Archive for the ‘tulips’ Tag

Of Tulips!   1 comment

As I got back from the Taljai forested area and headed to F.C Road’s “wadeshwar” for a loaded breakfast, I encountered a newly opened florist beside the landmark Barista on F.C Road. I am not usually a flower person and often find it very awkward to receive flowers simply because I can never really remember how to cut the stems and preserve the flowers and am often missing a vase at home! But today I was stopped in my tracks by the flowers on display at this florist’s – TULIPS! My favorite flowers on earth had travelled all the way from the land down under to my city! Pastel pinks, spakling yellows, crimson reds with a bowl of dark navy at the center and the very exotic butter cream ones with the fuchsia headed petals. As I ogled like a little girl and a fancy lady, the opening titles of “My Fair Lady” flew into my mind featuring those beautiful burgeoning blossoms. I smiled, and asked the vendor the cost – the tulips were Rs.100/- a piece! How I wish I could buy 10 of those….if only I had a vase…and a sense of decorating and preserving the exquisite blossoms! I sighed and moved on…maybe someday, I reminisced in my head, I would have a house where I could frame up the prints of Van Gogh’s paintings I had bought from the musuem gift shop in Amsterdam and decorate an ornate wooden table with the pastel pinks in a porcelain blue vase. J’espère…

I had been to Amsterdam a very long time back. It was a typical European winter day with hardly any sunshine and very few people on the road. Of course it was also Christmas Day and I felt like the only tourist out on the empty streets (maybe because I was?!) It was my last week in Europe before I was flying back to India for good, and I was alone on a 2-day walking trip of the city of museums and canals. I had booked myself a beautiful room in an understandably chic boutique hotel called Hotel Vondel, which was a set of 2 connected 18-th century mansions renovated. It was cozy, expensive, gave exquisitely fragrant petite toileteries by the day and made me feel safe as I was a solo female traveler. The best part was that it was walking distance from the Rijksmuseum, which was the only thing on my agenda. Taking an overnight train from Zurich in a cabin shared between me and a friend, I woke up on Christmas Day with a knock at a groggy 6a.m by the on-train server who wanted to serve us breakfast before we offloaded at the Amsterdam station in a couple of hours. The train journey felt luxurious with the ultra-compact cabin and the quality of breakfast. They had managed to serve a good spread of things alongwith coffee on a tiny table that rocked with the train.
I reached this hotel on arrival at the Amsterdam station, freshened up and headed out for breakfast in the empty indoor dining area known for serving international cuisine. I thought of trying the specialty – club sandwich – especially because it is a Pune specialty too (which is my home city). 1 bite and I was done simply because I was not used to eating so much of strong meat that most of the sandwich was flavored with. I finally pulled it apart, ate just the veggies and the bread, gulped my coffee and headed out. Walking along the canal I caught sight of Hard Rock Café.

I made my way to it, but found out it was closed. So I just got myself a couple of memorablia pins from its souvenir shop and headed to the Rijksmuseum – known as the Louvre of Amsterdam. The whole day was spent in a timeless sepia stroll along aisles of huge Rembrandts, tiny Monets and other painters, mostly from the Renaissance era, with the headphones sonorously ranting every painting’s history.

It was dark by the time I got out of the museum and I decided to walk around in the still, Christmas silence. I mused to myself – had I been abducted, blindfolded and dropped into this town, having lost the track of time, I wouldn’t have ever known it was Christmas! I walked around the shopping street that was shut and had a few ornaments lit up hanging above the road strung from the tops of the 2-storeyed buildings on both sides. After eating a light dinner I headed back to the warmth of the hotel.

The next day was a lot more active and the people on the streets had a look of renewal about them. I took the city tour via the canal on touristy boats marked “I <3msterdam” and passed some expected and some unexpected sights – the Anne Frank house was something I decided to visit if ever I came back to the city.

( For example I learnt that windows are often larger than the doors in these buildings lined up on both sides of the canal as you can see, and can be opened completely so that furniture pieces can be hauled up through them, transported via boats! – PS: pardon my lack of photography skills for this tilted image)

There was a quirky mix of museums I saw on my way around the canals – the museum of bags and purses for instance! Maybe the city folk really like preserving things…I wondered to myself. My tour guide informed us that once the city had no water but beer between canals, and I could imagine brown beer flowing about with people leaning out the boat to dip their mugs in. Interesting sight that would’ve been!

We returned back after an unexciting view of the city harbor (I wonder why harbors are included in city tours – it generates a sense of excitement that gets squashed massively upon seeing the huge vessels that carry canned goods, fish and stuff wrapped in huge white plastic with all sorts of company logos and instructions. It is a square memory in a round gap that was reserved for it!).

The chinese houseboat on the harbor…ahh well…!

After a quick lunch I headed out to the Van Gogh museum that I had been greatly anticipating since the first day. It was the most memorable museum experience of my life! Listening to the artfully composed information over the headphones that detailed Van Gogh’s tumultuous life was like watching a film whose reels you could roll at will as you moved along the paintings and the sound was on a non-stop mode. But the epiphany struck me as I was standing inches away from his famous painting, the sunflowers. I had never really seen this painting other than as a motif on some T-shirt earlier or in the passing over the net while looking for something else. However, in that moment something hooked me visually to a point in it and for one brief flash of a second, the sunflowers swayed at a violent pace. All of this happened so quickly that I stood reeling, rooted on the spot, having lost awareness that I have to move on to give the person waiting beside me a chance to look at it. Abruptly the awareness swept in and I moved on. But something in me was stirred. I connected with all the paintings I saw after that and even though nothing of the likes of the sunflowers happened, I could feel the emotional turbulence in each of his strokes in his paintings. It was almost as if I was seated someplace (safe) in his stormy mind and watching him paint like a madman who was a slave to it. That one instant aroused both empathy and compassion and I wished I could reach out to him across time and express this shared ache. After an emotional tour, I shopped for postcard books featuring his paintings, a huge musuem poster of his almond tree painting and a couple of prints from the musuem’s gift shop.

As I moved out, I was joined by a travel companion for some time and we then headed to Amsterdam’s famous Red Light District. This brought about incredible lightness, watching the magic mushroom shops and the blatant sex-on-sale shops. However, hilarity struck when my male friend started getting hit on by a group of tall, muscular men! It was at once funny as well as embarrasing and while I was still not over the shock, my friend, highly panicked, pulled us out of the district as fast as possible. It almost brought me pleasure to see a man go through the same set of emotions that I as a woman go through when men try to cross their lines in popular shopping areas in India.

We made our way to the train station to board our train back to Zurich and on the way sought out the scrumptious street food (not magic mushrooms though!). Particularly drool-worthy was the bananenbol and apfelbol – a kind of dough ball with caramelised fruit filling that had been fried and served hot – and they asked you whether you want it with a sugar coating (say yes!). On opting for sugar, they quickly rolled it in a pan of sugar dust which flew up in a cloud whilst they did so that you could distinctly smell. After gorging on these hot ‘sugarbabes’ we headed back from a memorable 2-day short trip ambling along Amsterdam.

In hindsight, I may not have caught the tulips which Yash Chopra did more justice to than the postcards with the windmills, I may not have laid eyes on the miniature city at Rotterdam, but I sure sunk my teeth into the hollandaise spirit as best I could, and it left me with a sad sweetness that I hope to return to with grand expectations again soon.  And now as I think about it, maybe the tulips on F.C Road are a sign…

© Deepti G Gujar, All text and images except the first image