Let’s set the stage. I’m sitting at the kitchen table overlooking two canals. Small quiet boats pass through, breaking the still waters as I type. Before I found myself in this position, and on my walk home, I discovered a specialty foods shop a stone’s throw from the apartment. It’s exactly the kind of specialty shop you want to stumble upon: A smorgasbord of black truffle potato chips, fudge made in small batches, old Amsterdam cheese, various types of prepared organic salads that are far more appetizing than those found in whole foods, brownies, vegan and vegetarian choices and so forth. Effectively, something for everyone. A large convection oven protruding from the wall stands ready to warm your bread or pastry and a moments notice and a warm inviting atmosphere drew me in the way a disney character smells a freshly baked pie from a mile away, levitates off the ground and floats inside in a dream like state. Incidentally, the waffle and crepe shops will give you the same effect.
But for now, several of these gourmet ingredients are spread across the kitchen table as church bells signal that it’s half past the hour. As I let the slow drip of honey spread across my warm gluten free bread, I top it with a slice of special cheese and consume the whole thing at once.
The canal is quiet. But only one night ago there were rain and thunder and lightening storms so loud and bright it felt like an IMAX experience, or better said, a real nature experience.
Earlier today I was on the subway it might as well be called the nicest underground I have ever laid my eyes upon. Immaculate from top to bottom, no doors separating each train so you can see straight through to the very end and possibly cleanest floors ever. It was delightful.
Simply walking through the streets of Amsterdam as an experience in itself. Like many European cities, the streets are lined with cobblestone and different textured stones and that makes just the mere act of walking a joyous moment. Different smells waft by, sometimes fresh air, sometimes pot, sometimes delicious cooking. My favorite is when a family is at home and about to eat dinner.
And Taxis. Can you imagine that if an E or S class Mercedes Benz doesn’t pick you up, any number of 100 different Tesla’s will? Fully Electric, top of the line, cutting edge Teslas as taxis!
Having lived in Venice for a year many years ago, it’s hard to not immediately notice the similarities between Venezia and Amsterdam. Fantastic architecture, the numerous uneven and winding canals and waterways, small boats, bridges, all nestled in a small compact city that is easily accessible by foot. But what is so interesting about the Dutch style of architecture here, is how narrow everything is. Because property was taxed based on it’s width, people built their homes as narrow as possible and as deep as possible and generally with high ceilings.
And, as I can vouch for in my previous house in the Hollywood Hills, having your first floor begin a couple meters above street level, gives inhabitants a nice sense of safety. And this is how most homes here are built. You come up to go in.
I am also thoroughly impressed with much of the contemporary architecture as well. So many unique and bizarre shaped buildings to take in.
The quantity of cheese to be found in Amsterdam is literally beyond compare. There are many different flavors, sizes, shapes to choose from. Naturally each shop is usually also lined with freshly baked bread with unique flavors such as chestnut, mushroom, caramelized onion… every day is Christmas in Amsterdam.
Certainly the more lascivious side to Amsterdam bears mentioning as well. Passing through the red light district is a very interesting feeling when walking by yourself as a man. Women bang doors, knock on the window, wink, flirt, tease, smile, call you from across the road, make inviting and come hither gestures. I imagine it really gives the sense of what it must be like to a woman who is constantly hit on by men. Walk down the same streets with a beautiful woman by your side and the girls hardly take notice of you. And sex shops… what can’t you find in Amsterdam? I saw a man purchase a ‘cage’ and some other devices that could only be described as painful. There’s a lot of contrast in the world.
It is also so interesting to see not just marijuana sold at every “coffee” shop openly and plainly, but an entire menu of selections accompanied by a knowledgable staff member ready to advise you on how to have the best trip possible. I overheard, “Well this one is a happy high but this one is more of a… stoned feeling… always wait for it to kick in before overdoing it.” Just walking by these places feels like you get a contact high as the smoke literally billows out, again, almost in a cartoon like fashion. It amused me to imagine what America would be like, if Starbucks offered such a menu of services.
