Sweet Smoke

I went to Amsterdam for a few days between x-mas and new year. When I lived in Cologne I would spend many weekends in this amazing city and I have probably explored the entire place several times by foot and bike.

Amsterdam is one of the cities which make you happy to be European. Everything about it is exceptional and unique. Venice might be more delicate and elegant but Amsterdam is bursting with life and energy despite the projected clichés that everybody is either stoned, a tourist or a prostitute (or all of this combined).

Since we haven´t been back during the last eight years we immediately began to wander the crowded streets to find our favourite places and to see what was new. We would eventually spend around 15 hours each day walking around, shopping, eating exotic things and lounging in the various, fantastic grand cafés and coffee shops.

Amsterdam has the wonderful "Grand Café"-culture. These are huge restaurants for hundreds of people who go there to sip a coffee or tea. They also serve lunch, dinner and alcohol. These cafés are a so great because they attract an incredibly mixed crowd. Everybody goes there and becomes part of the bustling, yet relaxing atmosphere.

My favourite is Cafe de Kroon pictured above), which is hidden on the first floor of a house overlooking Rembrandt Plein. When you enter the massive room your jaw might drop a bit. Imagine a place that opened in 1898 (which it did) that kept a distinct part of it´s interior over time. Take a colonial film set in Africa, art-deco lushness, decadent lounge atmosphere clashed with a futuristic night-club and you´re halfway there. This place has the most mixed up guests you might ever see under one roof: You can see decked out grannies sitting next to models, hipsters, families of all possible gender combinations and tourists from any imaginable place.

Another amazing place is the Grand Cafe 1e Klas which is located inside the Central Station. 100 years ago this used to be the waiting room for first class travellers and the style has been kept through time. This luxurious place still keeps live parrots as a nice but questionable attraction.

Then, of course there are the numerous, infamous coffee-shops which range from murky rooms with Bob Marley murals to sleek hi-tech bars with giant fishtanks underneath the plexi-glass floors. Coffee-shops don´t serve alcohol and the new anti-smoking laws now also apply to places where you go to have a smoke. Of course only smoking tobacco is illegal so you can either smoke the weed pure or add some herbs. Very bizarre.

Although many bars I used to go to years ago were not existing anymore or were closed for (eternal) refurbishment the sound of Amsterdam is still pre-dominantly house. The only other music you hear is Dutch and even some German Schlager which is always met with frenetic singing and partying.

On sunday we made sure to get into "De Trut" in time. "De Trut" (the bitch) is a weekly GLBT party in a small venue that only holds 230 people. Waiting in line becomes part of the night and as soon as the small basement room is full you´ll have to wait until somebody leaves. "De Trut" was born out of the gay squatter scene over twenty years ago. It is run via a non-profit fund and all earnings are distributed to GLBT organisations. The atmosphere is unlike any other gay bar in Amsterdam (or anywhere else)which could be partly due to the dirt cheap drinks (beer is one €). If you ever go there, make sure to check out the unique fungus on the ceiling!

"Sweet Smoke" by Mr. Scruff is a track that really captures the mood of Amsterdam for me:

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