' Anne and I, in Amsterdam

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Anne and I, in Amsterdam
By Joyer Noronha

April 7, 2011

Last summer, when Amsterdam, capital of Netherlands beckoned, I had four days to explore the city. I had only one thing in my mind - visit to an old friend's house - rest all was left to chance and mood, obviously of my wife.

Accompanied by my wife and our toddler, I stepped into Netherlands, one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world, only to be welcomed by hordes of cycles. The sight got me wondering if I was in Europe or the streets of a smalltime Indian town. For the fitness crazy Dutch, cycling seems to be more an obsession than a mode of travel. I saw flocks of septuagenarians speeding on their toys through the main streets. Watching women over eighty peddling past teenagers was a veritable feast to my eyes. I was amazed every time I saw that scene and it inspired me to walk a few steps with a better posture!

I must add the following baffling facts here. Total population of Amsterdam is 7.8 lac, number of bicycles is 7 lac. Every year 50,000 get stolen and 25,000 end up in the canals!

We two decided to explore the city on the first three days and the last day would be left for my sole exploration and secret mission. I had to first find the way to her (my friend's) house so I decided to roam along the streets and lanes and trace her house.

I finally didn’t take the streets and lanes, because interlaced by 167 canals, water trails make the most convenient travel option in Amsterdam. It is an attractive tourist-friendly city, which was a focal point of global trade during the 17th century and even now it retains its place among world’s prime cities. In spite of thronging tourists (it’s a major European stop over) Amsterdam’s environment is pleasant and unpolluted.

We did the bulk of our travel through cruises on the water trails. The canals were wide, lush (at many stretches). The best views of the city’s elegant heritage mansions and modern edifices are found only on the diverted waters of the Amstel. The prettiest scene from the cruise boat is to watch the house boats. There is so much space on the water front (and the land is so expensive) that many people live in these well-roofed and mostly elegant looking floating dwellings.

For me the idea of people spending 24 hours on these parked roofed boats was most fascinating. I gaped at them all to find men reading newspapers, women cooking or walking across, kids engrossed in playing, it was fun. Good thing about these house boats is that you can shift them too (and to add to the luxury you don’t have to flush the toilets). Wow, I loved them all and was too jealous about the people living in them. If Mangalore was like this, I could have parked my house boat, one day at Kinnigoli and another at Mangalore and sometimes I could take it to Manipal to evade all people whom I owe loans. When the lady in the neighborhood quarreled with me I could shift to a new location. Then a scary thought came, when my much-demanding son grows into a young man, he would make me shift my house every time he finds new girl friends. I was curious to know if my friend lived in a house or a houseboat though.

Amsterdam has 42 museums, we visited three of them. Rijk museum is housed in an edifice well deserving the Dutch National Museum. Here lay the exceptional masterpieces of Dutch masters of the Golden age. Priceless works of Rembrandt, Vermeer, Hals and Jan Steens are flaunted here. Vangogh museum exclusively houses the Dutch master’s myriad collection of works. Schuttersgalerij sports an array of painting from an era gone by. Though these painting are not considered masterpieces they touchingly depict centuries of human life in Amsterdam in a vivid visual manner. They take us centuries back and allow us to soak in the days gone by.

Dam square is the heart of the city; it has a monument in the middle, ample space all around and elegant building all along its brim. People swarm here in the evenings and relax silently or watch artists from across the continent performing their craft. Horse ridden, gorgeous women police are a must watch for beauty lovers (which every man is). The horses too are gorgeous! Then I remember my friend was a gorgeous little lady too, her smile was real pretty and unforgettable, thankfully, by now I had a clear idea about where she lived.

Second day we visited villages of rural Holland and saw the fine looking wind mills wore the wooden shoes and tasted many of the dozens of flavors of cheese. We visited afew conspicuous landmarks like the boat-shaped science museum Nemo and the biggest floating Chinese hotel in the world. In the night we strolled across Rembrandtplein (Rembrandt square) which is a hub of night life. Dutch music wafting out of the beer houses was alluring, as much as the beer! This is a place to quench the thirst of both your throat and your soul.

Third day we strolled across Albert Cuyp market and Amsterdam flea market. They have all sorts of memorabilia you want to buy and many more things which you don’t need but would be tempted to buy. I bought things my ever-shrinking pockets could allow. Floating flower exhibition centre was the second most splendid thing to happen to me in Amsterdam (first, visit to my friend, of course).

Holland is known as “The land of Tulips and Dykes” and you know it why when you come here. Flowers of thousand hues, shapes and varieties soothe your eyes, enliven your mood and compel you to keep staring at them. They even beg you to fall in love, buy them and give them to your beloved. I bought some real bulbs for my beloved wife and my beloved wife bought some seeds to be planted in Mangalore. As fate would have it, the nasty Kinnigoli weather devastated our poor little seeds and my wife’s grand scheme to make Kinnigoli, “The Amsterdam of India” was nipped in the bud (pun intended).

