23 July, 2009

Temperate 52°23'N 04°54'E.

On the sun-hardened highway northward, you could see the opposing lane of traffic parked at an utter standstill for what seemed countless kilometers. There were certainly a lot fewer cars aiming away from the Mediterannean. Amsterdam proved to be a charming surprise, as the city seems to have been emptied of most of its residents. It is verging on ghost town status, more so than the dog days usual; the influx of tourists I'd expected, given high season, have not yet materialized. Lucky for those of us remaining in town, not so lucky for the merchants. Passersby do seem a bit more quick to smile, or even chat, than usual--attributable at least in part to this low population density. (I base these observations in part on the time I lived in the city).

It is a clear change, shifting to city life from the country life I now call my own--but in a generally good, familiar way. The weather is mild but cool compared to the south, and so much more subject to change without notice. The dog leavings, litter and graffiti I could (still) do without. But ah, Japanese food within walking distance...what a thrill. The profoundly bright green vegetation and immoderate displays of pure white Annabelle hydrangeas everywhere just leave me wide-eyed.

The newly-opened Hermitage Museum, said to be stunning, is on the program for tomorrow. Time with the family and friends I've missed is of course woven throughout the week-long visit to Holland. I'll be sure to share some of my favorite shots once I return home, temperate and temperamental weather permitting.

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