Seven Things about Amsterdam: Feb/March edition

1 Okay, y’all. I had a WHOLE BLOGPOST written about what it’s been like adjusting to the cold Dutch climate—from standing on my first frozen pond to learning the joys of dry cracking skin—only for all of Texas to become a goddamn ice planet on the very day that it all melted here. I never thought I’d be wishing happy warm thoughts from NL to TX, but these are strange times, my friends.

So that long whiney post got deleted. The short version is: we got a solid layer of snow on February 7th, and—as a native Texan, this was new to me—it stayed snowy. The canals and river were mostly frozen, ducks and pigeons and occasionally humans sliding around on top. I saw kids being pulled on sleds for function rather than fun. We mostly stayed indoors.

Pretty though.

2 When I arrived here in mid-December, the sun set at 4:30 in the afternoon and I was confused why delivery drivers kept showing up after dark. The tides are turning, though! Our days are now about 11 hours long, and in the summer we’ll have blissful 17-hour days and the sky will *never* be fully dark. Latitudes are crazy.

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The weird time jumps are daylight savings time. Yeah, we got that here, too.

3 Dutch update: I’m still at the level of knowing just enough to get myself in trouble. Like, I’ll absolutely nail the first line of a conversation—“Goedemiddag, ik heb een afspraak om half tien”—and then the person will respond in Dutch and… I’ll have no idea what they said. 

But I can eavesdrop on Dutch conversations (usually Kiki’s) and more often than not grasp the topic—sometimes even entire sentences at a time. Progress!

Fun Dutch vocab of the month: the Dutch word for latte is “koffie verkeerd,” literally “wrong coffee.” The Dutch word for Easter is “Paas,” which explains the weird name of those ubiquitous egg-coloring kits when we were kids.

4 On the 24th we rented a Mini Cooper and road-tripped two hours south to Maastricht, a historic town in Nederland’s weird little appendix at the border with Germany and Belgium. This city is a thousand years old if it’s a day, with charming buildings by the dozens and literally more churches than they know what to do with. There was a full-sized church sanctuary behind our hotel with no apparent means of entry. Elsewhere in the center are a bookstore and a grocery store, both inside churches.

It was a charming couple of days in a truly charming city, and also a good example of the COVID-tourism paradox: though the city center was blissfully free of tourists1, all the shops and museums were closed, which explained the emptiness but also made things a bit boring. Then again, “boring” gave us ample time to explore virtually every street of the old city with time left over to relax on the hotel balcony. Also I discovered the magic of vlaai.

On our way back north to Amsterdam we zig-zagged through a variety of small towns, any of which might be the setting for the Dutch edition of “Hot Fuzz,” with their own 500-year-old churches and unironic thatched roofs and war memorials2. The weather was glorious, peaking around 20C/68F. We’ve got to do it all over again when things are open; I’m sure we’ll grumble about how many tourists there are.

6 I’ve thought a lot about how the pandemic has made me miss my casual friends—the ones I never texted with or even think much about (or even know the name of!) until they weren’t around. The improv acquaintances and regulars at the bar. This article is a good read about that very subject. Some of them I’d probably never see again even if I’d stayed in place; moving to a new country might ensure I’ll never see many or most of them again. It’s an odd angle on homesickness I hadn’t considered. Whenever I can finally-finally start haunting local places here and making new friend-quaintances, it’ll be a relief.

7 After two-and-a-half months in the Netherlands, I finally finally have a working Dutch phone number and bank card. It wasn’t the highest priority since we never go anywhere, but it’s nice to be able to pay for groceries myself at last. Ik ben een grote jongen!

  1. Besides us!
  2. If you’re a Band of Brothers fan, we drove straight through the heart of Operation Market Garden. Eindhoven is an incredibly boring city compared to most others, which is sadly no surprise, since the Germans bombed it to smithereens.

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