Written on my phone at about 12:30AM
I’m a little bit tipsy in West Amsterdam right now, but I found something so interesting here. Being a history major gives me a lot of context about where I travel to and helps me feel the weight of each place. There is an unseen force in Amsterdam that I can’t explain but it is something I feel while I bike along the narrow streets. It’s a beauty that all of your senses experience here. I can sense the people who lived here before – it’s like they never left. They are the winds of the Netherlands that run through this city welcoming you into their space and saying hello. Greet them with all of your love and they will take you on an unforgettable journey that leaves you breathless. Altijd.
The day after
Last night I had an experience that is difficult to explain. I was at table with a spectrum of people: Dutch, German, Spanish, Finnish, British, and American. We switched between languages based on what we knew how to speak as other people did in the pub while we watched football. Drumming on the table with beer and fries getting to know each other. The game ended and it was time to bike all the way back to West Amsterdam, which is when I began to feel the weight of this city. It’s such a feeling to be on your bike in the middle of the night here when no one else is outside. You just let go of your handles and let your arms feel the wind that runs through your shirt and jacket then up onto your face. People decades ago did the same thing and had this same experience in the middle of the night biking home. It was an overwhelming feeling of happiness where I felt more than just my own. I felt all of them. Amsterdam was a spiritual experience.
A special thing about Amsterdam is the cross-over between refugees of the present and past here, which are two completely different experiences in themselves that I only have an outside perspective of. There were the refugees that fled across the Europe to escape Germany just to lock themselves in attics, and now the same thing is happening again. At least now the refugees have the freedom to be outside in public without any judgement. It does not make their experience any less disheartening than previous ones though – they are all awful. You feel this when you see it, and I felt it even more when I went into old bookstores that had attics rather than the Anne Frank house which is pretty well-kept.
I think it was interesting to see the layouts of these homes and stores. It was a reality so long ago for refugees and it made me upset to think that people had to do this. To hide in the dark. They had to hide behind walls with only small lines of light running through the room waiting for something to happen despite not knowing what that something would be. Maybe I felt this more in the bookstores because of the book burnings that took place in history. These places were full of books from the floor to the ceiling – the ceilings were higher than you could imagine. I know this isn’t meant to be a response to the past, but it was a good historical connection that I made in my personal experience.
The grocery store I went to in Amsterdam was in the area where the new refugees are. I really wanted to take photos, but I didn’t want to cross any lines while I was there out of respect for them and their new life in the Netherlands. It would have been different if it was a project I planned prior to my visit and already setup interviews but that wasn’t the case. It was a contrast that I made in my head how they have the freedom to be outside yet are still trapped in an obscure way. It just made me realize something that I will talk about in a different post.
I suggest Amsterdam to everyone. You can feel the past and present asylums that are here. It’s something that you can only do your best to explain and that’s why I highly encourage a visit.