Of course I cannot go any further without mentioning that our experience here simply would not be the same without the constant attention and above and beyond care of Jim Klinkhamer and Det. If it wasn’t for this man, I don’t think I would have experienced half of what Amsterdam has to offer, from the actual buildings he designed and remodeled, to unique museums, special facts about the city and Dutch way of life, fine dining, cooking, grilled vegetables and fine salads, fine wine, beer, the best cheeses…. Plus a phenomenal tour to the outskirts of Amsterdam which proved to be exactly what you would imagine Holland to look like: fresh air, blue skies, a cool wind, water, grassy fields, free roaming cows and sheep with a little black sheep to boot. We stopped at someone’s house who’s Lassie dog came running up to greet us, as the wind blew briskly through his fur. A house whose back yard simply backed up into the bay / ocean and I thought to myself, this must be the Dutch version of the Hamptons.
Now, I don’t like beer. In fact it’s often one of the more shocking facts about me that I have never drank one full glass of beer or one full cup of coffee or espresso in my entire life. I realize that this juxtaposed to the average human who does this upwards of three times a day is bizarre in itself but I digress. So I generally have a healthy disgust for beer. And I would NEVER consider drinking alcohol after acrobatics, but here, people go for a drink. So after Anastasia deeply enjoyed her second beer that Jim recommended because it was only made in small batches and only available to a dozen or so restaurants in all of Amsterdam, curiosity got the best of me…
And wow! Great beer! Great cheese! Great vegetables! Great wine! Great food! Great prices! The dutch really know how to do it. And I appreciate small things like the fact that the Dutch aren’t obsessed with closing their blinds and shutting out the light. They are not vampires but actually welcome the light and don’t gawk into other peoples houses. They are simply used to sharing space and having windows open. Of course, as usual, I have found people here to be friendly, amiable and generous, offering good eye contact, and good vibes.
I am particularly excited about the bathroom hardware I often see here in Amsterdam. For instance to turn on your shower, rather than bending over and turning a few dials dials. there is a shower mechanism that looks somewhat like a small thin cylinder with two easy to turn dials on either side and then the shower hose attached to this. When you gently twist one end, the water comes on, and when you twist the other, it adjusts the heat. It’s so simple, and elegant, I want one for my own place.
Our eyes have also gotten to witness something else that is very special. Much like my small family at JJ’s in LA, there are a group of 50+ and 60+ year-old acrobats, who all bass and fly each other in the most outrageous of tricks! Tricks such as handstand on head, Corbets and cascades, jumping from the head into hand-in-hand, toe pitch to high bird and so forth. In sum, tricks that would give a 20-year-old pause. I am touched, inspired, and thankful to know that I can be 60 years old and still playing safely while doing outrageously fun things.
Now, when I came to Amsterdam, I had a decent handstand. Now I have the sense that I am leaving with a much better handstand, shortly to become a great handstand for all of my bases and flyers around the world.
Unfortunately for the last several days I’ve had a pinched neck from who knows what. I had the opportunity to stop at a physiotherapist, thanks to Jim of course, who was able to see me within less than a days notice. Not only was my treatment affordable (35 Euro per visit!) but I also got to experience something called “dry needling,” which almost instantly removed the extremely sharp pain from my neck!
But if there is one thing I feel that I am taking away, That will benefit me most, it is finding proper alignment for my back, when basing hand flying acrobatic tricks. It is my sincere hope that this shift will dramatically change my ability to perform at my best.
Yes, being in Holland makes me thoroughly pleased. It’s a shame there is a 90 day limit that Americans may spend in Europe, because quite frankly I can see myself living here for quite sometime, as I could also in Vienna, italy, Barcelona and I’m sure if I saw it, Sweden. Oh and Switzerland, ESPECIALLY Switzerland.
My heart is so full of appreciation and wonder. Having lived in Europe on two separate occasions for a year each time, I thought being back here perhaps might feel a little same old, same old, but my travels to Europe have in fact been anything but that. I hope that those of you who took the time to read this will also feel inspired, and that maybe it has given you a taste of what it is like to be here. I know the traveling is not for everyone, nor is it accessible to everyone, but I feel very lucky and blessed to be able to have this experience this point in my life. Wishing you all the best wherever your road is taking you!
Tari Mannello for Elegant Acro™ and Closeness