Dans le port d'Amsterdam
But here I am, in a very unusual apartment- and not only because it has been designed, like the whole quarter by a famous Amsterdam School’s arquitect- H.P. Berlage ( 1856-1934). The apartment, in which you can get lost, is like a sanctuary- full of books,exotic objects and photos from travelling around the world. We are in a real sanctuary of a SUFI (words like mureed, meanig student, or cheraga - leader of a ceremony, were totally new for me), the teachers’ trainer- teacher of the teachers in a world, a writer and a poet. Her lifetime work for the world peace and education made her too busy to allow her to dedicate time to her secret passion: TANGO. It is never too late, though...
Now, we are here, with our mission to teach her tango. And at the same time she is sharing her Amsterdam with us. She is the best guide we could ever had: somebody who loves and knows her own city. And she is a real Amsterdamer! One more time, we escape from the tourist pattern and tourist circle- our first day MARYAM takes us for one of her favourite walks from Amstel to the Center of Amsterdam.
Tuesday, an absolutely perfect sunny afternoon that NO DUTCH TAKES FOR GRANTED- you never know how long it is going to last! Once the sun is shining, out you are taking all the adventages of this gift. Thus we submerged in THIS MAGIC CITY.
AMSTERDAM is the city of subtle noices- the river, the bicycles, the birds, the church bells, the beer glasses in the ubiquitos tables outside the cafes- sing a joyful summer song. And it is not a cacophony of city noises at all- THE TRAFFIC NOISES ARE MISSING! The car traffic is restricted to such an extend, that you forget it exist!
Our walk started at the Amstel right river bank, where we admired the boat-houses of all the forms, colours and sizes, then we passed a former TOWN HALL, now Archives, a posh AMSTEL HOTEL, where our guardian angel Maryam is going to have her good bye party ( by her editorial), a second hand market, a Jewish District, where, in a most charming spot by the Water House- Sluiswachtershuisje( that means small house of the care taker of the lock) we had our beers, and then Maryam showed us Rembrandt’s house, in the moment of his financial peak, to finally get to Red Light District ( where are the legendary infernal beauties? Victor was asking- all those overweight middle aged African mummies are the famous Amsterdam hookers? Another myth dissipates, he admits. The Swedish myth was nr one to disappear...) and to the Center- tourist Center, with its Queens Palace and Mdme Tussaud’s vax museum. As soon as we reached the tourist Amsterdam, we got the noise and the traffic and the crowds- and we appreciated OUR GENUINE AMSTERDAM we have just descovered and rushed back to it!
As Maryam left us in the Center to explore, we have decided to have a slow way back home along the left Amster river bank. This is what we liked the most- canal after canal crossing the river, floating houses on both sides of a river and canals, tipical Dutch arquitecture on both sides, thousands of bicycles passing by ( and alas! Shall we always be walking on the bicycle path?!) people smiling to us from their boat-houses...And the timelessness! Is it a sunny weather slowing down the life of a city? Or Dutch life style? Nobody seems to be in a hurry, even the cyclers seem to be riding the bicycle without a proper destination.
Back in the Berlage designed building, in our quiet appartment- sanctuary. But even in this sanctuary there is wine. And two beautiful black cats named Zippora and Hiawatha.
This makes us feel really at home, but at the same time we think about our Malena, left in Buenos Aires. She is not easily forgiving us those half a year absences in Buenos Aires! The rooms are big enough to dance tango, you hardly need to move the chairs- and not only just for one couple!
Next day was a MARKET DAY, that means, we had our first experience of the biggest and most famous market- and it happens to be just round the house! It is Albert Cuypstraat
Maryam also wanted to shop for the tango shoes on the way ( maybe we will find good high heels for her) Unfortunately our tango shoe collection does not have anything fitting her feet. This was also the day to explore the wanderful urbanistic planning of Amsterdam' school arquitects: AMSTEL district.
Maryam’s background is as colorful and cosmopolitan as she is ( and radiates) herself: Indonesian mother, Eastern European Jew father. She married a Hindustani from Suriname and lived there for a long time before coming back to Amsterdam - she explained us this unusual family connections as we walked along Amstel river. Nevertheless she loves her Amsterdam where she was born and is at home. Her life was a neverending travel, because of her work- she worked in India, Vietnam, Russia Eastern Europe, Carribean.. In her apartement’s library you can find Russian, Portugese, Rumanian and Indian dictionaries. She dominates not only verbal languages- sign language and Braille are also part of her communicational system. Once, she use to one of the commitee advicing the Dutch government about the legistation of the language for the deaf, other times- the immigrants’ education in Holland.A responsibility to live in a rich western European country- as we talked about yesterday...
Now, she explores another NON VERBAL COMMUNICATION, universal communication- TANGO... And we have the responsability to transmit...
It started all right with our morning tango class. But this day we had to experience a tipical Dutch weather- it has been raining most of the day... We have started our exploring of Amsterdam still dry. Our idea of that day’s walk was:
-localizing Holenderechtstraat 5, where our dear Nico ( look chapter Alkmaar) was born and spent most of his life, till he moved to Alkmaar
- follow Amstelkkannal up to RIJKSMUSEUM, have a walk around this museum complex, relfex whether go give some time and attention to van Gogh or go to see other big masters, take a tourist photo in front of the I AMSTERDAM
- follow the Singelgracht canal, go to LEIDSEgracht and square up to Princengracht
- follow the Prinsengracht up to where Anne Frank’s house
- explore Jordaan
- time permitting take a boat trip from Central station down Amstel
Unfortunately we underestimated the weather... not all the days in Holland are like Tuesaday or Wednesday! Only a part of this ambitious day’s plan was fullfilled. No sooner we got to Rijksmuseum and took a photo ( the last one!) of I AMSTERDAM, the drizzle started. As we reached Leidse square, the drizzed converted into a shower. After a coffe with Prince Canal’s view, we lost hope the shower would end, and we continued Prince Canal but towards the Amstel. Another coffe, but no hope for change. Finally, our Amstel river took us back home, totally drained we feeling lucky that Amsterdam’s reality is not our normal reality, and this weather was just the last half a day... We felt so happy to possess a pair of keys to get to our cosy, warm Berlage apartment, open a bottle of wine and plan pasta dinner. At least our Amsterdam’s experience was complete!
From the house to Victorie Plein, and then van Woustraat if we want the most direct way to hit a Cuypstraat, but we will probably take small streets – Pieter Loodewijk, then Keijserstraat to van Ostadestaat, up to the Ostade Theater and up Saarphatipark and Sweelinckstraat to Albert C. Market. Coming by our preferred way- JUST FOLLOWING THE CANALS!
Late in the afternoon we will take one of those splendid double- decker trains for 1, 5 hour travel to EINDHOVEN.Amsterdam- WE WILL BE BACK!
- Dutch EIER BRANDY- simply delicious! Added to Aisha ‘s favourite liquors ‘list. Introduced by Nico in Alkmaar. Wanderful addition to any ice cream. Described by Nico as ‘ladies’drink’. Taken as a good bye present. But the bottle was finished a day after, in Amsterdam. To your health, Nico & Ans!
- Stroopwafels. Offered by Ans with a morning coffe. Love at first bite! Victor simply could not stop eating till the last one disappeared in his mouth. During the stroll on Albert Cuypstraat market he recognized and bought a package for immediately consumption ( sharing with Aisha)
- Dutch herring. Introduction by Maryam. No comparison with fermented herring of Sweden, or vinegary herrings of Eastern Europe. It is row, fresh, just with some salt. TASSSSSTY!