Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Road To Amsterdam

So, as I neared my twenty-second birthday, my travel buddies and I climbed into Jim's old Volvo, and we headed north, driving out of Morocco on our way to Amsterdam. I guess we were in no great hurry, because we made numerous sightseeing stops along the way.

One stop I'll never forget, was in Granada, Spain, where we toured the Alhambra. This is a fabulous grouping of fourteenth century Moorish palaces and gardens. I was dumbstruck. I had never seen, nor have I seen since, such a breathtaking display of architectural beauty. The water flowing through the formal gardens, the fountains in the tiled courtyards, the exquisite craftsmanship of the Moorish decoration, the elegance of the structures, the perfect balance between nature and art, all seemed to create a very convincing vision of heaven on earth. This was the incredibly advanced Islamic civilization that gave us algebra, and actually ignited the European Renaissance.

There were lots of interesting stops as we drove through Spain and then France. But we finally arrived in the Dutch city of Amsterdam. We ended up in the Centrum, which was the old part of the city. Built along canals, it looks a lot like it did in Rembrandt's paintings from the seventeenth century.

That's when Jim started telling me about "cracked" houses. Apparently, Amsterdam was in the middle of a housing crises. Many houses had been evacuated, so that they could be torn down to make room for new construction. The problem was that the city had gotten way behind on their rebuilding schedule, and hippies from all over the world had secretly moved back into the abandoned houses. Some had been living there for years! The city would smash the sinks and toilets, and tear out the electrical wiring to prevent people from moving in, but the kids were pretty inventive.

And so, I found myself living with a motley crew of international hippies, in a "cracked" house in Amsterdam.

(to be continued....)

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