Love Letter to Amsterdam (and the Netherlands as best I know)

No, despite all the ugliness of the past week, I have not decamped to The Netherlands. That said, because I am desperate to take some mental space from the devolving country in which I live, I want to tell you more about our trip to Amsterdam, including a magical day trip to The Hague, and share some of my favorite photographs from both places.

For starters, I adore much of Dutch architecture, especially what visitors can glimpse by walking through the Canal district in Amsterdam. I love the matte brick facades, painted in all colors, the narrow (but deep) structures designed and built when cost and taxes were based on house width. I love the steep roofs so many of which are threaded with a massively strong beam running front to back which supports not only the roof but also a functional pulley, an exceedingly necessary element of homes whose cramped, precipitous interior stairwells make moving furniture and appliances in impossible or nearly so. 

I love how the buildings have settled over the centuries, some walls bowing out, some windowsills looking as if they were built on the diagonal. I love the striking doorways and the shiny enamel-like paint used on doors and trim. I fancy the unique plaques, carvings, and other various types of facade bling many homes boast. I love the big old windows and the trailing vines growing from the tiniest plots of earth nestled between sidewalk and stoop up and over entryways and window frames.

I love the ambience in the Netherlands. In my most romanticized notions of it, no one ever sues anyone because they are happy on free love and soft drugs. Kids run barefoot through the parks and playgrounds. Parents do not helicopter but when they are alongside their kids, they are joyous, warm, and easy. It is always time for a coffee or an aperitif. In the Vondelpark's Groot Melkhuis, you can purchase juice boxes, Belgian beer, and appeltaart, sit at a picnic table and watch your kids play the afternoons away.

I love the thousands of bikes that call the city home, love that no one wears helmets when they ride, and that even the most laid-back Amsterdamer follows the bike rules of law. You've never seen such orderly, chockablock mayhem. I love how comfortable people are with their bodies, how cosmopolitan they are, how most everyone is at least trilingual. I love that the swastika is a banned symbol.

It's a beautiful place, visually and culturally, and I cannot wait to return.