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Blog 13: Dutchies Hostel – Victory over Water

The water, the eternal enemy of the Netherlands, but when the water has changed into ice, it is less dangerous. With ice-skating, the Netherlands celebrates a temporary victory over the water.

For the Dutch ice-skating is folk culture. Something is folk culture when suddenly it becomes very important, when it is difficult to explain to foreigners, when it is widely supported and does not attract anything of hierarchy or regional differences. Ice-skating is popular entertainment that lives in almost all provinces and appeals to everyone – young and old, poor and rich. The skate is perhaps an even greater cultural aspect than the bicycle in the Netherlands. Everybody is equal on ice, even in places where the pool is closed on Sundays, the skating rink often is open.

Most Dutch people learn ice-skating when they are very young. For example, me myself went ice-skating once a week every winter in Amsterdam at the Jaap Eden IJsbaan from age 6 to 10. The ice-skating rink has been named after Jaap Eden. He was one of the best skaters in the 19th and 20th century. He’s been the world champion for the allround three times. But this is nothing compared to our new champion: Sven Kramer. He has won almost 200 golden medals these past few years with the Olympics, World Champions, European Champions, et al. And we should not forget about our women either, for example: Ireen Wüst and Jorien ter Mors. Both successful ice-skaters.

When temperature goes below 0 degrees Celsius, almost every Dutch person will get “ice-skating fever”. Because when the canals, rivers and seas are frozen, the ice-skating will shift from the rink to the natural ice. As soon as the rivers “look” frozen, we will try out the ice, especially the kids. It happens quite a lot that the ice, unfortunately, isn’t thick enough… which means that the kids will fall through it. Not to worry, most of the time they are quite all right. When the ice is thick enough, we can start trying out the ice. Schools will close for the day, kids have ice-free. Adults take the day off from work. Think about all the beautiful canals in Amsterdam, frozen and filled with people. Little shops appear on the ice with glühwein (mulled wine), hot chocolate with optional rum and poffertjes (Dutch Mini Pancakes). Everybody goes skating.

The news, talk shows and social media, everybody is talking about ice-skating. They are discussing whether or not we can have an ice-skating race on natural ice, called the “Elfstedentocht”. It’s an ice-skating tour that goes through eleven cities. The last time we were able to do the tour was in January 1997. Unfortunately, global warming isn’t helping our ice-skating fever. But who knows, maybe 2018 will be our year.

Blog 12: Dutchies Hostel – Oasis under the bridge – a quick gaze into Amsterdam’s architecture

Shortly after stepping out of the bus in Amsterdam a couple of things started to stand out. The architecture, people’s willingness to help, their ability to communicate in English, their bluntness and nightly opening hours and the visible patterns in randomness. Today we will focus on the first one. The Dutch need to combine water canals with all sorts of structures and they let themselves put art and creativity into that. Where engineering meets art, are the Netherlands. Architecture has many great examples of that. Let’s take a walk through the city and do the breakdown.

We start in the Centraal Station, a building put to use in 1889 that overwhelms you with its size and detail in a Gothic and Renaissance combination. Imagining that this is only the second biggest train station in the country is hard. Its neighbours: the library, the concert hall, 3-storey Chinese restaurant and the Nemo centre of science, that looks like a whale proudly caught in the moment when above the water level. All those buildings are amazing in a way, present bald solutions and show how dynamically this city is growing. When you walk down south looking for that historical landmarks you walk past typical Amsterdam canal houses. One tightly glued to another like some sort of a puzzle. Facades range from angel white to stealth black, vary in gabs from those often hang pulling hooks and some houses are even crooked. The hook is a necessity because of the staircases, that are frighteningly steep and narrow. To me it screams that returning home wasted here is not popular. Big windows however, combined with the hook, let you furnish your home freely. The size of the windows creates at least two effects. Firstly, it’s hard to put a radiator under it, which then causes heating airflow problems and secondly you can look into most houses with ease. The latter is a long-lasting port city tradition. Curtains here are rare. Privacy seems to be coming from mutual respect.

