Amsterdam: First Contact

Dutch Vacation. Day One – Amsterdam

At the beginning of August my son called and suggested that we go with him to Amsterdam. The Netherlands was to host the World Triathlon Championships. Two years ago he had made the U.S. team, but the competition was understandably canceled. Eventually the situation improved and the host was quite confident that the event would take place. They bought tickets and waited. On August 8, the Netherlands changed the conditions for entry, leaving it only for vaccinated people. Not critical, given that we were vaccinated. Next, on August 30, the European Union issued a recommendation that America be considered epidemically endangered. We were eight days away from leaving. The Netherlands was silent until Friday, September 3. I wake up in the morning and there is a message in the mail from the airline that starting tomorrow I not only need a vaccination, but also a test and a 10-day quarantine. I think that’s it, the trip is ruined. I called my son, and he said that the sports committee had applied for exemption from quarantine. I was waiting and worried. On Sunday I got a letter of invitation from the Dutch Olympic Committee and a permission not to be in quarantine. It was just a matter of taking the test.

The test wasn’t easy either. It was either the usual PCR in 48 hours or the rapid antigen in 24 hours. Considering that my flight left at 9:30 p.m., and the tests are taken from 9 to 5, the time was 36 or 12 hours, respectively. I decided to do a quick one, made an appointment for the morning of the flight. I came and they were out of antigen tests. Where to go? They suggested doing PCR, also a rapid test, but more expensive. No choice, agreed. I think the excitement of waiting for the result is familiar to many. Finally, I got the desired certificate, rushed home to finish packing and to the airport. I came in about three hours, there were not many people and everyone had a whole folder of documents. The plane was almost empty, and only one or two of the eight seats in the row were occupied. I got comfortable on the four seats in the middle, because it was a night flight. We were accelerating for takeoff, and then suddenly stopped. What happened? Technical malfunction. I thought that was it, so I guess it was not meant to be. We sit there for an hour, they say something in the computer. And the test time is ticking. Finally, here we go. I couldn’t believe it myself when I got out of the passport control at Schiphol airport.

The competition was held in a small town of Almere, which is 25 kilometers away from Amsterdam, so we booked a hotel there for the first four days. The train ride from the airport took 27 minutes. I got there without any adventures. I dropped my stuff and went back to the station. I bought a ticket to Amsterdam and back from the machine, so I had a little trouble figuring out the platforms. I missed the first train, but the next one took me to the center in 20 minutes.

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The central station in Amsterdam looks more like a medieval castle. The red brick building is richly decorated with bas-reliefs. In the center is the coat of arms of the city surrounded by the coats of arms of the fourteen European trading cities connected by rail with Amsterdam. Below are depicted the continents whose goods were delivered to the capital of the Netherlands. Two towers with colorful dials whose gilded hands show the time and wind direction, which was important in the age of sailing ships.

The sun was glaring, making it impossible to see St. Nicholas Basilica. People were rushing about their business, streetcars were clanking and jackhammers were chattering. Without consulting the map, I went along with the crowd.

The flow of people brought to the main street – Damrak. The street was paved by partially filling in the river Amstel. On one side you can see the pier with pleasure boats.

On the other – stores, cafes, hotels. The whole first floor is no different from other tourist towns. But above is the extraordinary beauty. One house is better than another. Buildings of the 18th, 19th, early 20th century – in a short stretch there are 23 national monuments.

The gray house in the middle was built at the turn of the 15th and 16th centuries.

I didn’t notice how I reached Exchange Square (Beursplein). Amsterdam Stock Exchange is considered to be the oldest securities market in the world. The exchange was founded in 1602 by the Dutch East India Company. In 1912 the exchange moved into the newly constructed building, designed by Joseph Kuipers, son of Peter Kuipers, author of the design of Amsterdam Central Station.

To the left of the square adjoins the old Beurs van Berlage Mercantile Exchange. The red brick building was built between 1896 and 1903. It was designed by Hendrik Petrus Berlage. Under the clock on the 40-meter tower is the inscription: Wait for your turn. Six lanterns and two fountains were also designed by Berlage. The lanterns with an elegant wrought iron wattle at the base are topped with an openwork crown. In 2000 an attempt was made to replace them with creations by contemporary artists, but they quickly abandoned the idea and removed the green scarecrows.

On the other side of the huge De Bijenkorf Shopping Center, which translates as “the beehive”. Bijenkorf store chain was founded in 1870. It is the oldest and largest building in Amsterdam.

