There is a Dutch word that cannot be translated into any other language. It is gezelig and it means cosy, friendly, nice, time spent with loved ones or being sociable. Gezelig can refer to hanging out with friends, having coffee with a neighbor, sitting in a cafe, or even a nicely decorated room in a home.
My trip to Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands, was decidedly gezelig. One of my best friends fell in love with a Dutchie and moved to this city, which contains 1.4 million people and perhaps even more bicycles.
Amsterdam started as a fishing village and now enjoys worldwide notoriety as a place where smoking marijuana in public is tolerated, and you can find prostitutes perched behind glass windows, on display to potential “clients” in the Red Light District, like doggies for sale in the window.
We stayed first in the dining-room-come-guest-room of my dear friend and her lovely Dutch man. Facing a canal and filled with light. Both sun light and positive light.
Later, we bunked at a five star hotel, Grand Hotel Amrath (thanks to a lucky bid on Priceline.com), under soaring ceilings with the softest sheets I’ve ever known and remote-controlled curtains covering two-story windows.
We sat in cafes, sipping cappuccinos and reveling in the superiority of European coffee, which seems to be never burnt or diluted or too sweet. We learned about the history of the Netherlands, including the nation’s golden age in the seventeenth century, when Amsterdam reached levels of wealth and prestige never before and never again known by the city. The city that is still a village at heart, scattered around peaceful canals, making the streets almost as challenging to navigate as Venice.
We walked and walked and walked, allowing 14 month old Giovanna to sleep and sleep and sleep in the comfort and class of her chariot, aka stroller, a must-have for a jet-lagged baby with overly adventurous parents.
We looked at art at the Reijksmuseum, getting to know Rembrandt and his pupils. I lost my favorite silk scarf, which mysteriously disappeared during one brisk late-night walk (when we happened to be lost). We shopped, and I replaced my beloved scarf, praying that it will be washed and worn by whomever found it rather than destined for a landfill.
We ate in a former castle and atop a department store, in a sun-drenched kitchen-cafeteria offering freshly-prepared gourmet cuisine, from salads to sushi to pizza and more.
We swam in the hotel’s pool and soaked in the jacuzzi, the latter only marginally warmer than the former. We slept in until 11 am. We stayed up until 1 am. We kissed. We laughed. We fought. We explored.
There were a few moments of desperation and regret, like when Giovanna would be up and at ‘em in the middle of the night, her tiny body confused by a flight across multiple time zones, while meanwhile, I was so tired my legs ached. What are we doing here? Is this supposed to be fun?
The regret was always erased by a few hours of sleep and at least one prayer. International travel with a baby is as easy as cleaning the floor with a toothbrush, but like most things in life, challenges are met with joyful rewards. The floor will sparkle. Travels will enliven and enlighten. With a few bright rays of sunshine, a rain storm turns into a rainbow. This too shall pass.
She slept on the train to Paris.
So did he.
And so did I.