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Reports

Wednesday, 2 May 2001
--> Amsterdam (NL)

I checked out of the hotel at 11 o’clock and decided to walk to the first highway exit, where I wanted to get off to Amsterdam. On the way to the off ramp I already walked with a sign saying ‘Amsterdam’ along the busy streets – of course with a big smile on my mouth – and one car stopped behind me at 11.30.

The man talked about the change of hitch-hiking along the years. Nowadays Dutch students have a free public transport card that can take you anywhere in the country where you want to go. That has stopped the real hitching along the road. The most hitches he sees along the road are third-generation hippies, looking terrible, half-drunk and smelling like weed.

He said I am an example of modern times hitch-hikers: just looking a bit more decent. Even while my goal is very different than most hitchers. He brought me to the gas station of Muiden, close to Amsterdam. Where I waited no more than 15 minutes when the driver of an old-timer Citroën invited me for a ride. He had to go to the Wibautstraat – one of the main streets in Amsterdam – and that was exactly where I had to be!

Life is… being lucky.

I only had to walk one block to get to the address of Caroline, who had invited me over. The time was about 1 pm and I already knew that she’d get home from work after 5, so that meant sightseeing for me.

Of course I’d been to the city of Amsterdam before, so it doesn’t impress me as much as a city of Paris or Brussels will do. I walked to the Oosterpark – one of the green lines in the crowded city, where I lay down in the sun on the green grass and decided to take a nap, because the night on the radio didn’t really gave me a steady night.

Three hours later I woke up, feeling my face a bit sunburned and surprised by all the activities around me. Kids were playing soccer, one lady was doing all kinds of acrobatic stunts right in front of me and all around me people were sunning in the grass. I think it was one of the first warm days of this year.

At 5 pm I met Caroline in front of her house. Caroline works at an internet company and is a very creative person on the web. She is the person behind amsterdamstories.com, gavinfriday.com, U2log.com, virginprunes.com, tumbuan.com and croon.org. Next to this she also publishes two weblogs, prolific.org (in English) and vodb.com (in Dutch) on where she writes about daily things going on in life and on the web.

I asked her why she does all those websites. She said “if I didn't work all the time, I'd have too much time to think”, which sounded very reasonable.

Because The Gift was just to big to keep hiding for another moment, I handed her the framed U2-picture just after we entered here apartment. She was really astonished by it and said she will send this Patrick Kicken-deejay an email to thank him. She still needed something on the wall above her piano and this was perfect, she said!

I explained her the Gift-idea and she told me about a book she had written about her good friend Gavin Friday. Gavin Friday grew up together with Bono from U2 in Ireland and they are still friends. Caroline got to know about the singer Gavin as she’s always been a great fan of U2 and got more and more interested.

Nowadays they speak each other almost weekly and are very close friends. Almost ten years ago she took some time off too write about Gavin Friday and published her own book by herself. It’s called ‘The Light and Dark’ and is about this singer ‘who doesn’t sing with his voice only’.

Caroline decided to pass one signed copy of her book as The Gift to the next host I will visit!

Caroline wanted to do some groceries for my breakfast the next morning and decided we should eat outside somewhere in Amsterdam tonight. We sneaked into the subway to the Nieuwmarkt and went to the supermarket.

She suggested to go for the Mexican/Cajun restaurant Poco Loco. She had great experiences there. We sat outside on the terrace and we had a good view on the square.

The big things she ordered for us were very little [almost haute quisine with biiiiiig plates]; or came very late or wasn’t even delivered to our table. Asking about deserts the waitress said: “We have hellados, ice and apple pie.” Very Mexican, don’t you think?

Caroline reacted bewildered, asking if the restaurant had a new owner of a different cook. The waitress said that tonight was a very busy night – which totally didn’t look like it!

After this dissatisfaction (I totally agreed; don’t ever go Poco Loco in Amsterdam, hehe!) we had a small walk through that Amsterdam Quarter. Walked through the real Amsterdam Chinatown, along the canals and of course I had to see the Red Light District.

In one street a church was surrounded by the red-lighted windows, which was a very strange sensation to see. Was I still in Holland? Other streets had gay bars next to pharmacies, tourist shops and jeweller’s.

“Walking through Amsterdam is like walking in a painting”, said Caroline and she was totally right. I am curious which city would give me the same feelings in the future.

After the semi-touristic tour she gave me we both decided it was a great idea to go to a movie! While standing in line for a ticket we choosed for “Traffic”, that American/Mexican movie directed by Soderbergh.

It was very relieving to see this kind of movie, it reminded me of “El Mariachi” and it was a very non-commercial production with unsteady camera shots and very articulated Spanish talking which was almost sounded too exaggerated. But maybe that all made it unique.

Go see that movie! Or only because of the appearances of Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones. The movie was a pretty usurpation.

To chill out a bit more, Caroline took me to Mulligan’s – one little Irish pub where we drunk the real Irish Guinness-beer.

Caroline first gave me the money and I ordered the beers, when I got back my package of cigarettes where vanished and looking around the café I saw a group of kids (description: English, age: 17, totally drunk and far out stoned after visiting the local coffeeshops, of course) sharing a pack of cigarettes with each other, looking so happy wih those cigarettes that my eyebrows frowned automatically.

I put down the beers and told Caroline to excuse me for a minute.

I walked to the table and asked the guys why they took my cigarettes. “They are mine” one said and than I picked up the package and showed my lighter from my hometown Zwolle out of the package.

They didn’t say anything for a second and then one of the guys offered to collect some of their money so I could get a new package. That sounded good enough for me and they kept on apologizing.

Caroline was looking at me with big eyes.

She said she’d never do anything like that. I don’t know why I was making a fuss about some cigarettes – oh man, I am trying to quit for a long time, when the package is empty I can’t buy new ones – and couldn’t explain why I just walked to the suspected group and stayed very gentle to them. Guts or something? Don’t know, that’s just me. Just don’t steal from me… hehe.

At around 1.30 at night we got home with a taxi and spent some time behind the Internet. Caroline has two computers, so imagine two web nerds clicking away in the twilight of the night…