Thursday, October 27, 2016

No bike? No boat? Walk Amsterdam instead.

Now that the twins are back in school, I've had a bit more time to explore Amsterdam on my own. As I mentioned in a previous post, Dutch bicycles and I aren't getting along at the moment. But I prefer to walk--it's the best way to get to know a city. Meandering the souks of Marrakech and the ruins of Rome allowed me to spot small details I never would have noticed otherwise, allowed me to discover places that would never have been mentioned in a tourist's guidebook. The canals of Amsterdam are no exception.

Seen in Amsterdam
Creepy toy heads are hard to notice from a bike.

On Tuesday I walked to Albert Cuypmarkt, a famous street market that's surprisingly close to where my cousins live. (I always forget how small Amsterdam is--it's not even three miles from my cousin's apartment to the IJ.) While Albert Cuypmarkt is definitely a tourist's destination--tulip-bulb umbrellas, tacky marijuana tchotchkes, and 10-for-5€ postcards abound--locals also come here to shop for everything from fresh fish to bicycles to fabric. Also, Sensodyne toothpaste. For some reason, there were boxes upon boxes of Sensodyne toothpaste. Go figure. The day I visited it was overcast and chilly, but that simply meant the market was less crowded than usual--more space for me to browse as I pleased. 

Albert Cuypmarkt Amsterdam
Gray skies over Albert Cuypmarkt.

Today, much like on my recent trip to San Francisco, I focused on bookstore tourism. I researched literary life in Amsterdam, and all my sources pointed me to one place: Athenaeum Boekhandel--which just so happens to be celebrating its fiftieth year in business! The many rooms of this bookstore are connected by winding staircases and sharp corners that almost seem to be placed at random, but don't worry--the thorough signage prevents customers from getting lost. They have a large selection of books in several languages, including English. Upon my arrival at the Athenaeum, I was ashamed to realize that I couldn't name a single Dutch author. Painters, sure. But writers? Not one--not that I could read them in Dutch even if I could name them. Fortunately, I found a copy of The Penguin Book of Dutch Short Stories, which features mostly pieces that have never before been translated into English. I look forward to my Dutch literary education. 

Athenaeum Boekhandel Amsterdam
Many floors of Dutch literary goodness.

Where in Amsterdam will I walk next? That remains to be seen. But with the lovely fall weather we've been having, I'm sure I'll be doing plenty of it.

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