You get through the city passing by a mixture of all influences, a combination of cultures and you get to Museumplein. The area where most important of museums are in close proximity. It’s very well thought out, if you ask me. The magnitude of the Rijksmuseum, the biggest museum in the country, the charming simplicity of the Heineken museum, leading designer thought in Stedelijkmuseum or simple yet world famous the I AM AMSTERDAM letters all can be found there. If your brain gets overworked there’s Vondelpark awaiting nearby to give you space to reboot. In the summer, it’s crowded but it still retains the chill atmosphere and even hosts free to donate concerts. When walking south some more the first sky scrapers start to appear. From World Trade Centre, through Mondrian tower (125m) to the highest Rembrandt tower (150m) there is seven constructions breaking the arbitrarily magical 100 meters. It feels like good chunk of the world might be run from here. Traveling further that direction entertainment giants Amsterdam Arena and Ziggo Dome dominate the landscape.

Moving now to the west side we encounter a delicate balance between old type Dutch terraced houses and a developer’s creative race manifesting itself in new (especially tall) constructions. It’s impossible to find two newly raised living buildings that are alike. Some of them had this great idea to create multi storey buildings with separate entrances for people living on the ground floor. The value of such apartment then raises in relation to other, while it’s much more convenient for the owner. I myself live in an 8x terraced house, a new type of Dutch standard where blue doors are accompanied by same size window. That window is especially useful when the post leaves your package at your neighbours, which in here is a second checkbox on the delivery form. Slotermeer park where another set of I AM AMSTERDAM letters are (the so-called ‘travelling letters’), this time turned into an outdoor calisthenics training field, guide us north towards the Sloterdijk station. In contrast to the central, this station is an epitome of the future. Trains leaving this station appear to be levitating on seemingly freestanding platforms and railroads. Big light bulb heart displaying flags of all countries enlightens bike stands wrapping around the station. All the way to here, bike tracks were smartly entwined into the landscape. Nested in between universities, hotels, corporations and even the behemoth of the tax office – the station means we are close. Just a quick walk and we arrive at the Dutchies. You’re home.

Out of all examples where creativity and art are incorporated into architecture here, the most puzzling one is just a rock throw away. Under the bridge created for the highway, there seems to be a well-lit, colourful oasis caged away by steel bars. Ever since I first found Dutchies I asked myself (and many others) what is the purpose of this? Let’s contemplate this together. Maybe it’s a reflection of nature, because under the bridge and an oases rain rarely falls. Maybe it’s a metaphor for a tropic island and the bars represent toughness of the ocean that you have to beat to get there. Maybe it represents striving for a stressless tropical life, unattainable for most. Maybe it represents vacation after you have no more leave days. Maybe it is art installation of a fatamorgana, because both can only be observed, but never experienced. And finally, maybe we should take physical approach of Occam’s razor and assume only it’s there because someone put it there.

Whatever the reason, it makes you wonder. That thoughtful, artistic installation, that small touch perfectly represents the freedom and baldness of architectural solutions in this city. They say Amsterdam is a state of mind. Maybe it is true. Taking a stroll like above and seeing the imprint of different generations on the style makes you wonder. How engineering thought is priceless and how subtle art creates exciting dynamic in otherwise mundane places. Everyone finds something that takes their imagination for a ride. Enjoy discovering Amsterdam, and let me know what you found the craziest!

Blog 11: Dutchies Hostel – Jazz in Haarlem

One of my favourite cities in the Netherlands is Haarlem. It is the capital of the province of North Holland and it is only a 15-minute train ride from Amsterdam CS. It is also close to some of the most popular beaches of the Netherlands, which is Zandvoort aan Zee and Bloemendaal. Which makes it the perfect place to live in as you have the city and the beach close by!

Haarlem is a charming, medieval city in North Holland and offers a lively cultural scene, cosy restaurants, cafes and bars and excellent shopping opportunities. Haarlem is also known as the jazz city of the Netherlands.

One of the biggest annual music events based in Haarlem, is Haarlem Jazz & More festival. Usually located in the Grote Markt, they bring various musicians and DJs and the event usually goes on for three to five days. This festival combines jazz music with other music styles so it can appeal to a larger group of people.

A cool cafe bar to listen to some live music, either it is jazz, funk or blues is Cafe Stiel’s. It is located in the heart of the city centre on the Smedestraat. Here you can find different local bands performing almost every night. Just across this bar you will find another jazzy bar called Cafe du Theatre.

And last but not least, bar and grill Louisiana is one of the places to visit if you enjoy listening to jazz and eating great food for affordable prices. It is located on the Zijlstraat where you can find other cafes and bars as well. They usually bring musicians and play live music or have great DJs mixing some blues and jazz together.