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The Lego model in the lobby reminds us of the company’s 150th anniversary last year.

I remembered that there was a nice cafe in the store. The time was well past noon, and I ate a modest breakfast on the plane. On the 5th floor I found a cafe with a simple name, “Cuisine”. I ordered grilled salmon with fennel garnish and arugula salad. The dish cost about 16 euros.

I settled by the window with a beautiful view on the Damrak and the New Church (Nieuwe Kerk).

After having eaten my lunch, I went outside and was right in Dam Square. Just started to look at the Royal Palace when an attendant came out and said that it was open. The only restriction – tickets could only be paid by contactless cards. Without any queue I bought a ticket, put my things in the checkroom and went into the magnificent Parade Hall.

The palace is the largest and most prestigious building of the Golden Age in the Netherlands. Built between 1648 and 1665 to a design by architect Jacob van Kampen, it originally served as the town hall. In 1808, however, two years after King Louis Napoleon came to the throne, the building was converted into a royal residence.

The decorations of the palace are intended to reflect the power and wealth of 17th-century Amsterdam.

The palace was built in the style of Dutch classicism. Symmetry appears throughout. To the right and left of the Central Hall are inner courtyards surrounded by galleries.

The sculptures and bas-reliefs are carved in white marble. An Atlantean with a heavenly vault on her shoulders, and underneath is Justice. At her feet are King Midas and Invidia, personifications of Greed and Envy.

On the opposite wall is the Virgin of Amsterdam with an olive branch and palm leaves. To her right is Minerva, the personification of wisdom, to her left is Hercules the symbol of strength. Above them is the goddess of Peace with an olive branch and a rod wrapped in snakes. The same statue, only in bronze, is placed above the main tympanum of the palace.

The figures were made by the 17th century Flemish sculptor Artus Quellin the Elder. The lunettes are painted by famous artists. “Brinio raised on the shield” – Jan Lievens, 1661.

On the perimeter of the hall are the royal apartments and meeting rooms, whose collection of paintings and antique furniture would be the envy of any museum.

The painting above the fireplace was painted by Rembrandt’s pupil Jurgen Ovens in 1662.

The Council Hall is decorated with equestrian portraits of monarchs.

Gorgeous bronze chandeliers jingling with crystal.

I tried to avoid the modern creations scattered here and there. But they kept creeping into the frame. Maybe they were put there to emphasize the contrast with real masterpieces. Such as a painting by Ferdinand Bohl, also of the Rembrandt school, Fabritius and Pyrrhus of 1656.

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The paintings on the ceilings are also from the 17th century.

The pediment of the western facade is crowned by a bronze figure of Atlanta. Curiously enough, the models for all the bronze statues were the marble sculptures of the palace.

I wanted to go to the New Church, but it was closed until Saturday. Jumping ahead to say that a week later I did not get inside. The church is used for exhibitions of contemporary art, so without interference look at the ancient interiors is not possible.

In the gap between the palace and the church I noticed a bright striped building with elegant turrets. The Magna Plaza Trading Center, formerly the main post office, was built in 1895-1899 in the Neo-Gothic style.

Nearby is another interesting specimen. The hotel Die Port van Cleve stands on the site of an old brewery. Beer has been brewed here since 1592. The building got a new facade in 1888.

Although my way was in the other direction, but looking along the street, I could not resist and came to the house with the coat of arms of the city above the entrance. The office building was built in 1888 for the Handelsvereeniging Amsterdam Trade Association (HVA). The HVA traded products of agricultural companies in the Dutch East Indies, hence apparently the bundles of fruit on the facade.

Old Amsterdam is arranged very simply. From the station go directly along Damrak street to Dam Square, there turn right and walk to the first canal. Once more to the right and along the promenade you go back to the station. The main thing is to remember one street and one canal and walk around as long as you’re strong enough.

So I went from one canal to the other. The oldest Single Canal was dug in XV century and served as part of medieval Amsterdam’s protective moat.

Now it is only the first of five canals that surround the center of the city making up the “canal belt” of the Grachtengordel.

The three main canals of the Grachtengrundel – the Heerengracht, Keizersgracht and Prinsengracht – were dug in the 17th century to expand the borders of the city, which could no longer accommodate the growing population.

Wandered along the narrow embankments, crossing bridges, dodging passing cyclists.

The canal ring is built up with houses of about the same size. When building in the Grachtengordel, everyone, even the wealthiest merchant, had to abide by a number of planning rules. In particular, the city council prescribed the size of each building plot: the width of the front was to be thirty feet, the depth of the house was to be two hundred feet.

