Sometimes I lose track of what is and what isn’t familiar. I can wake up in my own bed, surrounded by all of the elements involved in my habitual routine, and it takes me a moment to figure out where I am. Other times, I can be thousands of miles away from home and feel as if I fit, I belong to the space I occupy. All of us are, to an extent, just fumbling around this rock getting on with our lives, some of us possibly contributing more to the greater human experience than those of us photoblogging or whatever, but I’d like to think that certain places call us, mean more to us, regardless of our personal histories, and for some reason beyond my personal comprehension, just seem to make sense. Like a familiar smell transporting me back to childhood, or meals reminding me of past occasions, Amsterdam has always just felt like home.
Funny thing is, I live nowhere near Amsterdam, nor as far as I can tell, has anyone that I am, or have been related to. Sure, I’m a Euro-mutt in my lineage in a familial/historical sense, and even a first generation American on my dad’s side of the family, but I was raised like many of my generation of American brethren by way of the original NES, bmx’n and hanging out with friends in strip malls, track home developments and apartment complexes. So, why do I seem to have such a connection to a place that seems so far removed from my own personal experience? Maybe it’s a craving for a connection to something new and unknown, peradventure the familiarity of circumstance or perhaps it’s something else entirely.
While removed, Amsterdam has been working its way into my timeline. I’ve visited this city annually for over a decade, become familiar with its layout, friendly with its bartenders and even have some good insight into some of the best restaurants in the city. The chill in the air seems to be a thread stretched out from home in Portland, with wet, cool drizzle greeting most days and all’s I know, is that I just seem to jive here.
The labyrinth that is the city stretches out into capillary like alleys and obscured doorways, all hiding something potentially familiar. Water is faster than road, and bikes are more prevalent than any other form of transportation. A reasonably relaxed, yet remarkably structured culture with a storied past. This is Amsterdam.
While familiar, I’m always amazed at how easy it is to find something new here. It is so effortless to walk the beaten path, but the enticement of the unknown will reward a wanderer more often than not I’ve come to find.
It is by way of this aimless wandering that I continue to find my way through this city. No matter the amount of touristic adventure, and the bewilderment of discovery in a place so diverse, I can’t help but feel right when I’m here. I must also mention that I visit each year in the doldrums of late fall, often there is snow speckling the canals, so I do largely miss the height of the tourist season which I’ve been told is somewhat unbearable. I’ve had many a late night conversation with stumbling hoards of drunken, stoned, belligerent Americans, English or Russian tourists and I can only imagine what the city is like when we are the wandering, befuddled majority. That might make a difference.
That said, I don’t exist here when the air is warm and welcoming. I end up here when the days are short, wet and cold, and like a fond childhood memory, every time I am here, I always seem to transport myself to a place of comfort and recollection.
For that, thank you Amsterdam, you’re swell and I look forward to seeing you again next Fall.