Back in Holland, and gelukkig about it

Haarlem street

Completely unremarkable street, but so Dutch

I had to take a moment when I walked out of Amsterdam Centraal Station. All around me Italians were burbling, Spaniards were lisping, and the Dutch were clearing their throats with the somehow soft guttural gurgles of a language I’ve come to love. It’s like velvet, but phlegmy. The trams were bonging their polite warnings, canal boats were gently stirring the stolen bicycles at the bottom of the canal, and a warm sun was glowing on the high hems and shiny sunglasses of people walking everywhere.

I love the Netherlands. Amsterdam is one helluva city. Right now, it’s my favorite city in Europe. Of course, in the honest quiet here I can admit that when we get to Venice, that will be my favorite, and I’ll mean it when I say the same thing about Paris. I mean it every time I say it, and I say it a lot, but even in isolation, removed from the proximal affection of being in each place, Amsterdam stands out above the rest. I could live here.

Haarlem kerk

Haarlem, not Amsterdam, but close enough for now, and right outside my front door.

I’m leading a “Best of Europe” tour from Amsterdam down to Rome and over to Paris, and while I find that tour title to be rather ambitious, (seeing the Best of Europe would take not 21 days but 21 lifetimes, but that would be a tough tour to sell), I can only marvel at how much we pack into those three weeks. So much good stuff.

Standing outside Central Station, I felt the salty rope and tar solidity of Amsterdam’s history, with its consequences and gifts to the Western culture that raised me, and I can’t wait to find out if I can adequately convey it all to my tour members.

And right now, satiated with Dutch coffee, canal strolling in my immediate future and who knows, perhaps raw herring on the near horizon, I am so grateful to be here.