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The dark side of Amsterdam

We've been living in Amsterdam West for nearly a year now. It's a little bit of a rough neighbourhood still, with more than a mere handful of coffeeshops in the vicinity.

One of our older neighbours told us that ten years ago, people were being shot in the street in this part of town. More and more flats are being sold, and this brings with it an inflow of young and hopefully decent people. So because we're glass half-full kind of people, we took the plunge.

But when I was visiting my friend Robbie elsewhere in Amsterdam last Friday, Levi called me a little before midnight and he said: "I just witnessed a break-in!" He'd heard a bang and had gone to look. Two youngsters were climbing through the streetside window, in plain view! The police arrived too late on the scene and the thieves got away.

A little while after that call, I decided to head home. I was a little worried, because of the crime that had just been committed next door. But we do what we can to assuage cognitive dissonance, so I tried to convice myself I'd be safe. Around the corner from our house though, on a big street we call "De Jan Eef", the road was marked off with police tape. Lots of police vehicles, a van and a motorcycle blocked stoep, bicycle path and road.

I had to continue by foot. A crowd had gathered. I watched them watch the police go about their business, I wondered if any of them knew what was going on. Then an officer exited a building wearing one of those white crime scene coveralls. And I just knew: something really bad had happened. Levi looked it up on AT5, the local tv station, after I got home. He said there had been a stabbing.

But if you think that was the last thing Amsterdam had in store for me this night, then you are mistaken. My bicycle still in hand, I was trying to cross the street. On Friday night there are quite a few cars still passing throught the Jan Eef, so I was waiting patiently when all of a sudden one of the cars gallantly slowed down for me. Happy for this decent gesture, I crossed the street, putting my hand up in acknowledgement, when out of an open window a man's voice yelled from the top of his lungs: "HOER!" (translation)I didn't even turn around or acknowledge that. I just went home, flabbergasted.

Amsterdam sometimes you confound me. You feel so cosy and small scale most times. I get around on my bicycle and don't even need a car. I maybe forget that you are a big city after all.

And then there are nights when you remind me.

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  1. Wow. What an extreme night. I’ve been so lucky the last few years that I often forget Amsterdam can be like this.

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