I wouldn’t normally go to Zeedijk, one of the busiest streets in Amsterdam’s old centre. I used to live close by and would avoid it at all costs.
It was around 11am when I arrived in the area, and was surprised to see how empty it was. Restaurants – Thai, Italian, Chinese etc. – were all closed and so were some of the shops. I immediately got the camera of of my bag. To walk on Zeedijk and be able to see things – houses, shop windows – well, that doesn’t happen very often. Most of the times, this street is taken over by tourists, as a route toward the Red Light District.
On that particular morning, however, it all felt different. There I was, walking along one of the oldest streets in Amsterdam, with the strange feeling of walking back in time. Zeedijk suddenly appeared to me as so strikingly Dutch. It’s like the very essence of Amsterdam was all incapsulated in its the old architecture, in the mix of cuisines of various origin, in the typical Dutch stores selling fish, and cheese, and bread, the Waag in the background – a reminder of the defence wall surrounding the city in Medieval times. I tell you, it was a bit like magic.
Latei itself was a pleasant surprise. I still cannot believe it’s the first time I’ve been there, after living in Amsterdam for so long. It’s cosy, modest, there’s smell of fresh baked tart and coffee in the air, and there’s a cat – Elvis – lounging all day long with absolutely no remorse. Oh, and the vintage items on display are all for sale.
I must say I was impressed by the special atmosphere of this place. It reminded me of my beginnings in Amsterdam, when cafes used to be like that – more about conviviality, less about cactuses and design furniture. Latei is the opposite of a hotspot. It’s a place where you come to disconnect, look around, have a chat, a piece of tart, pet the cat, read the newspaper, maybe buy an old photograph. And, of course, meet a friend for coffee. 🙂