Thursday, September 8, 2011

Amsterdam - It`s Easy to be Happy

A friend of mine, who was quoting someone else, once said: “If you want to piss-off your enemies live a good life.” That`s very true. We are a product of our circumstances and to a certain point we can choose our circumstances. I choose to be happy and part of that is discovering what the world has to offer and seeing how I react to it.

Up until now my reaction to Amsterdam has been a joyful one. Don`t get me wrong. I miss having coffee and conversation in Afrikaans and although we like to complain in sunny SA we have a standard of living that a lot of Europeans can only dream about.

Let’s talk about Amsterdam though. Amsterdam is steeped in history. The centre of Amsterdam is also a World Heritage site and it is very compact and it is an amazing place to get lost in – which I inadvertently have been doing a lot of. I just get this feeling of wonder when I walk past a building that is older than the European settlement in South Africa. That also means a lot of history gets lost. The sign of Amsterdam is the XXX. It hasn`t got anything to do with the Red Light District but no one actually knows why it`s used. There are some theories, but no one knows for sure.

Amsterdam is also all about cycling. Cyclists are at the top of the transport food chain while pedestrians are like plankton. It is just the way it works. The cycling lanes make the whole city accessible within 40 minutes of cycling. That is if you don`t mind getting drenched in the twice-a-day-downpours.
I have always found it perplexing if people talk about tourist traps but after seeing city central and especially the Red Light District I understand the term fully. It is really difficult to meet a Dutch person in these areas and clubbing and coffee in the touristy side of town especially Leidse- and Rembrandtplein is expensive. This means you need to take some imitative and really try and discover the one of the myriad of shops, the cafes and the clubs that works for you.

To put it in perspective. Discovery makes me happy. In Amsterdam there is a lot to discover and therefore it`s easy to be happy in this slightly off-beat cosmopolitan town of a city.     

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