30 August 2008

Charleston, coffee, Amsterdam and life

Evenings play tricks on me. While the rest of the world (well, obviously that part of the world that happens to share the same hemisphere and time zone with me) is more or less slowing down, pulling to a hault, merging itself in to the restful pastime, this particular individual, Anya, seems to feel restless. Always. When the sun goes down and dives beyond the horizon, my part that’s responsible for my emotions and their role in my life always stirs from a day-time sleep and orchestrates my further night-time being. Hence in the evenings I become a phantasier*.

I’ve brought this up, for I got a judicious and perfectly excusable ground for this. As of late, I’ve been a charleston girl. My story goes like this.

A few days back I came to the final conclusion that I missed my coffee. In general brushstrokes, I should mention that since I arrived in Amsterdam – and this memorable event is now recorded under the date August 14, 2008, in my journal – a genuine coffee mug hadn’t passed my lips. And as much as I hate bland ‘coffee’ that’s so commonly sold in supermarkets worldwide (dutch ones didn’t resist much to the bland coffee expansion either) I thought I should wait until I find a special something. And with all kinds of waiting I employ a simle concept: you’ll get and learn everything you need to own and to know (almost a pun) when due time arrives, and – this is a crucial part – when you are receptive enough. A few days back such a ripe time reached me, and I consequently found myself on a doorway of T’Zonnetje**.

Initially, I read a number of hearty reviews of this place on the internet (you can’t do without it nowadays, don’t you even try). So when I happened to be in Haarlemmerbuurt (Haarlemmer area) myself, I even didn’t intend to resist my wish to drop in.

First, it is an old charming dutch building, and to my mind, that in itself is an eye-candy. Second, it’s so palpable how the owners (in fact, this amazing establishment has been functioning literally for ages, since 1858 exactly) are passionate about and take their pride in keeping the place so atmospheric and homey.

After navigating my way through numerous shelfs filled with different sorts of tea (loss and in tea bags), coffee (in beans, or as you wish, ground right on the premises), tea- and coffetime accessories, chocolates (!!!), winking at two sleepy dogs (you usually wink at dogs too, don’t you), and familiarizing myself with other entertaining things, I asked a lovely lady, the shop owner, to recommend me a coffee to my taste. We didn’t even notice how we got engaged in a lively conversation***. We even reached the stage of compliments-exchange:

A shop owner: where do you come from?
Me: From Russia.
A shop owner: Oh, do you? But you are not blonde.
Me: Somebody should not be. Giggle.
A shop owner: You look like a charleston lady. I love your style. Laughing so sincerely.

Before repairing to the outdoors I asked her for how long she herself has been managing this business. As it appeared to be, the whole enterprise was on sale a decade ago, so she bought it eventually. And as an afterword she also added: ‘Earlier I used to work in social help for many years, so I always wanted to do something nice after my retirement too. ‘T Zonnetje, this is what I am doing now.’ Might I only add, she is making a great deal of seeking souls happy.

As I left the shop, I can assure you I walked with a sertain spring (a ‘bounce’) in my steps that might be typical for a charleston dancer. At least, this might partially explain why I received so many glances of a pure amusement from passers-by. Or was it a fragrant trace from a bag with freshly ground (at my polite request) strong sicilian coffee I left ‘T Zonnetje with?

Now when the evening approaches, I set on a jazz melody from early thirties, brew myself a shot of amazingly tasteful coffee and drift away into my phantasies. About charleston, about Amsterdam, about life.

*A phantasier, a person who makes up phantasies. Like a story-teller, or more likely, a dreamer but with a slightly lunatic touch, I think.

** t’ Zonnetje stands to a diminutive sun in english.

*** And after she mentioned she will be serving home-made pies along with tea or coffe in a tea room upstairs every Saturday starting from September I could almost hug her. It was really that close.

‘T Zonnetje (closed on Sundays)
Haarlemmerdijk 45
Tel: 020 623 00 58

In no spicific relation to the story above, below are a few shots entirely particuliar to me.

I feel the fall. I see its silent approach. I hear it.

25 August 2008

Under thick dutch clouds or any other clouds elsewhere, so far

Don't rush the moment.
Feel it through.
Experience it.
Cry unashamedly.
Laugh out loud.


24 August 2008

... and all that jazz

For everybody who abides by the english grammar rules (I wish to envisage your presence ), any city is a she.

Amsterdam is a city. Hence, it is she? Hm, I like to think of Amsterdam – my Amsterdam at least - as He. He is…

An old friend. Who speaks a different language but, nonetheless, greets me in English. An old artist. Who observes the people and paints his sketches in the wind. A skillful musician. Who plays a snow-white piano on a podium set on one of the canals and fills the air with crystal sounds of music. A sleepless clubber. Who so vehemently enjoys and makes the most out of each passing moment. An old flame that’s my Amsterdam. Who still holds my heart , inspires me, gives me a cheek to stand up and lock eye with challenges (and there are many of the latter, I’d love you to believe).

I seem to be talking romance here. And reasonably so as I have a few. First and foremost, this is my romance with life, otherwise I become defunct. And the other first and foremost (in my world, it’s pretty much possible), my romance with chocolate (of course you saw it coming, didn't you?). Romance, love, penchant, obsession, physocological issue, you name it. On my part, I’ll only tell – with the utmost excitement – I found ze place in Amsterdam where I can step in, anxiously touch and sniff everything, make humming noises that are typical for a neurotic person, get a look of deep appreciation and complete understanding from my fellow-comrades, and feel myself at home.

