As life on the road goes, not everything is just rosy. I also had to squeeze in an emergency visit to a Dutch dentist, as my crown couldn’t wait to fall out until we got back from our holidays. The experience is like any other dental visit – marred by angst. I’ll spare you the details, but the most notable difference was that the dentists there shake your hand, introducing themselves only as “Magriet” or “Anneloes” – no fancy titles there, just a lady fixing your teeth.
Indonesian Ricetable (Rijsttafel)
I have been obsessed with a quasi-Dutch cuisine called Indonesian Ricetable (rijsttafel) since I read about it in a fancy travel magazine many years ago and decided to make this the theme for my 21st birthday party. Needless to say, after trying the real thing in Amsterdam, I can vouch that what I served at my 21st birthday party was not what the Dutch, nor the Indonesians, had in mind, but nevertheless, my friends would never know until they experience it first hand too.
Mum and I dined at a well-known Dutch-Indonesian restaurant, with only a handful of tables, after a kindly call from our landlords to the restaurant. This cuisine stems from the time when Indonesia was a Dutch colony (1800-1949). The idea is to have a central pot of steamed white rice on the table, surrounded to the brim by tiny, yet extremely flavourful dishes. Between 8 and 40 tiny dishes can be ordered and the spread includes vegetarian and various meaty dishes. It is a culinary treasure hunt and best enjoyed by two or more people, who can point each other in the right direction regarding the spiciness and eccentricity of a dish. A word of advise: Take your time. There is no point in rushing through this exploration. You might only experience it once in your life and it’s so very special. The meal was concluded with a digestif of Dutch gin (jenever) in a local pub. Strong stuff, watch where you’re walking, but enjoy the gawking.
A final tip of mine would be to watch your step carefully in Amsterdam, especially when walking the busy streets. There is a myriad of things to see, and what you see is often so authentically quaint, that you can’t help but be momentarily mesmerized by the sight. Yet, and this is a big yet: Should you cross the road without looking specifically for bicycles, the Dutch cyclists will mow you down without a doubt. If they miss, they will make it a memorable experience by shouting at the top of their lungs at you, in Dutch – and if this isn’t enough, all the other cyclists around you will then start ringing their bells to show solidarity with the shouter. This is the stuff nightmares are made of. They do not slow down, partly because they are in the right, and partly because the sturdy Dutch bicycles do not have gears, so once they get going with the wind from behind, there’s little point in braking, even for tourists – how else will they learn? With great relief, I can assure you that neither mum nor I had to learn this lesson the hard way, due to frequent but frantic reminders to each other.
Visit Amsterdam as soon as you can, it’s a special city that makes for gorgeous photos and splendid memories. And if your mum is anything like mine, take her with. It should help you crawl out of your shell and exterminate your embarrassment bug.