Some things we remember better than others. And things happen in places. Amsterdam has been the background – at times, even the foreground – of my life for the past nine years. No wonder I have grown a lot of memories here, in a lot of places throughout the city. Whether good or bad, I cherish them all, so I decided to put them together in one place, to make sure they stay vivid. Here is my Amsterdam nostalgia map – the West edition to start with – and the reasons why each of these places belongs on it. I posed with them the same way tourists pose with landmarks because to me this is exactly what they are.
Westerpark is my favourite park in the city. It’s where I come to celebrate the first warm weather of the year, to see the cherry blossoms, and to do some train-spotting. The first time I came here was in November 2010, at the invitation of Adriana, my classmate from the Dutch course and my first friend in Amsterdam.
~PRINS & HEIDA WESTERPARK ~
This was the location of my Dutch school. Between November 2010 and July 2011, I would come here two times per week. I would initially attend the morning classes and, once I found a job in May 2011, I joined the evening ones. This is where I met my first friends in the Netherlands: Adriana from Slovakia and Gabi from Hungary. I was quite a good student, slightly on the nerdy side. Too shy to interact with anyone, I would spend my breaks in front of the computer, solving exercises, when all the students would go on the terrace for a sandwich and a cup of coffee. It was on one of those breaks that Adriana first approached me: “Oh, come on, Andra, take a break! Let’s go for a coffee!” That is how we became friends. I gave up the classes shortly before the final exam because of personal circumstances (in short, I was a mess after breaking up with my ex.) The school must have moved somewhere else because nowadays the building looks deserted and in a very poor condition. A paper on the window says this will be turned into student housing.
~BUS STOP FREDERIK HENDRIKPLANSOEN~
This is the stop where bus 18 would drop me off before my Dutch classes and pick me up afterwards. I sat on that bench many times, my emotions ranging from very high (when I started the course, when I made friends) to very low (feeling heartbroken and lost.) It’s just a bus stop, and yet to me it is a lot more.
I almost lived here. In November 2012, when I was looking for an apartment to move in with my now boyfriend, I came here to view one and brought Gabi with me. The place was alright and I really liked the street. After the viewing, when I still did not make up my mind about the place, Gabi made it easier for me: “I just don’t see you living in that apartment.” Seven years later and I still think this could have been my street, although I am more than happy with the choice I made instead.
~DE NIEUWE ANITA~
Gabi introduced me to this indie cinema at Hugo de Grootplein sometimes in the winter of 2010. On Monday evenings they showed movies with English subtitles – a rare thing in Amsterdam at that time – for only 2,50 Euro, popcorn included. The ambience was that of a vintage living room, artsy and low-key. A very fond memory is when we got out of the cinema one night to find the city covered in snow. It was magic. I just hoped my bus still ran. (It did.)
~FREDERIK HENDRIKSTRAAT 126~
The house with the bush of roses. This is where I experienced some sort of epiphany. It was May 2011 and I had just started my first job in Amsterdam. I was heading to the Dutch course one day after work. The weather was gorgeous, the roses were in bloom, so I decided to walk instead of taking public transportation. Things were finally starting to work out for me. I had the relationship I wanted, I now had a nice, well-paid job, my Dutch was getting better, and the summer holiday was just around the corner. How generous Amsterdam had been to me! That very moment my life seemed amazing. I could not believe just how good everything was. Frederik Hendrikstraat 126. I will never forget that moment, the thoughts in my head, and the happiness in my heart as I walked by. It must have been one of the happiest moments of my life.
~BILDERDIJKSTRAAT CORNER KINKERSTRAAT~
I must have crossed here hundreds, perhaps even thousands of times. If I were to choose one place in Amsterdam representative for me, Kinkerstraat corner Bilderdijkstraat would be it. Not far from where I used to live in my first years in the city, this is where I came for shopping. Blokker, Hema, Kruidvat, Primera, Holland & Barrett (still called De Tuinen), Albert Heijn, Ten Katemarkt, the Turkish spice shop – they were all here, not one hip place in sight yet. I might have moved out of the West in November 2012, but the West has never really moved out of me. So I still find myself walking these streets every now and then, always nostalgic for my beginnings in Amsterdam.
~BAGELS & BEANS KINKERSTRAAT, NOW COFFEE ROOM ~
On Saturday mornings, after stocking on fruits and vegetables from the nearby Ten Katemarkt, my ex and I would go to this Bagels & Beans for cappuccinos and muffins. After the break-up, I kept the tradition alive. Each Saturday, the visit to the market would be followed by a stop at Bagels & Beans, this time on my own.
