Hearing about places and experiencing them are always two very different stories. Otherwise, we could all just sit in front of our television and have the greatest experiences of our lives without having to leave our comfortable homes.
Some might still do that and be content with it, which is perfectly fine. But not for me. My curious nature, my longing for being in unknown places, meeting people who have a different background than myself, eating foods that I never heard of before, challenging myself in new situations have always been driving forces in my life.
When it comes to Amsterdam, the first things you hear are the red-light district and the countless coffee shops. While these things do exist and are a big part of the city’s picture, there is something very different than I am glad to have experienced in it.
It was lingering in the air during the days I was there, like a shadow following my every step, or a pleasant stranger that keeps showing up at the corner of every street, smiling at me. I just could not shake it, and I did not wish to shake it. I kept smiling back.
For a long time, I could not name it, until I was finally able to put a finger on it: it was the lightness of life. It was there in the atmosphere: at the tables in the sun with people enjoying their breakfast, on the boats lazily crossing the long canals, in the slow paces of people walking by, on the bicycles decorated with flowers, in the countless dichotomies (like a church opposite to a brothel). This is what I relive every time I hear the name Amsterdam.