, Scotch and Soda and Sissy-Boy; the same generic clothes worn all over

the world by young girls and boys. Did I mention Starbucks all over the city?

But not everything was disappointing.

The canals are still charming and for transportation bike riding competes with driving. At least

half the city is on bikes so its more likely to be run over by a bike than a car. My 3*hotel was in

a upscale residential neighborhood, far from the maddening crowd.. the quality and price of the

food in the shops is so much better. My breakfast was a delicious croissant, black bread, jam,

butter and a doppio cappuccino for $6.90. My favorite museum in Amsterdam is the Stedeljik,

( translation state museum). The special exhibition was Dutch portrait photographer Rineke

Dijkstra, making me a little jealous that I never tried to make a career in art. I museumed out at

the World press Photo show and finally at the Foam photo gallery, showcasing the American

street photographer William Eggleston.

As I was sitting in the cafe at Foam, devouring home made cheesecake,,I started a

conversation with the interesting looking man next to me. An expat American, he lived between

Britain and wherever he fancied; the girl cooking was an Italian from New Jersey who spoke

fluent Dutch after several years living in Amsterdam; definitely not like the Americans living in

Mexico who barely speak 50 words of Spanish.

My next stop on my journey was to visit Dutch friends, who I met in the seventies in Greece.

They lived in a small Belgium village in a big house, surrounded by a lush landscape. Distances

in Europe are small so I expected to be in Eindhoven in 90 minutes. But the train was pulled out

of service halfway there and we had to wait for another train. Since we were an entire train of

people, it felt like New York City at rush hour. Searching for the bus to Achel in Belgium, I

stopped a large black woman to ask directions. She didn’t speak English so I asked if she was

from West Africa and spoke French. She did and she was from the DRCongo. And I’m sure

happy to be out of Africa. Twenty five minutes later the bus arrived and my friend was waiting

at the station; I hadn’t seen her in 9 years.

As if it were yesterday, we easily began our conversation. During my 4 day visit, we drove to

Hasselt, a charming town in central Belgium, which had the most amazing department store I

had ever seen. Floor to ceiling glass windows, halls lined with ornate jewelry in frames, over a

1000 different styles of shoes at affordable prices and many departments filled with interesting

clothing for men, women and kids. I had the feeling of being in a huge art gallery with affordable

art. I rarely see anything that excites me back home, but I was overwhelmed with so many

interesting clothing, shoe and house ware designs. So I went on a shopping spree and had a


After visiting the Modamuseum in Hasselt, an exhibition showcasing the influence of Japanese

culture on fashion through the 20th century and beyond, we walked the cobblestone streets,

lined with old stone houses. This was a Catholic holiday, an official day off in Europe, so the

whole town was in the streets celebrating the first rising of Christ, by shopping, and sitting in

cafes eating and drinking. More culture the next day driving west back into Holland to the

famous Kroller-muller museum near Arnhem. After only 1.5 hours we are in the center of the


The museum is located on a 75 acre estate with bicycle paths leading to the museum. We left

our car and with one of the hundreds of available bikes(no gears) we rode 11 km ( 6.8m)

through all kinds of terrain to the museum. Known for its collection of Van Gogh, and a

sculpture garden filled with 160 pieces done by world famous artists, there was a huge

exhibition of the French Swiss sculptor painter Jean Arp. Shopping, art viewing and the last day

an outdoor activity in a metal canoe down a shallow river. Within minutes the canoe tipped over

and both my friend and I were in the river along with our iPhones. I am happy to report that my

iPhone 7 plus survived possibly because it was in a battery case. The case however, did not

survive the drowning. Since I have been kayaking for years, I know how to handle a boat, and

was surprised we flipped. We had to keep paddling for 1.5 hours in our wet clothes, full of

seaweed and dirt, to return to the other end of the river where our car was parked. And then we

realized my seat was missing a screw on the left side, causing me to lean to the left and flip the

boat. We complained to the owner’s son who was speechless, most don’t complain here. After a

phone conversation, they agreed to pay for repairs for one phone.

My short visit with my friends Jan and Ingrid was close to its end but hopefully to be continued

again soon. Next stop Berlin.

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