So, if you’re into jazz and ever in Haarlem, make sure to visit one of these places.

Blog 10: Dutchies Hostel – Music in the hostel part 2

Everyone loves music and here in Dutchies we are no exception. One of the first things we do when we start our reception shift is changing the music. Most of us have created a Spotify playlist and others play music on YouTube.

One of the Spotify playlists created by the staff is called Beautiful Stranger. It is a mixture of a lot of genres, like acoustic, reggae, alternative, indie, jazz, blues, soul and funk. Aside from the fact that the creator of this playlist likes every song in it, she selected this wide variety so more people can enjoy it. In the end, everyone has a different taste.

Another Spotify playlist is called Sinan, named for the creator. It consists mostly of Dutch Hip Hop and R&B. Dutch Hip Hop is really up and coming and a lot of artists gain international respect for their talent. So not only to bring Dutch Hip Hop to a bigger audience, he also enjoys every single song in his playlist. Living in a multi-cultural city like Amsterdam, he feels that this genre really represents the many nationalities living here, like Surinam, Turkish, Moroccan, African and many more.

The playlist ok consists mostly of indie/classic/pop rock. With 247 songs selected, you can enjoy this list for over 18 hours. Whenever this playlist is played, the creator of it gets a lot of positive reactions. A few people have asked her for the link of it and she happily shares it. What she likes to see is people singing along to one of the songs.

With a name like BlaDieBlaDieBla you are not sure what to expect. Like Beautiful Stranger it is a mixture of a lot of genres. You will find 80’s pop, 90’s R&B, Dutch pop, classic rock and salsa in it. These songs were mainly picked because for the creator they are either nostalgic or because she simply thinks it’s a great song. One of the best reactions that she gets when she plays this, is when people hear a song they have not heard in forever and have a moment of nostalgia.

With a lot of people visiting us every day, it is always great to have a big variety of music. Luckily, we also have a very mixed staff who make an effort in creating a great vibe with great music.

Blog 8: Dutchies Hostel – Sushi in Amsterdam

In Amsterdam you will find a lot of sushi restaurants. Out of the blue Amsterdam had a lot of those all you can eat restaurants. And it’s a good thing I love sushi, so now I have plenty of options to choose.

Sumo has a chain of all you can eat restaurant throughout the country. They have several locations in Amsterdam. Whether you are close to Centraal Station, at Leidseplein (party district) or just came from the cinema Pathé de Munt, you can be sure you will find a restaurant.

Genroku is one of my favorites. Not only does the restaurant looks nice, they present the sushi on a nicely shaped display. Like Sumo this an all you can eat restaurant.

Although not mainly a sushi restaurant, one of my favorite Japanese restaurants is Tanuki. You will find one in the south of Amsterdam and also in a city close to Amsterdam (take tram 5 from Centraal Station and you’re there in 20 minutes) called Amstelveen. The one in Amstelveen is a traditional izakaya type restaurant like you’ll find them in Japan. Aside from their tasty and really fresh sushi, they have a lot of other great dishes.

Because these types of restaurants are so popular, you will find a lot of them. Even if you don’t like sushi, but your friends do then it’s a good option. They always have a lot of other dishes like grilled/fried meat and fish, vegetables, soups and so on. So in conclusion, this a place for everyone!

Blog 7: Dutchies Hostel – Coffee in Amsterdam

This might come as a surprise, but the Netherlands in a big coffee loving country. Because of that you will find a lot of nice coffee bars in Amsterdam. Since there are so many options, I will recommend a few of my favorites.

Although I’ve only been here once, I was really impressed with this place. Located in the city center, close to the museums, Back to Black is a great spot to sit down and relax after shopping or visiting the Van Gogh Museum. With its homey atmosphere and nice views of the canals, it’s really a nice spot to be.

Closer to the hostel, about a 15-20 minute walk from us, you will find White Label. This is place roasts their own coffee in the back of the store. Located in a street with a lot of shops, this is a good spot to sit and relax. Aside from enjoying a nice cup of coffee, you can also purchase the coffee they roasted for a decent price.

While this place is more like lunch room, Anne & Max do serve very nice coffee. If you are visiting the food Hallen or are in the area of Kinkerstraat, you will find this place. In this area you will find a lot to do, so if you need a break, then Anne & Max is a great place to sit.

