Notes on...

Amsterdam

18 January 2014

9:00 AM

18 January 2014

9:00 AM

‘What are people in your country saying about Holland these days?’ one Dutch friend recently asked me. I hadn’t the heart to reply that no one was talking that much about his country. But the question seemed typically Dutch. Endlessly outward-looking and interested, yet charmingly insular and with a slightly off-kilter view of itself. The Dutch character — like the country — is fascinating for that cocktail of conservatism and libertinism, strict rule-making and anarchism which runs through it.

Foreign tourism there has undoubtedly suffered in recent years from an exaggeration of just one side of that complex character. And although this seems mercifully to have declined in recent years, Amsterdam remains a victim of its culture of licence. Take a budget flight during certain times and you could forget you are going to one of Europe’s cultural centres. Many of your plane companions will be looking forward to smoking cannabis in a café, consuming something stronger and then experiencing panic attacks as they imagine themselves attacked by puddles. At night gaggles of foreign men stroll the red-light areas trying to look confident but generally exuding that embarrassment anybody must feel at seeing women in glass cages.


Fortunately the city beneath — or rather above — all this is a place which is worth any number of trips. The Rijksmuseum contains a great chunk of the best of Dutch culture, from the Middle Ages to the present, by way of — among others — Vermeer and Rembrandt. The Concertgebouw remains perhaps the greatest concert hall in Europe and certainly houses the greatest orchestra. And although the city has a bounty of such major culture, it is just as good to go in search of smaller happenings. The Dutch have an exciting literary and intellectual scene, as reliant on small readings and discussions as it is on big set pieces.

Of course there is no shortage of places to stay in Amsterdam and there are always plenty of deals to be found. In Amsterdam I prefer those contemporary hotels which seem to me to best suit the city’s character and show off its edge. On a recent trip I stayed at the Andaz on Prinsengracht. My room was decorated across one wall with a huge fish in the shape of a giant spoon. Yet I slept well. The service is superb and the location — right on a canal-front — could not be better.

Great places to eat are no harder to find in Amsterdam than are canals. I recently went to Le Garage at Ruysdaelstraat, run by the popular TV chef Joop Braakhekke. Wonderful food, a good wine list and a chatty bistro-like atmosphere, it did what every Dutch evening should: provided a sense of gezelligheid. Which is one of those odd, almost untranslatable Dutch words. Something like ‘good feeling’, it is the quest-point for most Dutch evenings and on most evenings in Amsterdam it can easily be achieved with no greater stimulation than the city itself.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

You might disagree with half of it, but you’ll enjoy reading all of it. Try your first 10 weeks for just $10


Show comments
  • Pootles

    What are people saying about the Netherlands in the UK? Well, if they know anything about the country, they will know that the Dutch are, like the English, on the way out. Around 58% of the school population of Amsterdam is not ethnically Dutch; only 49% of the Hague’s population is ethnically Dutch; and only 50% of Rotterdam is ethnically Dutch. The long and sad goodbye. Yours, a European Mohican.

    • James Lovelace

      Gay people have left the larger cities and gone to live among the indigenous Dutch in smaller cities and suburbs. The same phenomenon is happening in London, but don’t expect the media to comment on it. And the move is happening for exactly the same reason – the safety and (relative) anonymity of the city has been replaced by indulged 3rd worlders with murderously homophobic views. When a prominent gay journalist fled London, he initially blamed the 2011 riots. Once he was safely in Brighton, he started to admit it was because of the number of anti-gay attacks he and his partner had sufferered in London. Of course, he never used his position writing for one of the main broadsheets to talk about these attacks while they were going on — no, until he was safe in a white city, he sang from the “diversity is wonderful” songbook.

      • Pootles

        Does it happen to be a certain journalist of Scottish background who writes for the Daily Tel?

