Over two weeks ago, right before the government suggested stricter regulations for curbing the ongoing spread of the coronavirus, I made another trip to Amsterdam from Utrecht. Since March, this short train ride of 20 mins has become a true mental barrier. And I can imagine that this isn’t just me, but many others must feel this way since no one wants to be that asshole that travels by train when they don’t have to.
Over two weeks ago, I was that asshole.
I did wear my face mask, keep my distance from others, and travel in the middle of a work day during off-peak hours. But let’s be real, I’m only saying this so that I can give myself permission to not feel guilty. I do feel guilty, though. But I’m only human, and I do my best, but at some point, being the millennial city girl that I am, I couldn’t keep still.
So with that out of the way, I wanted to share the experience of being in Amsterdam during the pandemic. This is by no means my first “trip” to A’dam (is it really a trip if my train ride is really LESS than 20 mins long?) since the start of Covid, but that doesn’t change the fact that it was still a special feeling to be in a city that is normally so crowded with tourists when there was almost no one around.
Also, I wanted to write this post to share what a day alone as an expat can be like, even when the pandemic essentially decided to cancel 2020.
My goal of my “trip” (let’s call it a trip, so that I can pretend that I did something out of the ordinary) was simple: walk around in a fairly large city, to get that city feel, find some food and coffee, and visit a museum. I really just needed a change in scenery.
Stepping out at Amstel, I did what I always do, which is take the metro to get me further north. This is one of the things I miss in Utrecht: being able to get from one place to another swiftly with public transport. Ever since the metro opened up in Amsterdam, especially the Noord/Zuidlijn, the city became so much more accessible.
I often get off at Weesperplein, but this time, I took the metro one stop to Wibautstraat (yes, I didn’t HAVE to take the metro, but I wanted to). One of the cafés I like to go to in Amsterdam is Coffee Bru. They have good coffee, and it would be a perfect stop on my way to the Tropenmuseum.
And of course, I have to walk through Oosterpark. I have to admit that while Oosterpark isn’t my favorite park in Amsterdam, it’s still pretty damn nice. In the places I’ve lived in the US, there aren’t such nice parks that are en route to where you’re headed. So of course, I’m not going to miss out on an opportunity to enjoy the fall weather on a park bench overlooking a pond.
I am currently loving the fall in the Netherlands. My first year here, I found that the fall colors and the general fall atmosphere paled in comparison to what I was used to in the North East cities I lived in. I didn’t see too many reddish trees since the leaves were all washed away by the wind. This year, on the other hand, I’m catching all the nice parts of my favorite season!
I was in for another pleasant surprised when I got to the Tropenmuseum. That place is fantastic!
For those of you who don’t know, the Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam gives an insight into the Dutch colonial past. When I was there, they also had an exhibit featuring gender neutral toilets.
The museum was busy—I could see why there was going to be a press conference asking us all to stay put. On the streets and in Oosterpark, there were a modest number of people. Nothing too alarming. But on the inside of this museum, it was like a school bus exploded. There were SO MANY KIDS. And with the kids, came their parents and guardians. I know that kids have a half-day on Wednesdays in the Netherlands, but this was a Tuesday so there was no explanation for all of these freaking kids!
I mean, I guess I kind of get it. What else are you going to do with them? But on the other hand, why weren’t they in school?
Anyway, besides being almost run over by a kid at every turn, what I loved about the museum was not just that it gave an account of the history of the country I currently live in, but also that the museum’s wording of the Netherlands’ colonial past was direct and honest. I can’t tell you that I thought they did a **perfect** job talking about difficult topics like slavery, but I thought it was more forthright than what I’ve seen in many places.
That said, I feel like I need to confirm to any questioning readers that I love living in the Netherlands and I love Dutch people. But we all have history, don’t we?
I hadn’t been to the Tropenmuseum before, and while I say this about very many museums I visit in the Netherlands, it’s not going to stop me from saying it again—the visit was worth it for the beautiful building alone. I’m definitely going to start recommending it to people when they visit the Netherlands. You know, after we’re done with this dumbass virus.
After a while, I got too hungry to ignore the growling in my stomach. You know, the kind of growling that other people notice. That’s when you REALLY need to do something about it. So I left the museum and continued my beautiful walk along the canals in search of food.
Again, miraculously, it seems that everyone in Amsterdam decided to go to the Tropenmuseum so the streets were deserted. No one but yours truly walking around, snooping into people’s apartments through their open windows as usual.
So I took advantage of the fact that no one was out that day. I decided to go to one of my favorite lunch places in Amsterdam, which is normally too crowded for me to get exactly the seat I want. Talk about first world problems.
And I succeeded. Nothing better than a wonderful brunch by a lovely canal.
I’ve said it before that one of the silver linings of living in a big city in the Netherlands during the pandemic is that everything is less crowded. But as I’m writing this post, the cafes, bars, and restaurants are closed in the Netherlands, and we’re confined to our homes more than before.
When things are better again, and I hope they will be relatively soon, I hope to not forget to take advantage of the things life has to offer.