Aside from these places, you will find a lot of great spots throughout the city.

Blog 6: Dutchies Hostel – Things to do in the summer

Summertime is approaching! With sun and warn weather, there’s lots of fun things to do in Amsterdam and the cities around.

The first thing that comes to mind when thinking of the summer, it’s the beach. Swimming in the sea, relaxing, tanning, having a cold beer, all of these things make the beach a great place to hang out. From station Sloterdijk, which is close to Dutchies Hostel, it is about a 15 minute train ride to the nearest beach, Zandvoort aan Zee.

Aside from an actual beach near the sea, Amsterdam also has some artificial beaches. One of the most popular ones is Blijburg. That is in the east of Amsterdam in de neighborhood Ijburg. Not located at the sea, but at the canal Het Ij.

Summer time is also festival time. One of my favorite annual festivals has to be the Kwaku Summer Festival. This is a Surinamese/multicultural festival in the south east of Amsterdam. With a relaxed atmosphere, plenty of (live) music, great food and drinks, you will always have a great time.

Sightseeing with nice weather is always much nicer. Whether you go by foot or by bike, you will get to see a lot of the city. Another fun option is exploring Amsterdam through the water. A canal cruise is a nice option, but renting a water bike is also fun.

Luckily in a city like Amsterdam you have plenty of options to make your day great!

Blog 5: Dutchies Hostel – Funny hostel stories

I have been working in a hostel for the past 5 years and have encountered many people. I think everyone who has ever worked in a hostel, or some sort of customer service job, has some great stories to tell.

One of my first funny experiences happened in my previous hostel, about 4 years ago. Well technically I wasn’t there when it happened, but it’s still quite odd. My colleague was working and all of a sudden she saw ‘something’ running across the floor. She first thought it was a mouse, but when she drove it into a corner, it turned out it was a hamster. She took it home and from that day on she had a nice pet. About 2 weeks later I was working and I overheard a girl on the phone (hey I wasn’t eavesdropping, she was the only one in the lounge, which happened to be where the reception was). She was talking about moving to her new apartment and asked if she could bring her new hamsters. When she hung up, I asked her if she brought a hamster here and of course she did. It escaped and she thought it fell off the balcony (the hostel was on the 4th floor). Since pets were not allowed, she never bothered to ask if we found it.

One of my favorite Dutchies stories is of the first day we were open. It was pretty much a hostel stereotype kind of night. On our first night we were completely full, which of course is a great start, but there were a few groups in house, a few drunk groups… Let’s just say that the night shift receptionist had some certain cleaning tasks no one foresaw on our first day being open. A few rooms had some decorative items hanging on the walls. After that day we decided to remove them. That was an eye opening experience for us.

One of my favorite things about working in a hostel in Amsterdam are the funny and quirky experiences. Never a dull moment!

Blog 4: Dutchies Hostel – Kingsday 2017

It’s coming: Kingsday, the national holiday of the Netherlands. On this day the whole country parties and celebrate our King’s birthday . Throughout the entire city there are several parties, activities and flea markets. So put on your orange t-shirt, grab a beer and go out and celebrate!

Kingsday is THE day for locals to sell stuff they pretty much don’t need any more, so if you are in to second hand stuff, this is your kind of thing. In the entire city you will find people selling stuff. Close to Dutchies is the street Bos en Lommerweg. Normally a just a common street with shops, on this day it will change into a flea market. Another street in the south of Amsterdam, the Beethovenstraat (can be reached with bus 15 from Bos en Lommerplein) is known for the annual flea market and in general has some pretty decent stuff.

But what attracts Amsterdam locals, Dutch people from other cities and even tourists to Amsterdam, are the many parties and festivals. In the Jan Pieter Heijestraat 85-87 is the Kashmir Lounge (it’s about a 15 min. bike ride from Dutchies) and they will have DJ, live bands and plenty of drinks and food. Close to station Sloterdijk, and thus Dutchies, the Urban Music Festival Kingsday will be held. You have to buy tickets in advance as they will not sell tickets on the day itself. In the south of Amsterdam, near station RAI, the annual Kingsday festival, Kingsland Festival, will be held. This is one of the biggest festivals in the Netherlands that day, with DJ’s like Tiësto and Martin Garrix will be playing.

Whether you will going to the center, go to a flea market, visit a festival or a party, this is a day to remember.