Self-aware. Self conscious. Self induced.

Gastvrijheid.

I’ve heard a lot of things about the Dutch, beginning with spacecakes and the Red Light District, going through stinginess, chips with sauce, and culminating in the “open mind and closed heart” of an intellectually open society that struggles with its immigration policies and ethnic minorities. My sister, who worked with a number of folks from the Netherlands years and years ago, snorted derisively after one visit to the country while talking about going to a dinner meeting, “There’s a reason they call it “going Dutch.” Other friends who worked with Dutch nationals concurred.

We’ve got plenty of friends in the Milwaukee area who are Dutch by heritage but American by culture. Mostly this plays out as enthusiasm for the national football team, enthusiasm for Hollander and Centraal, but otherwise they’re as happy to buy around as to receive one.

Pre-travel joking aside, we haven’t traveled here for the legal drugs. Who needs to buy drugs in Amsterdam? I was practically hit in the face yesterday morning on the way to Centraal Station (for our less-than-successful-more-than-failed trip to Haarlem) with a blast of exhaled hash. That did me for the day. We haven’t traveled to “get to know the locals.” We came here at this time because of IDFA, thus all of the movies that Lisa’s running around and watching. (On today’s list: Errol Morris’ Tabloid.) Mark and Lori had never traveled outside the U.S. before, though they’re very well-traveled within vast swaths of the country, especially out of the lower 48.

We’re renting an apartment in the Jordaan, a residential area in the western central part of the city, walking distance from everything. We’re fine with the touristy stuff, not the kitschy stuff, which is why we took the canal tour the other day. (Because it’s Amsterdam, or because people everywhere have 2nd grade senses of humor, someone had scratched the “c” off of one of the canal tour bikes toodling by us, leaving: AMSTERDAM  ANAL TOUR). We had an hour before the tour, so we hit a pub across the canal for a beer, Café de Prins. One round of drinks, 12 euro.

I’m sorry, did you say 12 euro for four beers?

I did.

We went back after the tour. – Well, Lisa, Lori, and Mark did. I went to write for a while. In the meantime, they made a good connection with the super friendly bartender, who was busy helping anyone inside, drawing maps for other visitors on the back of contiguously placed coasters, finding L&L&M an open table when they decided they needed to balance their alcohol content out. Generally, we decided this was a Great Place.

Last night, after a good tapas meal at Café Dos, we went to another local pub for a drink to kill some time before Lisa was to drag Lori off to some godawful industry party. Who should come into the bar, but the friendly bartender from de Prins. Figuring that in some ways this city is probably not culturally far from Prague, I suggest that he’s on his way home from work. He’s sort of embarrassed to see us, but in a loud, goofy, “I swear, I’m not stalking you!” way. That’s a quote. “I just live around the corner!”

We buy him a carajillo (coffee and Fundador, his drink of choice), and he says he’ll join us but he has to concentrate now. Thirty minutes of concentration later he arrives at our table with a badly drawn map and forty-five minutes of exposition. His name is Leszek, his mother was Polish but he was born here, and he gives us his work phone, his mobile, and where we should go for three great bars. He leaves and comes back before we’re gone, whereupon he creates another map for us.

Gastvrijheid is Dutch for hospitality.

He’s been the highlight of our trip.

 

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