The ‘Republic of Amsterdam’, the city of freedom, rebels and weirdos. Who ever you are, whatever you believe in and no matter how you look, in Amsterdam, you can be yourself. It might sound too good to be true but I believe it’s still so.

Secretly, I long for the raw, edgy 1980s Amsterdam. Rioting squatters, the Mazzo on the Rozengracht, peaking into La Michelle back when the Warmoesstraat was still exciting and when there weren’t nearly as many rules as today. Nowadays everything has to be so controlled, politically correct and behaved. But I don’t want to gripe and moan. I still love this city. How beautiful it is as you wander through the streets early in the morning or late in the evening when the traffic is quiet and most people are sleeping. Just the odd drunk or taxi driver making their way and no crazy cyclists crashing into you if you are not paying attention. The street lights shimmering on the water of the quiet canals. Wondering at the lit bridges and canal houses whose historical beauty you can only really see under the mysterious night sky. Each neighbourhood a village but even in the quiet you still feel life’s hum.

I often head out of the city to the forest to write and to sit and stare with no apparent purpose. There, I revel in the call of the night owls and allow myself to be intimidated by the majestic beech trees while on a long walk. But how wonderful it is to come home again. It’s when I reach our street, glide through some dog poop left on the side walk and almost get run over at the zebra-crossing by a scooter; the driver giving me the finger, and then get accosted by a confused neighbour asking for beer money, thatI know I am home and let out a sigh of relief.

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