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Fahmidan Travel Series:

Amsterdam, Nederland

Whenever I land at Schiphol Airport, I think of the worn cobblestone, etched with burnt cigarette buts and filters strewn across the pavement just beckoning me beyond the immigration gates, beyond the train delays and confused tourists blocking every entrance and exit with their lack of special awareness. You may think this odd, but Amsterdam is a home to me, a beacon of peace in a world of constant turmoil. Even the negative is a blessing in the capital of the Netherlands.


Amsterdam is a creative haven for all benders of the mind, for all those who seek salvation in grandiose parks that span kilometers of protected land. I always return to the phrase ‘Samen beschermen we onze stad’ (Together, we protect our city*). I return to this phrase not because I enjoy the pronunciation of het Nederlands (Dutch*), but because it reminds me that even in a diverse city where all manner of people reside, there is community. There are the voetgangers (pedestrians) that stop for a chat as you walk with a coffee in one hand and a smoke in the other. There is genuine care for others that I have seldom seen elsewhere.


I frequently return to Het Vondel Park to reflect on my 12-hour days walking the city. I reflect on the nature of my privilege, my frustration with inequality and the friends that have become more family to me than immediate relatives. Amsterdam is a city where to thrive, one must embrace the strange, the juxtaposing, the extraordinary. As a writer, this city not only enables words to flow like flooded rivers, but it allows for the exceptional to be found in the mundane. For example, the bike that nearly cycles through you, the drunk tourists begging for directions to the Red-Light District or even the Echte Nederlanders (Real Dutch Folks*) that take the time to explain simple moments of culture and history.


As an Author I know of no other city that vacillates so well between the mind-altering and the gezellig (Cosy*). This coziness extends to the robust safety that allows visitors and residents alike to traverse the city unencumbered and at all hours. From canal strolls at 3am to sunny summer afternoons perusing verdant flora across the cities many parks. From Oosterpark to Sarphati and Het Vondel, nature is the way to finding literary success in Amsterdam. For there is something in the foliage, that dampness that lingers as you brush against the odd tree that begins the flow of creative ingenuity.


As a Dutch speaker and an ‘Echt Nederlander’ (Real Dutchman*) in the making, or so my friends say, I have a profound love for this city. So much so that it has led to the creation of numerous poems, flash fiction pieces and has even inspired books. Much like the Dutch Masters, I find strength in the directness of the Dutch known as ‘bespreekbaarheid’ in Dutch. I find peace in the frigidity of a Dutch winter and comfort in the enormous bakeries that make any shopping experience to Albert Heijn a true treat.


Dear Reader, visiting Amsterdam will allow you to find new words, new strength and happiness amongst arcane canals that will flow long after we’re gone.  


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