Fear and loathing in Amsterdam

The result is what we see today – tall, narrow houses differing only in the shape of the gable. The earliest surviving pediments, dating from the early seventeenth century, are shaped like steps.

However, from the 1650s came the fashion for cervical and bell-shaped gables.

Each house had a protruding block with a hook, which was used to lift furniture and other goods to the upper floor.

Some bought two plots at once, so the house was symmetrically glued together from two identical plots.

The street Raadhuisstraat led to the Westermarkt square. Here lived a French philosopher and mathematician, the creator of analytical geometry, Rene Descartes. In 1895, several old houses were demolished to build the Market Gallery (left).

On the banks of the Prinsengracht Canal stands the Calvinist Church of Westerkerk, one of the few built specifically for Protestants. The church was built in 1620-1631. It is remarkable for the highest bell tower in Amsterdam, 87 meters high, crowned with a model of the crown of the Austrian Emperor Maximilian I. Above the clock is a carillon cast in the workshop of François Hemony in 1658. On the approach to the tower I heard a melodious ringing.

At the church, I turned back and took the familiar route back to the Single Canal. I walked along the side streets to the massive Dominicuskerk building. I walked around trying to find the entrance, and then I noticed that the red lights along the street were on.

I turned around on purpose so I could get a picture of the Dominican church in the background. The ledge on the corner was supposed to be the base of the bell tower, which for unknown reasons was never built.

Fear and Loathing in Amsterdam

A story about gangster Amsterdam and the rules of communication with dangerous characters: how not to make a mess and defeat Evil.

18+. Be vigilant and careful!

It was a beautiful, sunny day in Amsterdam. It was the second day of our trip. While Columbia was doing business in the Red Light District, the Master and I were sitting peacefully on the canal bank blasting Moroccan goods. All around, people were living life, flanking the streets and making new intra-European acquaintances. We didn’t want to move at all and just hung out on a classic Rastaman note.

Amsterdam through the prism of Moroccan stiff feels something like this:

But the lightness of being didn’t last long – Colombia came back and brought a little present with him. The gift was a black drug dealer, hooking himself like a worm and impudently imposing his cocaine product on us. The Master and I paid him no attention, and Colombia explained to the alien that the offer did not meet our demand and, like, goodbye.

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The active gesticulation, the finger pointing toward the water, and the aggressive tone were disconcerting. I remember jokingly telling the Master that the whole scene looked as if the damn bandit was threatening Columbia to drown him in the nearest canal. As soon as the thought was uttered, Columbia’s head turned slowly in our direction and his lips muttered, “Guys, that’s what he says.” And then it was like an icy wave, because my ears finally heard the words repeated like an incantation by this uninvited guest, “You will swim here. I’ll kill you. You will swim here. I’ll kill you. “. I knew the dirty bastard was serious.

fear and loathing in amsterdam

(Photo: KaylaKandzorra /

It was only at that moment that I looked into his eyes for the first time and saw that they were filled with blood.

Who knows what was going on in this character’s head, but one thing was absolutely clear – the shithead was dead on some kind of heavy drug, locked up on bad drugs, and was really pissed off.

The first rule of dealing with crackheads is don’t turn your back on them.

You can turn your back on a man, but never turn your back on a junkie. Especially when he’s waving a razor-sharp hunting knife in front of your eyes.

Fear and loathing in Las Vegas.

Knowing this, I began to gently take the situation out-unhurriedly taking our company away from the canal, facing the aggressor, who continued to spin his spell over and over again. Then the pace could be quickened. We moved through the streets, hoping that the damn suction cup would come off sooner or later. We had to walk quite a distance before it did.

But as the bastard began to move away, two new characters of similar color and insolence surrounded us on either flank in a clear and well-established pattern. One only strode alongside for a while and quickly fell off somewhere. The other held out for quite a while, trying to manipulate his way into the alley he wanted. The Master clearly recognized the scheme and did not allow the gold-toothed gangster to set the route of travel, we finally passed out of the Red Light District and Evil disappeared, hiding in his dark alleyways.

fear and loathing in amsterdam

(Photo: SimSullen /

People on our way were shocked by what was happening and kept away from our company, afraid to get involved in a conflict. This is the law of life – if you’re in trouble, you have to take it out yourself, don’t expect help from strangers. This should always be remembered and do not lose your temper. The main thing is not to be provoked, or you will be torn to shreds by a pack of black pimps.

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