Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Wisps of Wisteria, in the Plantage:

As spring continues its annual emergence, the vegetation that adorns Amsterdam is once again revealing its true colors. Draping down from balconies and nearby trees–from a height laboriously climbed over many years–is the wisteria of this city. Wisps of white and purple flowers front backdrops of golden yellows and greens. As April dwindles and May nears, the vibrancy of these colors strengthens. Amsterdam is, after months of dormancy, coming back into full bloom.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Spring has arrived in Amsterdam:

The last of the trees outside are unfurling their leaves, as Amsterdam’s daylight hours have gradually increased over the past month. And it will continue to do so until around the end of September, or so. The seasons are changing; the sun staying up longer; the blue sky above filled with its gorgeous piles of spectacular sunlight-reflecting cumulous clouds. They radiate a brilliance composed of deep hues of chartreuse and maroon, streaks of orange and gold. The trees of the city are all in different states. Where there is sunlight, there are blossoms. Where the sunlight stays for only a few hours of each day–as is often the case these days–the trees have no leaves yet; their deprivation of light caused by a row of townhouses, for instance, each massive–at least five stories tall. And thus some streets of the city are lined with luscious trees along one side, while its opposite edge might be barren–that’s just how the spring season seems to work in this city. It's slow; days are often still cold, the sky blanketed in a thick gray that never breaks, leaving no chance for a peek of a blue sky, or a ray of sun. Amsterdam can often be somber. And these days, though not few, balances out those during which the city shines–six months of this, six months of that.

Some of the most beautiful moments that I'll observe, and often stop to revel within–and let be very healing–is the idea that only for the next few weeks, will the front façades of Amsterdam’s oh-so-charming architecture be visible. It's a beautiful idea; natural transitioning transparency. Once all of the city’s trees are at the height of their annual growth apex–which will occur so rapidly and so soon–the houses that align this city’s majestic seventeenth century ring-canals, (whose gables represent some of the finest in the city) will no longer be so readily seen. And as spring begins to accelerate in Amsterdam, so too are its citizens, its parks, and its foliage; Amsterdam is alive with movement once again, as people flit about, their woolen-winter jackets tucked away for most days as the flowers, literally, begin to bloom. At the height of the transfer of spring to summer, a private-silence often falls over the city, its houses now hidden. The silence is most often only interjected by the sounds of laughter, bicycle bells, and music wafting up from stereos on the boats passing by on canals below–their passengers merrily inhaling a visual splendor: a gloriously enchanting backdrop that is Amsterdam’s 400 year old canals. Amsterdam’s gray days are morphing into those filled only with sun. As the world turns, its sunlight strengthens; I’m happy for this, as are all of the plants that I so lovingly nurtured outside on my balcony. Spring has arrived.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

On the streets of Prague:

Walking through the streets of Prague: a city whose wealth, power, and glory has all but risen and faded; the baroque façades and rooflines adorning its sumptuously ornate buildings find their roots in the eighteenth century; a time in which Amsterdam's fortunes subsided, while the those of kingdoms and territories in Central Europe, soared; soaring are the undulating silhouettes that form the borders of each of the city's grandiose buildings; mediaeval church towers abut expansive cobblestoned squares; pastel hued gables rightfully align, standing at astute attention even centuries after their genesis; spring's foliage was only beginning to unfurl–the city's streets canopied by their presence; the Charles Bridge, completed at the beginning of the fifteenth century, straddles the river Vltava, allowing the Lesser Town to fluidly interact with the Old Town, at the river's opposite edge; the bridge is adorned by no less than 30 baroque statues, whose full allegories and intentions are now only a faint memory, known only to their makers. Prague's enigma is its enchantment.