R.L. SAUNDERS

writer attempting real life in the middle of everybody else's vacation

“Europe” part 3 in a series of 3 or 4, but definitely not 5

on February 25, 2013

. . .Speaking of killing the pain, the rate of suicide in the Netherlands is about a third lower than in the U.S. and about half what it is in France (where, as you may recall from my last post, the City of Paris can get the trains up and running again five minutes after a subway suicide). Enter our visit to Amsterdam, where we only passed four people who weren’t smoking marijuana cigarettes. And those four were in strollers.

My sister is worried she’ll test positive for THC in a random drug test for work because we got approximately 12,000 lungsfull of happy smoke just by walking down the sidewalk. I thought people were kidding about that. But no.

Amsterdam is beautiful and funky in a special way—so different from other European cities we visited. I felt dreamy the whole time, but my daughter was edgy and horrified to learn that, if marijuana is ever legalized on a widespread basis in the U.S., I’d rather her smoke a marijuana cigarette than a nicotine and synthetic chemical-laden cigarette. I mean, I’d rather her not smoke anything at all (OBVS, I haven’t smoked anything in my entire life, and that’s the prudish truth). But, all things legal, if one decides one must manage one’s pain, stress, or social pressure by smoking something, it seems clear that marijuana is the healthier alternative. Holland agrees.

I redeemed myself as a parent in her eyes by bringing her to the Anne Frank house. She narrated our tour because she read Anne’s diary earlier this year and she’s fascinated by the Frank family story. If you’re not fascinated going in, you will be, going out. There’s something cathartic about touching the actual bookcase and walking the same stairway and seeing the walls Anne attempted to make cheery by pasting cutouts on them. I don’t care how many millions of people have gone through the place—it will alter you on a personal level, if you’re any kind of human being at all.

Yes, Amsterdam is so much more than weed. There are also prostitutes. And the thickest, most delectable Dutch split pea soup. With sausage, not ham, because the Dutch do it right.

My dad was 100 percent Dutch and my grandparents had a big sign in the house that said, “You aint much if you aint Dutch.” I felt so Dutch growing up that I gave my kids vowely names nobody has ever heard of (including the Dutch, I’ve learned). And the last kid? His name is DUTCH.

But after visiting Amsterdam, I’m skeptical of my (Vander)Kooi side’s genuine commitment to our heritage. I mean, I’ve never seen any of them eat split pea soup with sausage, which our Dutch bartender assured us was a Dutch winter staple long before Philip the Bold was a twinkle in his mother’s eye. Thick pea soup with sausage is allegedly as Dutch as windmills, tulips, dykes, and wooden elf shoes. Come to think of it, though, we didn’t see any of those things outside the airport.

We did see a lot of bikes, however. It’s stoopid bike-friendly in Amsterdam. In fact, cyclists apparently have the right of way in all situations and will mow you over like a weed. So don’t linger in the cute stone street trying to get the right picture of a row of boats and houses across the canal, like this:

Amsterdam

Amsterdam is boat-friendly, too. There seem to be as many canals as streets. I’m not sure how clean the water is, but it makes for a charming experience, what with the quaint bridges and houseboats everywhere.  It’s like the original Charter Boat Row here in Key West, but better. Or at least bigger.

If I had to live in a big city (which I will never do on purpose, ever, because I’m a big fish, small town type) it would be someplace like Amsterdam. Only warmer.

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12 responses to ““Europe” part 3 in a series of 3 or 4, but definitely not 5

  1. John says:

    Rhonda. Next time go to Venice and see if you like it any better than Amsterdam. I like both and they share some similarities.

    • R.L. Saunders says:

      Okay, but is there split pea soup in Venice? No soup, no Venice.

      Actually I’d love to go back and see lots of other places (including Venice).

  2. I think I should definitely start planning more of my vacations around the soup. It worked out so well in Boston, after all.

  3. A soup tour company would be awesome. I’m just too lazy to organize it.

    By the way, you mention the cyclist’s mowing you down like a weed. Do they also mow down those who are smoking weed? (I guess since EVERYONE’s smoking weed, I got my answer right there.)

  4. Karen Visnic says:

    A great read, I love Amsterdam too! Thank you 🙂

  5. Emily says:

    I’m really loving these travel posts!

    I’ve always wanted to go to Amsterdam. The only thing stopping me is all those open-faced sandwiches. I need TWO pieces of bread, thank you very much.

  6. I am just making a general comment ,not on anything in particular… I Love everythink I am reading.. Again, your way with words Rhonda fascinate me……. Thanks, Chris Ruff

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