        • James Lovelace

          Initials GA

        • James Lovelace

          I just realised, the number of my friends who live/lived in London who have not been attacked by a third-worlder can be counted on the fingers of one hand (some of those friends are themselves immigrants). Some have moved out to towns in Essex, Kent, Hertfordshire where they feel safer than in London. The vast majority of them still refuse to talk publicly about their reasons for moving.

          • Pootles

            My brother, who is gay, left Glasgow two years ago for a rural part of Scotland. The area of Glasgow where he had lived for years is an area that is becoming increasingly Muslim. He has never been attacked, but hostile comments and the sense that he and his partner were no longer just part of everyday life there was the primary reason for his leaving.

          • James Lovelace

            Having seen east London be ethnically cleansed of gay people over the last 30 years, I too am planning to leave. For centuries, the cities were the places of relative freedom for gay people in the west. But the unprincipled Left have ensured that has been reversed. All I can say is “thank god the vast majority of the indigenous people in Britain are more civilised than the invaders”. That’s not all the invaders of course, but the vast majority (my partner is asian, and has been attacked more often and more violently than I have – he’s never been attacked by a white man, and only white men have ever come to his rescue).

          • Pootles

            Indeed. On the face of it, it seems a bit odd that my brother should now be living in a very small town in a rural (conservative) area. But, he has no problems at all, and as everyone knows everyone else’s business, it is well known that he is gay. How times have changed.

          • And so the thoughtless finally learn that multiculturalism is about more than curry houses. When the Left in Britain set this whole thing in motion, just whose interests did they think they were serving? I see a great nation — and better than that, a decent nation, being brought down by a posse of mental midgets, a.k.a. our leaders.

  • johnslattery

    Half the population of Amsterdam is not Dutch. Ditto for Rotterdam. Lost country, feel a bit sorry for you, nederlanders, as your leftie elite has more or less destroyed your homeland. Still, your choice. But don’t expect anybody to care about you any more. You have to have respect your own culture and people to get respect from others.
    Good place to find out about Morocco and Turkey though.

    • James Lovelace

      “Half the population of Amsterdam is not Dutch”

      No different from London. Paris is surrounded by a ring of suburbs where the police dare not go; Marseilles as asked to be put under martial law. Take a trip to Brussels, and enjoy the threatening muslim gangs roaming round the city centre (the good thing is they are attacking the EU staff who live and work there).

  • crosscop

    At least they’ve got Geert Wilders to vote for before they are overwhelmed. The Dutch are not finished yet.

    • James Lovelace

      Wilders PVV is now not only the most popular party in Holland, but is more popular than the two largest coalition parties combined. http://gatesofvienna.net/2014/01/the-pvv-in-the-ascendancy/ The Queen postponed her abdication before the last election, so she could interfere with democratic politics, and ensure that the PVV were not part of the current coalition.

      The Leftist elite are making sure that when the people of European countries take back control, there will be no option but to deal with 50 years of problems in draconian ways. And if the Leftist elite succeed in delaying that democratic response, then countries in western Europe will have no choice but civil war.

      • Bill Jones

        Spot on “Guest”, pity that you can write so eloquently, yet remain anonymous. I wish we had a Geert Wilders in England.

  • Retired Nurse

    ..that and the euthanasia health tourists !

  • Neohedonist

    the Dutch have many fine qualities but culinary excellence is not their forte although there are isolated exceptions

  • River P

    This is a strange sad little piece, no deeper or clearer than a muddy rain puddle. Murray obviously moves ankle deep in them. He needs to look further than the tourist mecca for inspiration.
    Im not sure if he realises it and this just one example but one of the most celebrated British Olympian gold medalists at the no other than the London Olympics Charlotte Dujardin won astride an all Dutch horse Valegro. The horse is the talk of the world never mind in the UK where hundreds of these Dutch horses are imported their breeders discussed in rapture.

    Maybe Murray doesnt move in these rural circles either, but if he wanted a good meuseum a place to stay and almost decent food he could have as easily stayed at home. The puritanicle indignation at what the worlds men and youth get up to safely tucked in the closet.

Close