Sunday, December 16, 2018

Life in Amsterdam

November 16 - December 7

Well we've reached the 6 month mark of our European experience.  As I reflect, there is a part of me that says the transition and been extremely smooth, but at the same time we have had to make major adjustments.  Since we are in a bit of a traveling break I thought I'd share a few of those.  I will start with transportation.  The city is always a buzz with people moving about, all with somewhere to go.
So you've heard of the movie titled "Planes Trains and Automobiles."  Amsterdam should be titled "Bikes, People, Trams, Scooters, Trains and Automobiles."  One of the key differences in The Netherlands and the US is personal responsibility.  The mixing of people and vehicles is like a large jambalaya.  You are expected to look where you are going and pay attention.  No guardrails or loud sirens.  Just a bell on the tram and voice from a bicycle "ga uit de weg!"  Look down.  If you are between two rails you'd better move.  Not too complicated.

On a related note, do not drive in the city unless you absolutely have to.   There is movement everywhere and if a car runs into something, it's is always the cars fault.  Combined that with the rain and darkness at 4:30 pm in the winter and if you drive, you are shaking hands with danger bro!

We have verified that the "whatever, whenever" reputation of Amsterdam is well earned.  There are outdoor urinals, the smell of marijuana at every corner and of course the red light district.  People typically dress in darker colors and a little more conservatively, but they don't blink an eye at wild outfits, body piercings and tattoos everywhere or brightly colored hair.  Cheryl and I have yet to partake into many of these activities but I did keep with tradition and dress up for Halloween.  Funny how people walk right past the person with 58 nose and ear piercings and florescent yellow hair but stair in amazement at a "pumpkin pi" costume.

With all the wonderful things The Netherlands as to offer, native food is not their strongest attribute.  Certainly you can get delicious food in the city (particularly Indonesian) but home grown food is an acquired taste.  For example, I have become friends with a local marathon runner Paul Zwama, who by the way, just set the world record for running a marathon on a treadmill (click here.)  He is a good cook of Dutch food and invited us over for Hutspot.  Its a native dish of mashed potatoes and carrots often served with sausage.  It is healthy and Paul did a great job cooking it, but it's not something you would seek out in a local restaurant.

Cheryl and I live in a terrific location in Amsterdam a block from the Museumplein (think Van Gogh museum).  We are always walking over there to see what's going on.  They do a terrific job transforming this area into new and unique experiences.  For example, this summer they set up a polo match.  No joke, the kind with horses and the whole deal.  Right now they are in the holiday spirit and have created a winter wonderland including an ice skating rink.  There are markets, museums (obviously) and simply people picnic on the grass.  It is a very unique and popular place.

Stairs, stairs and more stairs - The unique architecture in Amsterdam is from the 17th century and believe it or not, they didn't have the ADA back then.  Most of the buildings are at least 5 level and contain narrow steep stairs.  Our apartment is better than most but I still need to do a little stretching and get in a mental zone every night I come home from work before attacking the stairs to our living room.

Bikes, bikes and more bikes - There are over 880,000 bikes in Amsterdam compared to a population of 850,000.  Now I'm no Einstein but that's a pretty high ratio.  People ride their bikes everywhere in any kind of weather.  Sorry, mine's stored until spring!  You can see Cheryl cruising on her fancy bike along the canal (when the weather was warmer of course).

It's December now and the kids will be here for Christmas.  We are really looking forward to that and you can bet there will be a few stories to share.  Knowing our family, they might not be fit for all ages.  Until then, enjoy the Holidays!!