This past week, I would have been in Amsterdam for my annual trip to teach my professional level course there. But obviously with the pandemic still raging, this trip was cancelled, as were all my previous five trips. Instead I taught the course virtually from my son’s bedroom at home.
So, last Saturday, the day we would have arrived in Amsterdam, rather than sitting by a canal and enjoying a cold Heineken…
…I sat by our backyard pool drinking a Heineken and savoring the memory.
And rather than going on a long Sunday afternoon bike ride with my wife through the parks of Amsterdam…
….my wife and I took a bike ride along the Greenline near our home.
Looking back over the nearly 23 years that I have been teaching this course, this is the first time that I will miss my annual trip there. In fact, the only other time my travel to Amsterdam was impacted was in April of 2010 when a volcano erupted in Iceland sending an enormous ash cloud into the atmosphere causing the cancellation of most flights between the US and Europe. Fortunately, in that case the trip was just postponed a month and so I taught in May rather than April.
But that didn’t happen this time due to the uncertainty of when the pandemic would be over.
So, missing my annual spring trip to Amsterdam—in essence, my Amsterdam Lost—got me to thinking back over all the wonderful times I had had on those trips that I would be missing this year.
I will miss the long walks. Amsterdam is the most walkable city I have ever visited. In the city center, it is rare to see a private car being driven along the narrow streets next to a canal. For me, walking is one of the best ways to begin to get over the jet lag especially since staying awake is the most important first step after a long overnight flight from the US with little sleep sitting in coach. It is here that I hit my first 25,000 steps in a single day and over 100,000 steps in a week!
I will miss seeing the enormous numbers of tulips in bloom.
My favorite place to go is Keukenhof near Lisse—a short train ride from Amsterdam—where during its short two-month season from mid-March to mid-May (the normal time of my annual trip), it boasts seven million bulbs in bloom. Sadly, this year no one was able to be onsite to witness their splendor although fortunately there were a number of virtual tours that could be taken. (The flowers and the park are stunning! You can check them out here.)
I will also miss visiting some of the best museums in the world. The Rijks is almost like several Smithsonian museums all under one roof housing some of the most famous works of art. And the Stedelijk is a significant modern art museum. But I doubt if anyone visiting will miss going to the Van Gogh museum which includes the largest single collection of his paintings, for me one of the crown jewels of the city.
Dining at a variety of different ethnic restaurants is also one of my fond activities that I will miss. Walking down almost any street in the city center you will encounter a global choice of foods to eat. By far, my favorite and one I never miss is taking in an Indonesian Rijsttafel (rice table), multiple plates of delicious and spicy meat and vegetables. After trying different restaurants over the years, I found one, Puri Mas, that I think is the best and so always go there. I think the staff, who are most likely family members since they are always there, recognize me now when I come in the door, having eaten there for so many years.
And what would be a must is enjoying a cold Heineken while visiting. For many years, I could sit by a canal and enjoy one watching the boats go by.
Within the last couple of years, in certain districts which are commonly very crowded and often boisterous, alcoholic beverages have been outlawed outdoors but Heineken answered this by coming out with their 0.0 beer.
Amsterdam is also the site of our best SibSab in 2015. After visiting there so many times, I became tour guide for my three siblings when we took our annual SibSab (Sibling Sabbatical) there. That year, prior to my teaching, we visited and did all of the sites I just mentioned. It was the best SibSab we’ve had so far in the nearly 20 years the four of us have traveled together.
Occasionally, I have had time on my trips to Amsterdam to take side trips to other countries. With such great rail systems, Amsterdam is a great central location to get to many European countries.
One year, before heading back to the US, my wife and I took a daytrip to Bruges, Belgium to visit that ancient city. Stepping off a modern train and after a short walk, you are transformed into an idyllic medieval town of the 14th century. If you have seen the movie In Bruges, you are familiar with this quaint little town.
And another year after my teaching was over, my wife and I took a train to Paris and spent a few days there.
So, all these things and more I will miss this year.
After travelling to Amsterdam 31 times over the past nearly quarter of a century, it has become second nature for me to go there. With the uncertainty this pandemic has left our world in, I don’t know when I will be able to return to this, one of my favorite cities in the world. But I know no matter what, I will have to return sometime in the future. And having missed going this year in 2020, I will burst into a huge smile when I finally come to the gate in the airport and see this is my next travel destination.