top of page


Omshterdom, as I think of it

Whenever I think of the word Amsterdam, I imagine my Dutch friend Pieter pronouncing Amstel as Omshtel. I then transfer that to Omshterdom, which is actually how the train announcers say it. But still haven't got the hang, even in my head, of how to deal with Utrecht, to say nothing of the street we're on, Schalkwijkstraat, despite Ank's patient repetitions. Oh well, an obvious tourist I will remain here for a very long time. Actually, based on my height, more like forever. Did you know that Dutch men are the tallest in the world, the average height being 6 feet? The inferiority complex is real.

I have been travelling to Europe more lately, and maybe I get a little cocky about how "experienced" I have become. If you hear me say "I've got this time change thing down" and that I don't understand how people can't adjust immediately, feel free to roll your eyes and commence a nap. What I thought was my tried and true; morning arrival, mid-morning nap, power through till 9 or 10, fresh as a daisy the next day, didn't work this time. For whatever reason, I woke up on day 2, sleep deprived and disoriented. Not to worry, it was a the beginning of a trip and my friend was arriving from JFK, fresh faced and perky, thinking nothing of dumping her luggage in a locker and heading off with us into the canals of Amsterdam. If she could do that, I could drag my sorry ass along too.

The Greiges the other night after a visit to a brown bar

Thinking our friend may not need to see the weed paraphernalia stores, sex shops and for some weird reason, Argentinian steak houses, we took off to the right from Centraal station and wandered through the quieter neighborhoods to 9 Streets, known for it's scenic canals, bridges, cafes and stores selling a huge variety of cheeses that are all basically the same. Harking back to happier days long ago when the Vermont Country Store provided an ample cheese buffet of samples, we hopped into this Dutch equivalent and began grazing. The sample pieces were about 1/4 inch, so we may have begun taking a few more than one at each station, trying aged gouda, young gouda, medium gouda, sheep milk gouda. But then we realized there were many more sample areas further back and recalibrated, switching to a single cube per flavor. Still, there was garlic, pesto, asparagus, cumin, mustard, chive and truffle gouda, really it went on and on and on. When we finally left, Nat mentioned her relief as she was starting to cramp up.

I didn't mention the oddness of the day. It was sunny. And rather warm. We ambled, stopping at vintage stores, taking photographs of scenery, stopping for a drink when we became hotter and tireder. Our goal of a lie in the grass at Museumplein was shattered when we saw all the construction, so being the brave soldiers we were, we forged ahead. Bathroom and rest would have to wait.

We, well, maybe I is more accurate, practically staggered to Albert Cuyp market, miraculously finding a modicum of strength when the smell of pofertjies wafted by. The market was brimming with life and twice as long as usual, with bike locks, smoothies, clingy dresses, Polish pottery, phone cases, space brownies, "best chicken", Surinamese rotis, Indian print fabrics, porny underwear, stroopwafels, spices, teas and incense, it never seemed to end. But we were committed to powering all the way through before making our final food decision, familiar as we were with jumping in too quickly and experiencing the abject disappointment of entrée envy.

Albert Cuyp Market

We finally made it to the end, where there was a guy from Doha aggressively hawking fruity drinks by handing out samples. We tried, we liked, we bought. Thirst quenching with just enough sugar to help me crawl back to the Gozlëme stand. But first, I had to sit down. Just for a few minutes. I felt old as I desperately looked around and my companions stood and chatted away. There was a table with some chairs, but every surface was taken with similarly tired people. Sitting down on the sidewalk for a brief rest was starting to seem reasonable. Ah, there's my answer! A stanchion, one of those that rise out of the street to protect things like crowded markets from truck bombs. Perfect location, allowing me to enjoy my drink and observe transactions, but most importantly, a place to plant my sorry ass for just a few minutes.

So, there I sat, enjoying my minty sour lemonade, finally taking a load off, watching the different nationalities doing their thing, taking in the warmth. I was starting to feel hopeful about life when rather quickly, the stanchion retreated back down into the road, pulling the chair out from under me. Now I was quite sure it had been a rather graceful roll onto the ground that I did. Well maybe my feet were in the air for a brief second, and there might have been some liquid flying, but overall, while unexpected, a low key and smooth maneuver. Then why were not only my people, but many others laughing so hard there were tears in their eyes and hands on their stomachs? Wish I had thought to take a bow. Time to go home.

Good night, Omshterdom


May 12

at the Old Dutch Church here today


May 12


bottom of page