~THE BRIDGE ACROSS FROM COFFEE ROOM~
There are many bridges in Amsterdam but this is a special one to me. It was December 2010 and the Christmas was just around the corner. On Saturday morning, as usual, my ex and I went to the market. Our friend, Dragoș, joined us. By the time we finished at Ten Katemarkt and the nearby Albert Heijn, the weather got really bad. Or really good. It was snowing. Not the peaceful kind of snow, with big, fluffy flakes, but more like a snow storm. Kinkerstraat was unrecognizable: all covered in white, the trams coming to a halt, the people on bikes really struggling. I was delighted! It was my first winter and my first snow in Amsterdam. The tree of us were standing on this bridge, jumping, and taking photos of each other in the snow. It almost felt like a Romanian winter. Afterwards, we crossed the street and found shelter at Bagels & Beans. To be continued.
~FLOWER SHOP ON POSTJESWEG CORNER WITTE DE WITSTRAAT~
This is a continuation of the caption above. On the way home that day, (we had to walk as the trams were still not working), we stopped at the florist on Postjesweg, from where we bought a small, potted Christmas tree – my first Christmas tree in Amsterdam. Dragoș got one, too. I was busy taking photos when I saw Dragoș rushing out of the flower shop, his tote bag in flames. He had accidentally placed it on an electric heater while paying for the tree. He immediately threw it in the snow, saving the remaining of his groceries. Later that day, over dinner, when we looked at the photos that very well captured his desperation, we could not stop laughing.
Fast forward five years, to summer 2015. It was my birthday, I took the day off. I was no longer living in the West but came here to have a coffee at Lot Sixty One. Before that, I stopped at the same flower shop to treat myself with a birthday bouquet. I decided to make my own: white peonies and some blue wildflowers. The florist loved it. In the evening, as I was receiving guests at home for my birthday party, in came Dragoș. We had recently become friends again, after not having spoken to each other since the separation from my ex, in 2011. He gave me a flower bouquet that left me speechless. White peonies and blue wildflowers.
“Where did you get this?” I asked, utterly confused.
“From that flower shop on Postjesweg, you know, near Witte de Witstraat. I asked the florist to make a special bouquet for me. Why? You don’t like it?”
“I love it!” I said. “I have an identical one on my table.” A long, warm hug followed.
Do I need to say more? I have already mentioned this street a few times since the beginning of this post. Kinkerstraat, unaesthetic as it might be, is my happy place in Amsterdam. This is where I come when I don’t know where else to go. This is where I feel the reassuring kind of comfort that some call belonging. This is where I feel the pulse of Amsterdam. Wherever I might live in the city, Kinkerstraat will always be home to me. I love this street. No further explanation needed.
~MUNICIPALITY OFFICE NEAR POSTJESWEG~
This is where I became an Amsterdammer in autumn 2010. This is where I applied for Dutch classes. This is where my ex and I registered as partners. This is where my ex and I cancelled our partnership. This is where it all started.
~THE LOFT ON ANTILLENSTRAAT / MY FIRST HOME IN AMSTERDAM~
Here I will insert a fragment from my Amsterdam memoir:
“Welcome to Antillenstraat!” said the old Dutch lady living on the first floor, as we were carrying the boxes into the loft. Dragoș explained he was moving out and Alex and I were moving in. She then disappeared inside her place, closing the nicotine stained door behind her.
After all the boxes were in the loft, we jumped into the rental van, direction Ikea. Dragoș was driving. We were all sitting in the front row, one after the other, me in the middle.
“Just look at us!” Dragoș said out of the blue. “Three Romanians in a van in Amsterdam.” We burst into hysterical laughter.
After Ikea, we went back to the loft. Dragoș had cooled a bottle of champagne and was now getting it out of the fridge. Alex played some music on his laptop. I burnt some incense and washed three wine glasses from those we had just bought. We poured champagne and raised the glasses.
“To new beginnings!” Dragoș said.
“To new beginnings!” Alex and I repeated. It was August 1st, 2010, and we had just moved into the loft on Antillenstraat, exactly one year since we had seen each other for the first time. A dream had just come true.
I am not a big fan of Rembrandtpark, but it was just a few steps from the loft. So this is where my ex and I came to jog and, more importantly, this is where I made my first attempts to ride a bike. For the latter, we came to the park at night, as I was too embarrassed for others to see me. We still bumped into our neighbour from the third floor one night, a Spanish guy whom I used to call Gazpacho. (His actual name was Guillermo and I was an ignorant.) What he saw must have been hilarious: me on the Oma fiets, my ex holding the back of the bike for some extra balance, while running behind, trying to keep up with me. After all, it was a failed attempt. I am still not riding a bike.
Surinameplein. How many times haven’t I heard this announcement in the tram? This is the stop where I waited for the tram to take me to the centre. Tram 1 if I needed to go to Leidseplein, tram 17 if Rozengracht or Dam Square was where I wanted to go. I would take the same trams in the opposite direction, for just two stops, to go to Lelylaan, my train station on the way to the office. “Please remember to check out with your OV chipcard.”
This was the first stop after Surinameplein when in tram 1 direction Central Station. This is where my first gym was and also some entertainment close to home, such as cafes or shops. It was where the Overtoom started (or ended) and the Vondelpark was just behind the building pictured above. Overtoomsesluis was my stomping ground.