Evening stroll in Vondel Park was a rejuvenating moment for three of us. I doubt if many other cities of this stature have such lush space close to their heart. We cherished the stay and stroll here amidst lush greenery and serene soothing weather. However, we needed to be careful enough to stay away from cycling tracks in the park to avoid getting knocked down by a speeding eighty year old.

Third night I discovered that Amsterdam is a city of paradox. On one side it has best of the modern amenities and infrastructure while on the other its old time flair retains it grandeur. It’s a city where old survives with the new, and extremely liberal trading ways co-exist with Dutch practical sensibility. After seeing some elegant churches (both catholic and protestant) I had the distressing experience of having a glance at red street. Red light street is avoidable to the meek and modest (being an over curious visitor I didn’t skip it). Freedom to sell and consume drugs is another luxury that Amsterdam allows you, name any drug; you have it for an affordable price!!!

Then the final day arrived. I convinced my wife that she deserved good rest and I was alone going on an adventure!!. I had to do it as by now it was clear that visiting my friend needed long waits as she had now become a celebrity!.

Her name was Anne, I knew her from teenage days at Pompeii high school, and the prospect of visiting her house that too in a distant land was electrifying one for me. It’s understandable I guess, when you are amidst millions of unfamiliar faces your heart jumps at the scene of a familiar one, even if he is your worst enemy in the village or the teacher who failed you vainly in 7th class. When it is someone you treat as a childhood sweet heart and for whom there is space in your heart; the craving is really profound. Not wanting to lose much time I took the boat to Prinsengracht by 7.30 in the morning.

My heart beat faster as I saw her name on the house. It was close to Westekerk, the tall and elegant church. With my heart pounding heavily I finally stepped into her house with overwhelming nostalgia and expectations. There, when I raised my head I saw her face. It was same face and same old innocent adolescent smile. Her eyes still sparkled and that hue of shyness so characteristic of little women in their early teens was unmistakably present. I kept looking at her. She too kept smiling!

My steps took me all around her house; I walked along her footsteps into every room that she lived in, the desk she used to write, the places where those wonderfully simple, clear and truthful thoughts emerged into her little and young budding writers mind. Her face kept smiling, her sweet memories rushed back into my mind, and it was hard not to feel the lumps at my throat. The visit helped me to realize better about her life at “her house”.

It was great to find someone who was a friend for 20 long years. She was close to me, close enough to let me read her diary, “The diary of Anne Frank”. It’s hard not to fall in love with her and her thoughts after reading it. Even today she stays the voice of the oppressed, and represents the loss at human/family level when great wars are waged and great pogroms are schemed.

Visit to “Anne Frank House” is a must when you are in Amsterdam.


Joyer Noronha - Archives:

Comments on this article
Anupama Rao, MumbaiFriday, July 08, 2011
Nice to read your article Joy,I was thrilled.
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Asha Pinto, MangaloreTuesday, June 07, 2011
I was not aware of your talent Joyer. You are really a wonder dear.
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Anita, KinnigoliMonday, April 11, 2011
Very good and details narrations. I felt like I visited and saw the places through your writings. Liked the suspense of waiting to meet Anne and then visiting her place. Admire you taking time to pen the words and creating the story. Keep writing, well done. The pictures are very good and tell a story of their own.
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skpandian, tamilnaduMonday, April 11, 2011
dear thalivare, you r the one only one can describe like this, what to be told and how to make understand which u have not spelled in this article, you have not just poured the place u visited but you have shown you sensational feeling that is what a country should make us to feel it,keep it up, what is your next trip? we are eager to wait for the another sensational article
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Sudheer, SuratkalMonday, April 11, 2011
Dear Joyer
Kudos to great photography and greater writing. Felt like actual had a europe tour after reading the article. Keep on travelling and keep it up.
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Jancil Rasquinha, Mlore/BloreSunday, April 10, 2011
Joyer Sir, nice article.
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Jimmy Noronha, Bellore,Kulshekar,LucknowSunday, April 10, 2011
I always carried with me this lingering doubt if Amsterdam would ever be a neat and clean city by the way they have been carrying this crude oil from the Gulf for years on end and in such mammoth tankers stretching over kilometers but my cyclist son based around the region allayed my fear saying that people over there are very conscious about the environment and that cyclists enjoy a special privilege there, and now that I am witness to those true pictures of the place backed by a lovely write up by Joyer, all my doubts got vaporized once and for all and being myself an ardent fan of Anne Frank, I feel I should not be tasked if I exhort that the diary of Anne Frank is a “must read” for all. Thrilled that the writer met her to my envy.
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Anil Dsouza, HalealveSaturday, April 09, 2011
Hey Joyer, Wonderful writing. I was planning to visit this beautiful palce in July, but now i guess i need not . You gave me a imaginary treat down Amstredam the sin city . Keep writing and keep travelling. Good luck
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Kurt Waschnig, Oldenburg/GermanySaturday, April 09, 2011
Dear Joyer, continue writing, it is a pleasure to read your narrations, I would like to state you my e-mail-address: chess2550@gmx.de

If you like to get in touch with me, I would be happy.

