When Elena came to Amsterdam two months ago for a temporary assignment, she felt out of place: it was colder than what she was used to on the island where she lived, she did not know anyone, those people at work who were meant to help her were not very helpful and she had the bad luck of getting into some very bad places to have lunch and dinner.
Nothing fom what she was experiencing seemed to match her idea of Amsterdam – the super friendly city with super open and tolerant citizens!
However, it happened that someone on twitter virtually introduced Elena to me and so, having read her blog posts about how Amsterdam failed to give her a proper welcome, I decided to meet her and, if possible, to change her opinion about this city. It seemed like the right thing to do: for her (“No one should feel bad and lonely in Amsterdam or elsewhere!“), for Amsterdam (“How can anyone not like Amsterdam?”) and for me (“It`s the first time I`m going to meet someone who wrote a novel!“).
What happened afterwards are memories to last for a lifetime. Elena and I met at least one time per week during her stay in Amsterdam and not for once were we the first customers of the evening in a bar or restaurant and also the last to leave the place. Because time is flying when like-minded people meet and the conversation is fuelled by common subjects of interest, similar passions and even similar dreams.
Elena`s enthousiasm and willingness to do things (“OK, let`s go there!“, “Sure, let`s see that!”) were contagious and made everything easy and possible. I am trully grateful for the good times we shared.
Here is a collection of some of our encounters during her short stay in Amsterdam. Elena made her own retropspective on her blog, so you may take a look here to read her impressions.
Golden leaves were still to be seen on the streets of Amsterdam when Elena and I went for brunch at Staring at Jacob, followed by a walk in De Pijp, the neighbourhood she was curious to see:
While having a drink in De Pijp, I invited Elena for dinner at my place the following week. She accepted happily. Dana of Amsterdamian joined and, in spite of making the fire alarm go on several times (due to heavy smoke coming from the oven), the dinner was very enjoyable and the girls assured me the food was good, too! 🙂
Dana mentioned something about a photo exhibition in the Jordaan taking place the following week, so there we went, followed by a long dinner and nice talk at Brandstof, the extremely noisy bar on the Rozengracht:
The Rijksakademie OPEN at the end of November found us within the interesting premises near Alexanderplein. Elena particularily liked the sinks which the resident artists use to clean their tools and the visit to Walter`s – The Walter Woodbury Bar in the Indische Buurt put a very nice end to this day! (We returned to Walter`s the following week, with even more friends.)
When Elena mentioned she would like to go and dine at a nice restaurant, I knew I had to take her to my absolutely favourite: Mamouche! This is where we spent Sinterklaas evening (the Dutch version of St. Nicholas) and Elena was more than delighted by the tasty dishes and pleasant atmosphere:
In spite of the cold weather Amsterdam faced at beginning of december, I knew I had to take Elena over the IJ as well, so what better place to go to in Amsterdam-Noord than at the Film Museum EYE? There we had dinner and stayed for yet another long talk, this time in the company of Ioana of Roemenië maar dan anders:
Towards the end of Elena`s stay in Amsterdam, I suggested to go out for a photo shoot in her favourite area in the city. She chose the Jordaan, so, after taking some photos, we ended up at the Noordermarkt (where Elena negotiated for some souvenir rings and some pine tree branches), at Winkel (for a delicios apple tart and a cup of koffie verkeerd) and finally on the Haarlemmerstraat (where we popped in and out of many stores, until Elena found a toy mouse to take with her in the USA):
Last time I met Elena was last week Thursday, when we went to the Ethiopian restaurant on the Overtoom – Addis Ababa. We stayed long after we finished our meal, lingering upon several cups of cardamom and cinnamon tea. I offered Elena one of my photographs of Bucharest, while she handed me two of her watercolors which she had painted in Amsterdam. We said goodbye at the tram stop in Dam Square: “Where Amsterdam started, our encounter ends!” – I said.
Elena put me for the first time in the position of being written about (even illustrated about!) rather than me being the one writing and taking the photos. She also helped me see a face of Amsterdammers that I was not totally aware of, when people responded very positively to her friendliness and open attitude (such as the man at the market who started to sing a love song to her, after exclaiming how much he loved her positive vibe!). But, most importantly, Elena reminded me that magic is indeed to be found in the little things and that happiness is a matter of perception.
I am happy that she grew to like Amsterdam and to know the city so well to the point of enjoying to show it to others. In her last post about Amsterdam she writes: “And though this was unthinkable to me at the rocky beginning of my trip, sometimes I can even imagine living here one day!”
I feel as if justice has been made to Amsterdam and that both Elena and I had plenty to enjoy and benefit from her short stay in the city.
Now, we also have a common dream to materialise one day: that of a road trip together through our home country, Romania, with a long stay in the Danube Delta, where the rhythm of nature, the peace and the solitude would inspire us to write books and, in the process, to simply enjoy life and friendship!