Once upon a time in a cold May we went for a two-day trip to Amsterdam. Just to get away a bit and make it cheap. We booked some special offer bus ride and the only available cheap hotel where we could pay with PayPal.
Amsterdam turned out to be even colder, windier and more expensive than Hamburg, what was no surprise. But what surprised me, was how small and narrow, even slightly claustrophobic this city is. Tiny little narrow streets with wide bike lanes, leading to tiny bridges over tiny canals, bikes everywhere, beautiful, old buildings and again streets, bridges, bikes, streets and so on. No squares, no open space, almost no parks! We took a bike ride and I got stuck in a bike-traffic jam for the first time in my life!
Plus hundreds and hundreds of tourists.
Yet everything was so classy, old and sophisticated that it just couldn't be real. Like an "Old World's Town" amusement park. Even the Red Light District was nice and cozy.
Sure, just few blocks away from the fancy center one could see a bit of a true, multi-cultural reality, familiar sounds and smells, Asian and Middle-Eastern food, big, noisy market with the cheapest everything, the locals. The Real, temporary Europe.
One of the things I saw fell deep into my mind: after the market was closed and the street was full of trash, cranes came in to feed on the waste. Real, live, proud and beautiful cranes, the majestic birds from Chinese paintings; a bit dirty, with scruffy feathers, instead of contemplating on a shore of a beautiful lake, walking around on their long legs through piles of plastic bags and eating from the trash cans. Freezing without a movement. Flying around in a slow motion so great and huge, too big for a city birds.
Nature always finds it's way, I know, but how sad and unreal that look was!
On some art installation I saw a note "I feel like a tourist in my own country". I could easily imagine that. And although I could never live there, this place has a secret charm.
And has also bed bugs... We've been bitten hard during our only night in a hotel and nasty bites were itchy even six weeks later!