diamond geezer

 Monday, April 28, 2003

Two lists from Amsterdam

• Amsterdam lies about a metre below sea level, which is a fact you try not to think about when it rains.
• It's a compact capital city, so you can walk from one side to the other in about 30 minutes.
• There are a huge number of canals here, topped by over 1200 bridges, each one of which is no doubt currently being photographed by approximately twelve tourists.
• The city was occupied by the Germans during World War Two, as a result of which it didn't get bombed by either side in the conflict so it still has almost all its original 17th century architecture.
• The canals are lined by mostly-4-storey houses, mostly 3-windows-wide, mostly gabled, all pleasingly non-identical.
• The Dutch don't believe on wasting space on flights of stairs, so all the stairs are narrow, steep and winding. As a result each house has its own hoist on the gable outside, used for raising and lowering furniture to different floor levels, for example when moving house.
• There seems to be a constant breeze blowing from the West. This what you get if you settle in a country with only the North Sea for protection, and it's why there are so many windmills. Just not in Amsterdam itself.
• It's a very clean city. There are also very few dogs. I suspect these two facts are related.
• Being one hour ahead of London, it's still daylight over here at half past nine in the evening, which feels very odd for April.

• In Amsterdam, the bicycle rules. You can tell this because every time you attempt to cross a road, a bike appears out of nowhere and aims itself at the exact point where you're standing. Furious bell ringing ensues, usually to no effect. It's therefore a very dangerous city in which to wear a Walkman in while wandering around, and most people don't.
• If the bicycles don't get you, the trams might instead. There are no kerbs here, so it's very hard to tell where the pavement ends and the road begins. A good clue to the fact that you're standing in the road is that a huge tram is bearing down on you at great speed.
• The streets are full of drunken blokes from Essex, who've discovered that Easyjet flights make Amsterdam a cheap and convenient location for a debauched weekend.
• Amsterdam is a bilingual city, which is useful for all those of us who've never bothered to learn the Dutch language. Which would be everyone outside Holland, I guess. The Dutch have all learnt English to perfection, no doubt inspired purely by the need to understand the lyrics of all their favourite hit records.
• The Dutch language appears to be over-vowelled. My favourite Dutch word so far is slagroom, which means whipped cream.
• Nobody over here sends text messages. Whenever I've tried sending one I just get odd looks from people in the street who can't seem to work out why I haven't finished dialling the number yet.
• Dutch police and ambulance sirens are much more tuneful than those in the UK, and are no doubt based on the bassline from an early 90s 2 Unlimited track.
• There's a funfair in the main Dam Square at the moment, and the view from the top of the ferris wheel is spectacular. However, the funfair also boasts probably the lamest ghost train in the world, the most frightening thing about which is the sound of Scooter pumping out from the speakers of the ride nextdoor.
• I'm aware there's, erm, a couple of thing about Amsterdam I haven't mentioned yet. I'll try to get back to you later in the week and write about them as well...

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