Archive for March, 2009
Lots of bikes in Amsterdam are used as advertising billboards
The Bijenkorf is the most exclusive department store in Amsterdam.
Among the many pleasures you can experience in Amsterdam are the ‘brown cafes’ — so-called because, well, they’re brown.
The original brown cafes are brown for two reasons: their interior design includes lots of wood, and just about everything in the place is stained by decades, sometimes centuries worth of nicotine.
Cafe Kalkhoven, across from the Westerkerk and thus close to the Anne Frank House, is a prime example — having been in business since 1670.
There are also lots of nouveau brown cafes, in which the yellow-brown patina is carefully painted onto aged wood in order to achieve the gezellige atmosphere brown cafes are known for.
‘Gezellig’ is a Dutch word that simply cannot be translated. Yet once you have read the explanation your sure know what it is.
One result of the smoking ban, forced on the Dutch since July 2008, means that all brown cafes have now reached a status quo. They won’t get any browner.
The opposite of a brown cafe is any establishment whose surroundings make you feel like you’re visiting an airport toilet facility. Definitely ongezellig.
While Amsterdam has a mild climate, the weather can be fickle. Some people have joked that the weather cycles through four seasons a day. That’s not quite true, of course, but when you consider that the weather is a prime factor cited by Dutch people who plan (or wish) to emigrate you realize it’s not all wrong either.
Some summers the sun hardly shows, while in other years Holland is subjected to heatwaves.
Tourist brochures always show Amsterdam in the best possible light — literally, with its monuments, canals and street scenes bathed in sunlight. Rest assured, it’s not photoshopped (well, we assume it’s not). But don’t be disappointed if you don’t see much of the sun during your visit to Amsterdam.
Fact is that Holland’s climate is changing. It’s becoming milder and wetter.
The photo above shows a typical Amsterdam scene — the Central Station (just above the small vessel in the middle of the picture) as seen across the IJ estuary on a rain, shine, or both day.