So here I am in the land of stroopwaffel, windmills and tango. Yes, tango. I have already found a tango teacher here who is available for lessons tomorrow and saturday, not 5 minutes from the centraal station in Amsterdam for about 1/2 as much as the lessons in Paris cost me.
I however, am not in Amsterdam, having hightailed it away from the haven of coffeeshops and red lights, to a small hamlet just inbetween Nimjegen and Arnhem, 2 cities that have some kind of feud going on for a reason that has yet to be explained to me. I can not express with words the level of kindness and hospitality that has been shown to me since I arrived here. Although it could be argued that those words will indeed suffice. I will explain a little.
In Canada, a couple of summers ago, I was hichhiking to the Okanagan to meet up with the fam in Vernon for my da’s birthday. Just outside of Chilliwack, I was picked up by a motorhome, something completely unprecedented for me, as winnebagos are usually driven by the type of tourist who tends to keep a fair distance from those of my ilk. And to my delight, I encountered a father and son from Holland, who were travelling through BC to see the sights, meet some relatives in the OK and pick up crazy hitchhiker girls, all the better for me. I had originally elected to jump off in Hope and cruise the Highway 3 to Oosoyoos and head north from there, but after spending some time with these folk, I elected to take the ride with them to Kelowna. Too cool, these guys. And when we parted, email addresses were exchanged, fond wishes for safe travel and a hope that our paths would cross again some day.
Cut to exterior scene, Amsterdam…intrepid adventuring tango dancer on a cellphone sending a text message to aforementioned supercool guy from Holland. Who does what? Jumps in his car and comes to A’dam(hah! I’m such a local!) to meet her. After kicking about the (small)red light district, getting some momos from a Tibetan restaurant where the proprietress switched from Tibetan to English to Dutch without blinking, having a beer and an unintelligible conversation with a drunk Romanian who may or may not have been a cop/kickboxer back in romania, taking furious amounts of pictures of buildings, canals, boats, bikes and dancing hypodermic syringes at a gay dance party/aids rally, we elected to head out of town (since I felt like I’d seen most of it) and come here. It took much longer than I expected so we arrived around eleven at night. Well. I was fed, given tea, showed to the spare room where a robe and towel were waiting for me and told to feel at home. Okay. That really isn’t a problem for me, if you insist. And so I’ve been kicking it here for a couple of days, which turned out to be fantastically timed, since yesterday I woke up with such a sore throat I thought my windpipe was going to close up. So I just spent most of the day curled up in bed with a white cat and a ginger to keep me company. And no, I haven’t been to any coffeeshops if that’s what you’re thinking.
To be honest, my first impression of Amsterdam wasn’t great. I’m not a good tourist at the best of times. I like seeing museums, feeling that sense of history that is insanely possible in European cities and towns, experiencing local food, culture, music. But seeing a place because of what it has to offer, and seeing a place because I’ve never seen it before are two very different touristic activities. A’dam is very practiced at catering to a certain reputation, it would seem. Yes, coffeeshops and the red light district, boat tours along the canal, bike tours through the city, walking tours to musee van gogh, anne frank, et al, all very interesting things that you don’t see so rampantly in other cities of this size and age. I’m not here to party like a fiend. I’m not here to purchase sex or even ogle women openly jiggling themselves at passerby because it’s ‘so shocking.’ Paris has much to offer the tourist, but for those who want to experience the city without that aspect, it’s eaaaassssssy. Here, and granted I spent less than a whole day there, it seems impossible to get away from the tourist aspect. And it was grey and rainy. I can’t even imagine how congested it would be on a nice day. Certainly I will go back, if only for tango, but even that will afford me something outside of the ‘come, spend your money, see the triple breasted whore of omicron theta drink bong water from a midget’s boot while balancing wooden shoes on her hoo-ha’ carnival barker style circus. Which is all I ask. I don’t mind spending a couple of hours doing the wander like a goggle eyed tourist, but after that, I want a little sincerity. I want something beyond the facade.
And so fortunately for me, I was able to hightail it to the countryside. Yesterday was a write-off, but today my throat is better so we jumped in the car and headed to a super pretty little village called Bronkhorst that was all artisans and cheese and tiny ponies and magical animals that I thought were goats who had been bred with cows, and turned out to be sheep. We bought stroopwaffels and chocolat, nougaty, hazelnut decadence and beer and looked at veautiful jewelry, sculpture and took furious pictures. Then we took happy pictures and even some silly pictures. Such as what trish’s hair looks like streaming out a window at 130 km an hour. We drove through Baak(where they have no supermarket) and Zutphen(where they do) and along a skinny road with red stripes on either side for bike lanes that turned out to be a dyke. So it suddenly made sense why there were houses only on the one side. It was not however THE dyke where that guy got his finger stuck, so I felt no compulsion to do the same. When I find that one, perhaps I shall. We drove out a long a spit of land (which may have also been a dyke) and saw where the Rhine river (which starts in the Alps) splits into the Rhine and the Waal. And saw some horses all fuzzy and cute.
I saw a sign that read I heart Spankeren, but sadly missed this great and wonderful photo opportunity. Yes, spankeren is a town. Which is what I thought too. I shall upload the pictures when I can (sans spankeren) and in the meantime keep living la vida as loca as much I can without feeling like a cheeseball for quoting that song.
Lovin and livin large darlings, hoping it’s the same all around..