You would think a murder might have taken place.
Not that I don’t get along excellently with my wife’s parents and brother, but with any five family members spending three weeks on end together navigating foreign countries a breaking point is bound to occur. Thankfully with us that point was seldom reached, despite our dwelling as a group in mainly small apartments booked through Airbnb. And the first home we rented, in Amsterdam, was the smallest of them all.
But we immediately felt charmed by that apartment, and its neighbourhood, and the beautiful city they belong to where life is peaceful and things make sense and there is always something of interest just a short tram or bicycle ride away.
Ah, the bicycles! Gentle bell warnings replaced the invasive noise of car horns, and instead of multi-storied parkades I saw tiers upon tiers of bike racks. I’ve never been to a place so well-designed for cyclists. Pathways ran parallel to every road, and everywhere were people pedaling: a mother gliding by with children balanced at her front and back; a teenage boy hunched over handle bars with his lady lounging sideways on the seat behind him; a pair of men on separate sets of wheels, stools balanced in their arms while steering with their knees.
If I lived in Amsterdam I would renounce my four-wheeled gasoline glutton without hesitation. I would get an apartment like the one we dwelled in on our temporary stay, each morning sipping coffee on the balcony while revelling in the serenity of the quiet residential complex. My wife and I would walk hand in hand along the canals, as we often did while we were there, stopping to feed swans along our way to feast on gargantuan Jacketz baked potatoes stuffed and overflowing with toppings. For dessert, a couple of fluffy chocolate space cakes would carry us relaxed and smiling into sleep.
Beyond the vicinity nearest our abode, aided by the frequency and omnipresence of public transit in the city, the choice to visit other areas with ease would afford endless opportunities of curiosity. With warm and syrupy fresh stroopwafels in hand we could peruse the innovative sculptures in the gardens of the Rijksmuseum, perhaps chancing to hear a solo busker’s haunting operatic vocals reverberating through the building’s brick wall underpass. Or we might venture to a more central location, glancing at the enticing window displays of the red light district before descending into the hazy basement of the original Bulldog coffee shop, where cannabis was sold and smoked before the practice became tolerated by officials.
Speaking of which, it seems silly now that such toleration once did not exist, and that this still remains the case throughout much of the rest of the world. By condoning activities which people will indulge in regardless, and which of themselves cause no harm to others than the ones indulging (if any harm is even caused at all), the crimes and risks surrounding those activities become greatly reduced. So why not allow them?
And why not set up infrastructure that encourages people to get around in ways that are economical and sustainable, and that promote good physical health? These are just a couple of things that Amsterdam does so right, and are among the many aspects of the city along with unique eateries, rich culture, and beautiful architecture that made us feel so comfortable there.
Within just two days we were already envisioning the relocation of our lives to this new place we had found and which had filled us with a sense of tranquility and wonder. Our short time there had not seemed like enough, though our loop through Western Europe would ultimately bring us back to the same apartment to spend two more, and we would end our journey in the Netherlands where it had begun.
In the meantime, however, we had other countries to explore, and so with thunder admonishing our departure we boarded a sleeper train headed to another destination. Through a window at the locomotive’s rear we watched the beautiful city of Amsterdam fading with the waning daylight, and as we climbed into our bunks and closed our eyes our minds too drifted into darkness.
– Cory Magnus Stumpf