“Amsterdam is a very liberated city with a clear separation between Church and State.” Random tourist.
I visited the land of clogs and tulips — The Netherlands, last week. I expected to see a lot of tall, blue eyed, good looking blondes (yes please). I was pleasantly surprised by how incredibly ethnically diverse it was. Both in The Hague and in Amsterdam proper. I was grateful to meet a fair haired, blue eyed, handsome German in my booking.com accommodation. We had such a great conversation at the breakfast table he accompanied me into The Hague on the train :-).
After my Hague events, I spent two full days in Amsterdam. I struggled with it at first and considered taking the train to a surrounding, less crowded scenic town. But I eventually got my geographical bearings without getting run over by a bicycle. I took one of the many canal cruise boats. I liked floating through the circular canals, the old and new harbors, and hopping on and off at specific points of interest.
Amsterdam is one of the most watery cities in the world, with a quarter of its surface area taken up by canals and harbors. There are over 2,500 houseboats on the canals. I learned how the city went from being a muddy village on the River Amstel to becoming the most important trading city in Europe. The wild history of prostitution (the red light district) and drug decriminalization in Amsterdam is interesting! I was glad I found the Plantage part of the city. It was more laid back, eclectic and home to, amongst other things, the zoo, The Dutch Resistance Museum, and The National Holocaust Museum. It was also good to see the home where Anne Frank’s story was written.
I walked through the Ruks Museum, and spent the afternoon at the BANKSY and ICY and SOT Exhibit, instead of more popular Van Gogh Museum.
ICY and SOT are two Iranian activist-artist brothers who fled the persecution and censorship they experienced in their home country. Their work opens a window into a world where children run free, women have full control over the choices in their lives, and there are no guns, borders, hierarchies or war.
The brothers have observed that the oppression, fundamentalism and persecution in Iran exists in the US as well, just in different forms. The narrative to their work says they have seen that a vast proportion of the US population is not free and lives in a state of fear. They have witnessed anti-black police brutality, experienced the country’s Islamaphobia, xenophobia, and seen that corporate capitalism wields power over everyone’s daily lives. By living in the US they say they have learned how gentrification pushes people of color out of their neighborhoods.
I learned a lot from their exhibition and appreciated their refreshingly honest narrative of their experience in the US.