Amsterdam: Park and Gay Pride

Today was rather draining, and occasionally disappointing, but I'm glad to have lived it. The day started off with me trying to find a grocery store so I could get some food for the day that wouldn't empty my pockets as much as the food yesterday did. I knew there was a Lidl somewhere in the city center, but I didn't recall where, so I asked the front desk of the hotel for advice. The advice I received took me away from the city proper to a super market that I was unable to find. I did, however, find some other super market where I got half a loaf of bread and a 500 gram pack of potato-egg salad, perfect for spreading. Due to not actually having a knife (that wasn't packed up deep in my luggage), I made due with washing my RWTH library card and using that instead.

With my food for the day sorted, I headed into the city to visit the flower market. (This took longer than expected due to underestimating the scale on Google Maps. Given an ankle still recovering from a sprain, the high amount of walking from yesterday and today have made it rather sore). Now, I don't particularly care for roses and lily's and the like. However, you can't visit Amsterdam and not look at some flowers. I was actually pleasantly surprised by the plants I saw there. My favorites are shown below. I also came across several types of cactus that reminded me of alien worlds and bad sci-fi. If a guy tried to woo me with roses, I'd be unimpressed, but I would totally accept a cactus.

Left to Right: Anthurium, Medinilla, and Bromeliad.
After the flower market, which was considerably smaller than I'd expected, I walked through the Spiegelkwatier (Mirror Quarter), a section of the city full of antiques stores and tiny art galleries. I always feel awkward going into a shop knowing that I have no intention of buying anything, especially when I'm the only person in there. I feel as though I'm giving the owner false hope or something. Thus, I stuck to window shopping. The art I saw wasn't quite to my tastes, but some of the antique stores looked fairly interesting. One specialized in clocks. I had never realized how creative one can get with a pendulum. Another shop had model ships, sextants, clocks, and most likely telescopes and barometers further inside. One window I passed seemed filled with typical enough knick knacks until I realized that the life-size cat sculpture at the front was an actual living cat. It brushed up against the glass, and I bemoaned the barrier between us. A sign on the shop door had the feline's photo and the caption "This store protected by attack cat."

I eventually emerged from the Spiegelkwartier and hit the shopping hotspot of Leidseplein. Most of the shops were clothes or food, neither of which I wanted to torture myself with by looking at and not purchasing. However, the Eichholtz Delicatessen stood out to me. It advertised as a US and British foods shop. I expected to see quasi-american products that I could laugh at. When I opened the door though, I was confronted with a row of brand-name Cereals I haven't seen in months. The sight hit me like a ton of bricks. It was like remembering something you'd forgotten that you had forgotten. I continued looking. Some things like Twix were nothing special, as the Mars company is pretty big in Germany. However, pop-tarts, Aunt Jemima's, Betty Crocker cake mixes, frosting tubs, pie tins, and A&W root-beer all evoked similar feelings of "oh yeah! Those things!" in me. I caved and purchased a can of A&W to hydrate like a proper yank. With that taste of reverse-culture shock, I'm not sure if I'm looking forward to being home more or less now. We'll find out what happens tomorrow.

The only things I had left in my itinerary for the day were going to a free concert at 1pm in the Vondelpark and following that up with the Gay Pride canal parade. I had a bit over an hour to kill by the time I'd reached the park, half limping due to walking too far without break. The park is a long, skinny stretch of grass and trees dotted with ponds and sculptures. If I'm honest, many of the sculptures look to me like scaled up papier-mâché. However, Pablo Picasso apparently loved the park so much that he donated a sculpture of his own creation to it. It resides on the far south end, which I did not feel like walking to. Instead, I located the open air theater where the free concert was supposed to occur and climbed the tree just outside it. Its branches were so wonderfully thick and horizontal that they made for rather comfortable seating once I'd figured out how to climb with a purse and a bag full of potato salad. While waiting for it to be 1, a bike tour came along and stopped right under the branches. The tour guide explained that the spot on which they stood was actually the lowest point in all of Amsterdam, a full 6 meters below sea level. She commented that if the dikes ever broke-down, "I hope you can swim or climb trees like this girl who is setting a good example." It's always nice to be included.

When the "concert" finally started, I realized I had understood less of the dutch description than I'd thought. It turned out that the "Jazz Barones" were a group that put on kid shows with some jazz thrown in. This was not one of those kids shows that the parents can enjoy too, so I packed up and headed to the parade early.

The parade was PACKED. People lined the sides of every side of the canals 3-rows deep. Some lucky few looked out from overlooking windows while others climbed up to stand on the first floor window ledges. The clothes ranged from normal to studded leather to go-go-geisha, and that was just the observers. The barges themselves were just as varied, but way more dramatic. I'm talking full silver body-paint, a boat full of shirtless centurions, two guys on water-jets wearing business suits, and way more. In order to get a view at all, I first tried standing atop a tiny bollard with one hand on a lamppost to support myself. However, having all my weight on the middle of one foot and the side of one hand got uncomfortable fast. I switched to standing on one of the countless bike racks trying not to accidentally step on a stranger's bicycle. This worked far, far better.

Now, seeing all these people loud and proud was really cool and uplifting. Enjoying their costumes, dancing, and party music was fun. So very fun. So much. intensely noisy fun. Fun with so many other people. Yep. These crowds sure are having fun. It's...fuuuuuuu - okay I ditched. I had had as much as I could take of it all. I could either be somewhere comfortably distant from the crowds but necessitating a rather uncomfortable viewing perch, or I could be kind to my feet, but be surrounded by presses of people. I do not like presses of people, in particular people I don't know. Had I been with friends, the story would have been different. As it was, I could not handle being alone in a giant, rambunctious crowd. By the time I'd gotten away from it all and located a tram to take me home, it was just shy of 4pm. A party animal I most definitely am not.

Honestly, Amsterdam is a place I think I'd hate to live. My experience may have been different had I gone to one of the museums instead of to a shopping area (blame my aversion to paying entrance fees.) However, the constant piles of people and bikes and people on bikes making crossing streets an even more confusing exercise in nonverbal communication just leads me to suspect that I would fry my circuits if I had to stay a few days longer. It's been an experience, but if I had to choose a major City to live in, I'd prefer Berlin and its subways and wide streets or Cologne and its reasonably predictable traffic patterns.

Tomorrow: The flight.

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