Amsterdam during Corona: a personal message

Hanneke guiding

Hanneke's views and thoughts on a new reality

We, Hanneke and Eva, founded Amsterdam Odyssey about 4 years ago. We have been friends since we met while studying to be teachers. We both love sharing knowledge – and we both felt the school system was too limiting to share what we value most.

That is: truly understanding the world around you. What is society really about? How have things gotten their shape? Why are systems and processes the way they are? Where does it – and do we – all come from, where are we now and where are we heading? 

Look, think and contemplate about history to understand the now. Analyze the past and use your insights to shape a positive future. 

This way of looking at the world around us, now has a new dimension: Corona.

In this time, without visitors and tours, we have to reshape our reality. Here, Hanneke shares some of her insights with you. You can find Eva’s thoughts here

The new now. That is the shortest way for me to describe the global turn of events since Corona has turned all the dials to ‘uncertain’. It is a different story for everyone, but since this pandemic is also a threat to our loved ones, it is hard to stay out of the swamps of despair these days. 

But we must. 

To be able to do the right thing, for ourselves and the people around us. 

I read somewhere that each culture has its own distinctive response to this crisis, and ours is indeed pretty ‘Dutch’: businesslike, efficient, and above all: a rational compromise, so a result of our longstanding democratic tradition that we call the ‘Polder Model’.

Almost three weeks ago the Dutch Government implemented an ‘intelligent lock-down’ strategy. We are allowed to go outdoors as long as we don’t show any signs of illness and keep at least a 5 feet distance from each other. The idea is that we can keep the spread of the virus at such a level that our hospitals will stay able to help patients that need intensive care. The experts estimate that this virus will stay active globally for at least months, if not a year or two years, before it starts to behave like a regular flu. And the idea is that a complete lock-down won’t protect us in the long run, but will do unfathomable damage to our national economy.

Eva and I founded Amsterdam Odyssey four years ago, based on a deep love for Amsterdam. I’ve always been sentimentally proud to be an Amsterdammer, but now, for the first time in my life, I find myself proud to be Dutch. Above all, I feel very lucky to live in this immensely rich and extremely well organized country. So I feel obliged to stay positive and look for what is hopeful and beautiful these days. And I found that Amsterdam helps.

View of houses in Delft, known as The Little Street, Johannes Vermeer, c. 1658. Although situated in 17th Century Delft, the atmosphere is quite similar to Amsterdam these days.

So let me tell you a story.

Just imagine that you live in a beautiful mansion. A castle of sorts, that has been in your family since the 13th century. Ever since then, rooms have been added, complete wings, inner courtyards, gardens. Layers of history in the palm of your hand, a marvel to behold. One of the defining trademarks of your home, the cornerstone of its reputation, is hospitality, to new inhabitants and travelers alike. So your mansion builds a name for itself all over the world, a reputation larger than the mansion, which remains cozy in scale.

You were born and raised here. Not in the best of the times, mind you. But after a long period of neglect due to economic setbacks, that left the rooms looking derelict and paintless, fortune returned and in its wake the guests came once more….and stayed.

Your mansion got restored, rebuilt and repainted. And for years and years the mansion was the site for banquets, parties, endless sleepovers and more parties, and more guests. You started to feel a little overwhelmed and at times a little alienated. How many guests are there? And will they never leave? But on the other hand, you loved how the mansion was thriving and how everybody seemed to be as much enchanted by it as you were. Only sometimes it was hard to see the mansion through all the people…

And then, due to a global crisis, the roads to the mansion are blocked and everybody is forced to stay home and the party that never seemed to end, is over. The guests are gone, all of them. And you’re all alone, in the prettiest home that you have ever seen, and with every corner you turn, you want to tell someone, anyone:

‘Look! Isn’t she amazing!’

But no one is around to see.

This is how it feels for me to be in Amsterdam these days. Ever since the semi-lock-down was activated, I’ve been wandering through the center of Amsterdam on a daily basis. Long walks, 2 to 4 hours, mostly alone but sometimes accompanied by my lover or my daughters.

All I do is observe.

Taking in all the details in the facades, the play of sunlight as it shines through the alleyways, as it is reflected in the church windows and on the gilded details on the steeples. Breathing in tune with the meditative silence of the canals and squares. Time traveling undisturbed by 21st century reality, sinking into the fairy-tale vision of history unveiled.

I mean, the Rijksmuseum is closed, but I feel like I’m walking through the 17th century paintings of Amsterdam and other Dutch cities.

17th century painting by Berckheyde of the Golden bend of the HerengrachtView of the Golden Bend in the Herengracht, Gerrit Adriaensz. Berckheyde, 1671 – 1672.

And I realize that THIS is the Amsterdam that I want to show to our guests. Because this is why we travel to far away destinations: to be enveloped in something otherworldly, to feast our eyes on untarnished beauty.

So let’s hope that the roads won’t stay closed too long. I cannot wait to share my city with you once again.

Till then, take care!

Love, Hanneke

Hanneke guiding     Amsterdam Odyssey bike along one of Amsterdam's canals

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