When you hear a bike bell, you dive out of the way! That should be the first thing you learn before visiting Amsterdam.
For our first stay in Amsterdam, we rented a houseboat near Rembrandt Square. It was ideal, both for its charm and location.
It turned out to be one of the best decisions of our whole trip! Amsterdam has always been about its canals. So, you feel more connected to the city when you stay on the water. It was comfortable, warm, and had big glass doors that opened directly onto the canal. Our host said was because of the many festivals and events in Amsterdam. Passing boats commonly pull up to hang out and maybe share a drink before moving along. Besides its friendly functionality, it gave us the most picturesque view of a bridge that crossed the canal. We’d sip on a bottle of wine and watch the boats lazily cruise the canal. There’s truly no experience like it.
We enjoyed the friendly waterfowl that came up to the sliding glass doors. Even if they were only visiting us looking for a snack.
We had been warned that the swans on the canal would aggressively seek food if you left the sliding glass doors open. They had no problem inviting themselves into your houseboat. We laughed the whole thing off until we met Bubbles.
Bubble’s was a troubled young swan who grew up on the wrong side of the canal.
It was said that he had earned his reputation by fighting in the swan pits of Siberia. Rumor had it that the homemade knife he carried was made from the tusk of a walrus. It was a trophy taken from his first defeated opponent. That was the same knife he pulled on us one evening as we returned to our temporary floating home.
We had spent the day exploring the gorgeous Dutch countryside. Snapping pictures of anything that would stay still long enough.
Visiting Zaanse Schans we saw an example of what life was like in Holland during the 17th and 18th centuries. Over 600 windmills are featured in the area. We also visited the Wooden Shoe Factory in Marken where we bought wooden garden shoes. Common sense told us how extremely practical they would be for daily life in Los Angeles. For our last stop, we visited a Cheese Factory in Volendam. Little did we know that one of the cheeses we purchased in their gift shop would save our lives.
As we went down the ramp leading from the shore to our houseboat, I noticed something. It was a flurry of feathers seen out of the corner of my eye. There was just enough time to get one of the wheels of cheese we had purchased in front of me. This life
Bubble’s knife streaked through the night air searching for my vitals. Embedding itself deep into a wheel of goat’s milk pesto cheese, it missed my heart by inches.
Yelling for Michelle to run for the door, I began to fight for my life. Twisting the cheese I was able to sink the knife deeper, trapping it. This disarmed Bubbles before he was able to stab again. We could hear the jeers of the other swans as they cheered him on. Seeing Michelle get safely inside, I jumped past Bubbles toward the door, missing the landing. Legs dangling in the water, I grasped the edge of the boat hanging on for dear life. Pulling myself up to the deck, I launched myself through the front door to safety.
I lay there gasping on the front of the boat like Martin Sheen in “Apocalypse Now.” In the back of my mind, I heard Marlon Brando whispering, “the horror, the horror.”
Once inside, we quietly huddled together in the dark safety of our living room.
Afraid to turn on the lights, we held tightly to each other searching for any sound of angry swans. The silence was deafening except for the pounding of our heartbeats. Adrenaline pumped through our veins heightening our senses. Timidly, we peeked through the curtains to get one last glimpse of what would haunt us for the rest of our lives. Bitter in their defeat, Bubbles and his crew swam off into the dark recesses of the Amstel canal. They were eating the discarded cheese and laughing at us. We were just happy to be alive.
Demonic swans aside, Amsterdam is a romantic place. It’s filled with incredible beauty and a rich history. The people embrace openness and acceptance in their lifestyle. Most locals are tall and beautiful but welcome all people from every walk of life. There’s an air of peaceful tranquility as you stroll around the picturesque canals. Boasting a diverse cuisine both flavorful and wonderfully eclectic, the city embodies everything that you could hope for in an enlightened utopia. Just remember to carry cheese and keep one eye on the canal, for Bubbles.
NOTE: The story of Bubbles may have been greatly exaggerated for dramatic effect. 🙂