Just by the bridge at Overtoomsesluis, Oslo is where I used to come for drinks, first with my ex, then with friends or by myself. It was an unpretentious neighourhood place and I was quite shocked to hear it burnt to the ground one night at the beginning of 2018. They are still busy repairing the damage caused by the fire.
~CAFE TER BRUGGE, NOW BAR KOSTA~
Across the street from Oslo was Ter Brugge, another neighbourhood cafe where I used to go perhaps even more often than to Oslo. Sometimes, my ex would meet me there after his work (at the time when I was unemployed and bored), for a drink and some bites. Nothing like an old, bruin cafe, on a cold, rainy day. On warmer days, the sunny terrace was where everyone in the neighbourhood wanted to be. When I was single, I used to stop there for a glass of wine after work. To make up for the missing companion, I would just bring a book. Ter Brugge is now gone and I have not yet been to its successor, Bar Kosta.
Like Kinkerstraat and Bilderdijkstraat, Overtoom is another street name with resonance for my Amsterdam nostalgia. Here, too, I walked more times than I could count, even if to simply stare at the beautiful apartment buildings flanking the street on both sides. The most prevailing memory I have on Overtoom is coming back home one day with a bunch of ruby red gladiola flowers in my hands from one of the florists on nearby Jan Pieter Heijestraat. It was soon after I moved to Amsterdam and I had just discovered the Dutch habit of always having fresh flowers in the house, something I gladly assimilated.
~GOLDEN BROWN BAR~
The bar with the floor on the ceiling. This is how I remember the Golden Brown Bar. (The ceiling is covered in floorboards.) I am happy this place survived the gentrification that took over Jan Pieter Heijestraat in the more recent years. A few things happened at the Golden Brown Bar. This is where I came with my ex and Dragoș for a drink one day. I had just got my first salary and was happy to finally being able to treat them with a glass of wine. Less than a year later, this is where I had drinks with my now boyfriend. How things change!
Rozengracht is more Center than West but it was relatively close to where I lived. To me, it was the gateway to Jordaan. I found myself walking there many times, and yet there is one particular memory that puts the others in shade. It was late autumn 2011, the most horrible time of my life (or so I thought back then.) I was still broken-hearted and confused and being home alone in the loft did not help. So I was trying to stay out as much as possible. I did not always feel like meeting friends and bore them with my drama, which means I was spending a lot of time on my own. I was walking along the Rozengracht one such evening, the sun low in the sky, blinding my eyes. The pavement looked golden. It was freezing cold, but the sun changed everything. That moment I thought to myself that this scenario of me walking alone and at random along the streets of Amsterdam, just me and the cold sun, had become a ritual, one that I very much cherished because, in spite of the loneliness I felt, I also felt the sweet healing that came with it.
Back in 2010, Mercatorplein was not exactly a nice place to hang out. And then, Zurich cafe opened right in the square. It was the beginning of the hip in the area. At Zurich, with a cold beer in front of me, I went to celebrate my first interview ever in the Netherlands. It was also there that I had drinks with my ex and Dragoș while making plans for our summer holiday together in Romania. Little did I know that, at the end of that very holiday, I was about to lose both of them. But on that particular evening in May, on the terrace at Mercatorplein, life was still good.
Toussaint is what I call a hidden gem in Amsterdam. I was introduced to it by Dragoș, one evening in early 2015, for our first reconciling drink. Hard to forget. We met in front of the Marqt on Overtoom, then walked along the beautiful residential streets of the Helmersbuurt. There was place inside, but we decided to stay out, on the bench. We had our winter coats and it was not so cold after all. I can’t remember all the things we talked about, not even half. In fact, I can barely remember anything. For all I knew, I had just got my friend back. On the bench at Toussaint we drank red wine, we smoked, we laughed, and the candles in the window behind us melted by the time we left.
And there would be more to add to the list. Such as:
- The terrace of Vondelparkpaviljoen (former location of the Film Museum) where I used to sit with a book and a glass of wine on the weekends, sometime in the summer of 2011, when being at home with my ex became unbearable.
- Korsakoff, the defunct night club at the Lijnbaansgraacht 161, where I went to some extraordinary parties thrown by my ex, Dragoș, and their other DJ friends, sometimes in 2010-2011. On the outside, it looked like the classic Amsterdam house by the canal which used to serve as a warehouse in the old days. On the inside, three floors of alternative paradise, packed with people, music, and smoke. No wonder it “had” to be closed.
- The bus stop at Postjesweg corner Hoofdweg where my ex told me he didn’t know if he loved me anymore. This, too, has been closed and removed.
- The piece of ground at Baarsjesweg, right across the water from nowadays Bar Kosta, where I once sat crying.
- Overtoom 423, where I met my now boyfriend, at the home party of some friends.