Before I utter the password combination into THE world, I find it crucial to underscore I wasn’t on the hunt for my daily choco fix when I chanced upon the place. And as I’m saying this, I’m holding my hands crossed on my chest as a sign of being honest and sincere to the core. I merely walked along the streets minding my own business. Ahem. But you know, how it usually happens. You just live calmly, plan your days as you’re used to, and then something comes along your way. And you are not you anymore. Your life changes. You become a different person. A better person. With a bigger supply of chocolate. That’s grand, people. Simply smashing.

Puccini Bomboni. In my vocabulary also known as 'ze place'.

What do you normally say when you discover another place to satiate your longings for things chocolate? Oh la la. Blah blah blah. And all that jazz (I like how it sounds). I think if I paraphrase Aldous Huxley’s words* and say, ‘for every chocolate lover who has any taste of their own, the only memorable taste will be the one they themselves have tasted’, I’d then pursue my intention to urge you, once in Amsterdam, take an action and go there. Go there, you should!

As to me, my natural shyness won’t prevent me from presenting myself on the spot every now and then, and sample every of a few dozens bonbons which are the forte in this place: filled with liquors, spices (thyme, nutmeg, cinnamon or anise, to name a few) and other heart-pulsation elevating combinations. I have yet to eat my way through love-inducing cornucopia that’s so serenely residing at Pucchini Bomboni. One at a time though. One at a time.

For now I’ll run a risk to seem obsessed, and yet I’ll mumble something, hopefully profound and comprehensible. It is about Amaretto Bonbon I gifted myself with the other day: how it sensuously enveloped my palate, how I loved that soft, feathery sensation when cocoa powder that constitutes the toppping landed itself on my lips and how I might as well liken it to a kiss. Now is it normal or what?

*I wasn’t familiar with those either. Untill I got myself a small Moleskine city notebook (I just needed to show off a little bit. Thank you for your genuine understanding.) where the original expression printed on the facing page says, ‘For every traveller who has any taste of his own, the only useful guidebook will be the one which he himself has written’.

Puccini Bomboni (several locations)
Staalstraat 17, tel: 31 (0) 20 6265474
Singel 154, tel: 31 (0) 20 4278341

13 August 2008

My wind of changes

The wind of changes has arrived. It is blowing into my face, deconstructing my hair-do (on days when I have one), and streaming my clothes (not exactly in Monroe’s style, and yet pretty much close to it). But what really counts is that it is capturing my heart and making me restless. Positively so.

And this is when the memories of one of my favourite fairy tales (back in my childhood and, unquestionably, now too), Merry Poppins, step forward and shine through the myriad of thoughts, and thoughts, and thoughts. As a child, I think I didn’t get the precise message of the story, enjoying mostly the atmospheric feeling rather than contemplating on the essence of changes as such. One extract, however, I sincerely committed to my memory: the episode when the gulps of enigmatic northern wind communicate to Merry Poppins, the mysterious nanny who always arrived and left with the wind, the impending changes in her life. Again.

It was a Monday, the first chilly and gloomy day after the continuous heat party that so sensuously mellowed the Moscow’s hard-working brains earlier (with my active taking part in it too, of course). I walked in wind. It smelled of rain. I thought of chocolate (for a moment, could I assume you buy into my logics?). And there was a moment, when I spotted a single leave spinning around in wind’s whirlpools. I slowed down my pace and watched. The wind blew sharper and brought the leave right in my feet. I paused to entertain my thoughts. After I resumed my walk, I knew exactly what I felt and where I stood. Anxiety. Light uncertainty. Big adventure. Things are changing. Time has come to go further. That was my wind.

My Dear Friends and Readers, for those of you, who are in the know, and for those, whom my telepathic waves didn’t reach yet, I’m now happy to say I’m leaving Moscow and going somewhere else. I’m going to a petite country that speaks to me so well; the country – to coin a phrase - of excellent cheeses, fragrant tulips, warm-hearted people; the country that caught my heart a while ago. The Netherlands.

I’m leaving behind my family and a few dear friends. True, I’ll be missing my mom and dad in earnest, but as I once said, ‘I’ll better be missing them knowing that I am pursuing my dream, rather than sticking to them and growing bitter and angry about the missed opportunity’. (My wisdom seemingly doesn’t know any boundaries, and humility too.)

This decision didn’t come out of the blue. For a few years I have been working on a puzzle that’s my dream to unite the fragments into the framed picture. I changed the ways, I took the roundabouts, what remained intact was the destination.

Now, I’m proud to be bearing a title of a student again. A pre-Master’s (and further, Master’s too) student in English language and culture, to be more exact. And if you haven’t yet bought into my logics, leave it at that then. English language and culture in Holland - this is so my style.

And as we are talking a long-term trip here, I shall also do my very best imaginable to pack my bag reasonably. * While I’ll still have to give my luggage contents umpteenth clear and crispy thought, one thing will remain non-negotiable. My chocolate stash.

And as I’m favouring the major changes in my life at the present moment of time, please bear with me.

As soon as I settle and unpack my bags, I’ll be with you again.

And in the meantime, all that’s left to say is, ‘thank you for your continuous companionship’.

*Among the public, I’ve been known for schlepping a way too heavy bags and paying really big money for excess luggage