Yesterday, a friend‘s review of Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief inspired me to somewhat spontaneously go to Amsterdam and see if I could find this book in a secondhand book shop. (Spoiler alert: I didn’t find it. And my library has 3 copies in Dutch, none in English.)
To make a literary day of it, I began by visiting Amsterdam’s central library, the Openbare Bibliotheek. (Recently learned: openbare = public.) Go to that website and watch the English-subtitled video tour and you will get a good sense for it. There’s a similarity to my local library in that Amsterdam’s is modern, hi-tech, multimedia, and has a strong design element to it. There’s a dissimilarity in that Amsterdam’s is gigantic, and membership is cheaper (Remember, libraries here are not “public” in the sense that they are “free” and totally government-funded).
I spent some time wandering around and found the magic words: romans Engels = English novels.
I also discovered quickly which floor would be my favorite.
Aside from that I enjoyed the library and continue to feel mainly illiterate and reflect on times before the average working girl could read, what I really want to say is that Amsterdam was gorgeous yesterday.
The Netherlands does seem to be designed for spring. The water (even the murky water) sparkles in the sunshine, everything is turning green all at once, and people love to be outside. I’ve only been to Amsterdam a few times, and I don’t know my way around well yet. (It is not laid out like New York, folks.) I get lost all the time on streets with really long Dutch names and have to take out my map and violate my number one rule (Don’t look like you don’t know where you are!) and wind up on the wrong side of the canal and can’t get across. I find myself crammed on a tram car with a group of British guys wearing t-shirts that say “Rob’s Stag Do” who are completely wasted at three in the afternoon. I discover that the Italian shop I wanted to visit is closed on Mondays, but that down the street is a tiny, quiet organic bakery. I stop and take picture after picture of just bicycles and doorways and boats. Every time I’m there I get hooked more and more on this lovely, quirky old town.