Proost!Pim de Koel, Monday, August 26, 2013
It's true, everyone in Holland speaks English - but if you are planning on visiting Amsterdam, there is one Dutch word you will need to know: Proost!
Cheers, my friend! To a great night and a great life!
In Amsterdam, you'll never have a shortage of opportunities to shout "Proost!" on your nights out. In fact, our capital's nightlife is so rich; you'll need to extend your vacation just to get a taste of it all. Clubs, pubs, gourmet restaurants, candlelit canal tours, parties, concerts...we have it all! So, let's get started. Because what you call Happy Hour...we call a warm up.
Want to exchange stories with fellow travelers? Head over to Hotel the Exchange on Damrak, where you can grab a drink and meet new people from all over the globe.Looking something a little more Dutch? With some rhythm, you say?! Amsterdam is full of nightclubs, from Jordaan to Dam Square. Clubs like Milky Way (Melkweg, in Dutch) offer a variety of rooms with different kinds of music that will cater to your every whim, while famous bands and the newest talents from Holland and abroad play live shows in venues all over the city. Or perhaps a bit of theatre is more your scene. You can catch nightly performances at Amsterdam’s historic Stadsschouwburg in Leidsesplein or in one of the many other theaters across the city.
Where can you find me on my nights out? Beneath the restaurant with the best milkshakes in town, there is an underground club. Find those heavenly shakes, and you'll find me, too!
Oh! I almost forgot! You'll need a password to get in. I'll give you a hint: it's the only Dutch word you'll need to know!
You'll call it the best night of your life...we call it just another night!
The Best Laid PlansPim de Koel, Monday, May 13, 2013
Poet Robert Burns once wrote,
"The best laid schemes of mice and men,
Go often awry"
Burns, an Irishmen, obviously never spent time in Amsterdam. The epitome of foresight, Holland's capital was built on a series of canals, created for both convenience and defense. Though it is easily navigable by land, the best way to see the sights in Amsterdam may very well be by boat.
For all of the hydromaniacs out there, Amsterdam's canals possess a culture all their own. What you call a water (italics) view, we call "not close enough." Canal culture is something that is uniquely Amsterdam. Dotted with houseboats and floating markets, life on the canals strikes the perfect balance between worldliness and individuality.
I spent last evening on one such houseboat, accompanied by candlelight, Holland's finest cheese and my friend, Pieter, who makes his living by telling the world about the splendors of Amsterdam through his canal tours.
On this particularly starry evening, I kicked back and sipped my glass of sparkling lemonade while floating on the Singel. I soaked in the city lights and breathed in the crisp Spring air. As I painstakingly savored the last bit of Gouda, I asked Pieter what made him want to start up his canal tour business.
"It's nights like this, Pim," he mused. "What better way to take in the culmination of hundreds of years of innovation and resilience than by floating through Amsterdam with fizzy drink in hand and friends in tow?"
A fitting embodiment of Holland, if I've ever heard one.
BackpedalingPim de Koel, Saturday, May 11, 2013
With soft rolling hills, the flatness of Holland makes it ideal for the recreational biker – but in Amsterdam, biking isn't just a hobby...it's a way of life. Our city was built for bikes!
We Dutch don't just bike for exercise - we bike to get where we want to go; to see our city more clearly and to keep the air we breathe fresh and crisp. But mostly, we bike because it's fun!
This morning, on my way home from the market, I cycled my way into a group of sightseers on a bike tour of Amsterdam. I've always found it refreshing to take in the city on a leisurely ride, but it's rejuvenating to see the eyes of visitors opened to our wonders beyond just windmills.
Only one boy seemed to notice my intrusion, but with a wink, I touched my nose and he smiled. Our secret.
I joined them through Dam Square and passed several canal houses, listening to stories of how taxes shaped the now famous architecture of Dutch homes and how, exactly, a floating flower market works. As my American companions and I began approaching my neighborhood, we paused at an intersection, the woman next to me quipped, "I don't think I've biked this much in my entire life! I bet if I lived here, I wouldn't have to worry so much about enjoying dessert!"
As we waited for the light to change, I sifted through my grocery bag.
"Alstublieft!" I said, producing a box of hagelslag and handing it to the woman. "Welcome to Amsterdam!"
I pedaled my fixie in reverse, backing over a canal bridge, towards my road. "Enjoy your breakfast!
A Thousand Years in a Thousand StepsPim de Koel, Friday, May 10, 2013
Often, the importance of Dutch art and history are overlooked in Europe. But Holland was celebrating its national history while most countries were still writing theirs- the Rijksmuseum opened during the height of Victorian England and before the arrival of The Statue of Liberty in New York.
When I took my first step into the newly renovated Rijksmuseum, I was greeted by baroque-style vaulted ceilings, stunning stained glass windows, and the sense that I was about to embark on a journey through history unparalleled in its uniqueness and splendor. My second, third and fourth steps took me by the works of brilliant artists like Rembrandt, including his famous painting "The Nightwatch," an immense work known not only for it’s size, but also it’s inventive use of light.
But the Rijksmuseum isn't just about opulence. A few more steps took me to another exhibit, where there is a display of seventeenth century whaler's hats - something I have yet to convince my tailor to recreate.
With over a million artifacts, taking just one minute to admire each piece history, art and nature in the Rijksmuseum would take over 16,500 hours - or just under two full years (and, alright, probably more than just a thousand steps). But don't let that intimidate you. A day trip to the Rijksmuseum is one that will be filled with awe, intrigue and a new appreciation for Amsterdam.
Feeling inspired yet? Then join me in the Rijksmuseum's Teekenschool, a multidisciplinary studio space where artists and students alike come to cultivate their talents and create their own masterpieces. I'll be here, working on my latest piece, entitled "Pim De Koel in Orange."