Aimless in Amsterdam

Amsterdam is extremely photogenic. If it’s not the onion-ring canals, it’s the assortment of gables on gingerbread houses, a delight for any architecture lover.

My neck was a little sore after three days, craning to look up from cobblestone streets.




From left, every other house: bell gable, neck gable, pointed gable

I can only imagine how steep the staircases inside must be. Hotel Museumzicht gave us a good indication. This lodging was a great spot to watch tourists come and go from the Rijksmuseum and play on the iconic I Amsterdam letters as we ate breakfast and planned our wanderings for the day.




We walked by poems waiting to be finished.


Old buildings with sun-kissed bricks.


Tulips like lipstick shades.


Bicycles everywhere: parked, ridden, dodged. Apparently there are about 600 000 bikes in Amsterdam on a given day. We didn’t dare bike in the city but we took a lovely excursion to the country which I’ll write about later.


The holy and the profane keep company mere steps from each other. We walked towards the Oude Kirk (city’s oldest church, built in 1213) in broad daylight to stumble upon women in windows scantily clad, a red light emanating above the glass. Hello Red Light District.


Oude Kirk

Whereas the Red Light District is easy to find, the Anne Frank House (turned into a museum) is remarkably camouflaged. The tour guide on our nighttime canal boat tour pointed it out and I would be hard pressed to find it again. No distinct gable or sign. The only giveaway is the often long line. Visiting the house is a sobering, moving experience well worth the wait. I had reread Anne’s diary upon arriving in Amsterdam and many of the quotes from it were projected on the walls. You get to walk behind the moveable bookcase into the cramped quarters of the Secret Annex where the Franks, along with four other Jews, hid for two years before being anonymously betrayed to the Nazis. I reflected in my journal afterwards that it was heavy but also hopeful. The haunting words of a thirteen-year-old girl have left their mark on the world.


Anne Frank’s House is the one right in the middle with the straight roof and tree in front.

Right around the corner, near the Westerkerk (West Church) is a sight with a very different mood. Irreverent Dutch humour at its best.


Frites stand parodying Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam from the Sistine Chapel

Amsterdam closed out our trip to Europe, and it was a great place to end. People were friendly, food was delicious, art was incredible, and the city was easily walkable. I’m obviously not featuring the cities we visited in order because Nice and Venice are still to come, but hopefully you enjoyed some snapshots of the fascinating place that is Amsterdam.

Highlighters in the Sky

IMG_7745 - Version 2IMG_7752OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHighlighters in the Sky by Charlene Kwiatkowski

driving down old country roads
pushing deeper into farm land
away from the speed of Seattle
its market gossip and grey-brown buildings
road signs every few miles
mark the way to our treasure

who needs signs when you first see
that line of colour against the horizon
highlighters in the sky
better than any road map
just follow that yellow brick—

field of the brightest pinks, mauves, corals,
peaches, and oranges
colours like fruit
so ripe the sweetness
seeps from root to bulb
I feel spoiled to stand in this spot

surrounded by dancers coming down aisles
ball gowns and tailored suit jackets
heads swaying to the rhythm of the wind
tall necks erect, bodies leaning in
one man’s cologne mingling with a lady’s perfume
whispering some great secret
about the mystery of the universe

I bend at the knees
weak with delight, straining to catch
even a scent of what they’re saying
and maybe a word, a look, a glimmer
about the dance, and what
beauty is like