Best regards


PS: Sprichst Du Deutsch?
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Joyer ( Rudolph) Noronha, KinnigoliSaturday, April 09, 2011
I sincerely thank all the Daiji readers for encouraging my humble effort through comments here and by other means.
Your gesture has motivated me immensely to strive hard to continue and improve.

Thanks again.

To KURT :ich danke Ihnen, mein Freund.
It's a pleasant surprise to have your comment here.
Comment on this message     

KT, MangaloreSaturday, April 09, 2011
Been to Amsterdam many times, amazing to see use of bicycle in that city, even you can hire bicycle. One should not forget to see the red light district as well
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Austin Prabhu, Nantur/ChicagoFriday, April 08, 2011
Nice article and photographs Joy keep on clicking and keep on writing. Wish you all the best and God Bless.
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Kurt Waschnig, Oldenburg/GermanyFriday, April 08, 2011
My dear Joyer Noronha I found your article by chance by browsing the internet. Last year i read regularly Daijiworld on the net. Now after several months I started reading it again and I just have read your article, your stay in Amsterdam last year in summer.
I live in Oldenburg/Germany a city around 370km away from Amsterdam and when I was a student, a long time ago, I often travelled to Amsterdam and spent longer time there.
I went to Amsterdam last time 10years ago.
By reading your experiences you made in Amsterdam old memories came back. Following your narration I got the feeling to join you and strolling through this woonderful and liberal and beautiful city.
What you describe is so familiar, I see the streets, the buildings, especially the boats, you imagined to live in.
I too used always a cycle when I stay for weeks in Amsterdam.
You are right everyone should visit The Anne Frank House, I read her book several times in my life, but going in the house from one room to the other where she lived and hid from The Nazis is very emotional.
Murdered by The Nazis, she is immortal by her book.
English is widely spoken in Amsterdam and all over Holland.
I understand that you wished to visit Amseterdam with your family and seeing the place where your friend Anne Frank lived.
Thank you for this article.

Best regards

Kurt Waschnig/Oldenburg
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Cdr GP Mallya (retd), Kinnigoli/South KoreaFriday, April 08, 2011
Another splendid effort by Joyer. He has described in great detail about this ancient capital of Holland. We also criss crossed the city using the canals last year and found this city an easy going and relaxed one. Still it is a buzzing business capital of Holland with History round every corner. Thanks Joyer for a wonderful travelogue..the accompanying pictures were fabulous...Keep writing..I am proud about this work from a fellow Kinnigolian..
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Marvin , MangaloreFriday, April 08, 2011
A brilliant narration Sir...like Mr Ravi lobo says"keep them coming".

It was a pleasure to read such an article, anticipating the next one soon. All the very best Sir.
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Ganesh, MangaloreThursday, April 07, 2011
Inspite of your busy office work,you do great things like this.I salute you Rudolf.
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theo d'silva, kadri/torontoThursday, April 07, 2011
Hi Joy, you have a nice way of ending with suspence. you and Ravi Lobo Kinni Goli's Bada Usthada's in writing talents. Pls keep it up but, dont loose this gift of writing witty short pogoties.
thanks. theo.
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Sanjeev, MangaloreThursday, April 07, 2011
Fabulous Article Sir. You took me all the way to Netherlands from Hat Hill.

Please keep them coming.
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Henry Mathias, KinnigoliThursday, April 07, 2011
Excellent travelogue,Fascinating photograpy. Congratulations Joyer.
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Barboza Meena, Tanzania/ShirvaThursday, April 07, 2011
Joyer, nice article. Keep Writing, all The very best
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wilson kinnigoli, Thursday, April 07, 2011
very nice one Joyer. nice article.... keep it up.. i couldn't divert myself till the last word... really nice...
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Ravi Lobo, Kinnigoli/WisconsinThursday, April 07, 2011
Hello Joy,
A very nice article I could visualize the whole thing, without the pictures. I noticed that there is a gap of 2 years between your articles—you have beaten Ameer Khan Right there! Don’t be a stickler for perfection, keep them coming.

I wish you good luck. And, hope you write more often in future.

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