Dumplings, Burgers and Beer

Hey everyone and welcome to another week of People & Pints! It was a relatively calm and quiet week for me. The sun has been setting earlier in the day and the temperature has been dropping so my days were mostly spent split between the classroom and my apartment. However, this weekend I decided to attend two eye-catching beer events. The bar Craft & Draft hosted a mini tap-takeover with Lambrate Birrificio and a Dumpling menu from Pinch on Saturday.On Sunday evening one of my favorite breweries, Oedipus, organized an evening of beer, burgers and music at their taproom. Both events were delicious and I was able to meet some very interesting people. At various points during the weekend, the temperature dropped to nearly freezing, but I forced myself to leave my apartment and have some fun. So, on Saturday evening I bundled up, hopped on my bike, and rode to Craft & Draft.

Craft & Draft

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I have been to Craft & Draft a few times (here, here and here) but I haven’t been as packed as it was on Saturday. The bar was full, undoubtably a combined result of people desiring dumplings and beer but also hoping to escape the bitter cold. I managed to find an open space at the bar to stand for some time until a stool opened up. I decided to try Brighella–one of the beers Lambrate brought along for the tap takeover. Brighella was listed as a “Belgian Christmas Ale” and after one sip I realized I had made a good choice. The beer was incredibly flavorful with notes of ginger and orange. It was a surprisingly warming beer, which helped combat the frigid weather of Amsterdam. I then decided to order some dumplings and immediately chose the Tango Beef dumplings which were described as being “loosely inspired by Argentinian chimichurri, grass-fed beef is mixed with herbs, garlic, chilies, and red onion that’s been lightly pickled in red wine vinegar.” They ended up being delicious and I was very proud of my choice.

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Brighella

After enjoying my dumplings I was preparing to order one last drink when I noticed a woman ordering her drink and speaking English with a discernible American accent. I asked if she were visiting Amsterdam from America and she confirmed that she was from Virginia but that she has been living in Amsterdam for four years. Sasha was very excited to hear from another American and we chatted about my stay in Amsterdam. I told her that I am an English major and she asked, “Why would you come all the way to Amsterdam just to study English?” I found it a funny question but she had mistakenly assumed I was spending all four years in Amsterdam. I corrected her saying that I was only here for a semester but the fact that English is so prevalent helped with my studies. We talked about the few trips I had been on around Europe and Sasha commented on the phenomena of feeling compelled to travel. Sasha joked that whenever American family or friends visit they decide to travel to other countries too. “I think its really a novelty for Americans,” I replied. Sasha agreed, “Yea going from country to country here is like going to another state.”

Sasha was very kind and continued to talk with me about her time in Amsterdam. She decided to relocate here for work in finance and originally lived in The Hague but she “outgrew it” and moved to Amsterdam. I mentioned that it was incredible how despite Amsterdam’s small size, there are always things to do. Sasha asked, after I told her I go to Boston College, if I felt like I would outgrow Boston. I told her that people often say it’s easy to feel like they have done everything in the city but I believe that is only compared to a city like New York. She nodded and said “D.C. is similar, I went to Law School in D.C. and I think people might outgrow it but its a fun city.” I excitedly agreed, telling her that I often get the chance to visit because Rosa studies at Georgetown in D.C. “Oh is she studying here too?” “Oh, no, she’s actually studying in Jordan, in Amman.” Sasha gave me a blank stare and laughed, “in the Middle East? Jeez, you guys are all over the place!” I laughed and agreed. Sasha had to return to her friends but it was wonderful to chat and she said she was excited to talk with someone else from the States.

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Before leaving Craft & Draft, I overheard a few people speaking Italian and I decided to butt in and offer what little Italian I could, before switching quickly to English. The woman said that they were from Milan but have lived in Amsterdam for four months. They were extremely excited to see the brewers from Lambrate and support them in the event. Likewise, I said goodbye to the brewers and thanked them for the beer, letting them know of my tenuous tie to Lucca, through Rosa and her family. Their eyes lit up and one of the brewers made a joke about a brewshop in Lucca that I didn’t really understand but they kindly wished me a goodnight as I braved the cold.

Oedipus Brewing Taproom

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IMG_3753On Sunday evening, I once again forged into the cold Amsterdam night and journeyed to Amsterdam-Noord to go to the Oedipus Brewing Taproom. Oedipus Brewing teamed up with Red Light Radio to put on this night of beers, burgers and music. Originally, I thought that the event would feature live music but I arrived to find that Red Light Radio was only providing DJs. Nonetheless, the funky jazz and rock that played through the night gave the event a relaxing, fun atmosphere that I really appreciated.

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Salty Dick

I have been to the Oedipus Taproom before and enjoyed my evening there. This time was no different. I have had several of Oedipus’ beer and can admit that Oedipus is one of my favorite breweries. They use great flavors in their beer and the taproom has a very DIY, energetic and creative vibe. Because I have had a few of their beers, I asked the bartender for a recommendation and she suggested their Gose, Salty Dick. The beer was a cloudy yellow color with a strong citrus aroma. The initial taste was very strong and a bit strange. Flavors of grapefruit and lime came through immediately, with some slight acidity. The taste grew on me and I enjoyed the beer.

The burgers were being provided by the Beef Chief, whose chef cooked from a food truck outside. The chef was very genial and we chatted for quite some time. I asked if they operated from the food truck primarily and he said that food trucks are not incredibly prevalent in Amsterdam. “There are only a few spots available so it’s tough to find a permanent spot.” “That’s a shame,” I responded, “food trucks are becoming really big in the US.” He agreed and said that he hopes that the trend comes to Amsterdam as well. He explained that they really only book festivals and catering events, though they did manage to triple profits from the previous year. “We want to open a location so we can serve full meals maybe four days a week. Because we turned a big profit we took the risk and have another truck, I think it’s helping.” He did suggest that he was nervous about the venture but he seemed hopeful. I bought a chili burger after chatting some more about my stay in Amsterdam and my experience with some great food and returned indoors.

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Hosanna

The chili burger was delicious, with a really nice homemade sauce and the chili itself was great. I ordered a second beer, Hosanna, which is a DIPA. This DIPA was also incredibly interesting. It had a standard, hoppy aroma and a nice amber color. The flavor, though, was remarkable. I wasn’t able to place it; it seemed like there was a sweetness that lingered like molasses or honey. I asked the bartender how it was brewed and she opened up a binder with a list of all the beers. There was honey among the various hops, so that explained the caramel, honey taste. It was a good, strong beer and I really enjoyed it. I finished my drink and braced myself for the cold ferry ride across the river IJ and final bike ride to my apartment.

Dreary Days with Bangin’ Friends

Hello all and welcome to another week of People & Pints! This weekend I was lucky enough to host my great friends Ambrey and Maddie in Amsterdam. I was disappointed that the weather was quite gloomy but my friends enjoyed the trip nonetheless. Ambrey and Maddie are also from Boston College–though they are studying in Paris and Heidelberg, respectively. In light of the tragedy in Paris this weekend, I was very happy Ambrey was here in Amsterdam and, though we were pretty shaken at first, we continued to enjoy the few days together; it did prove a strange endeavor to have a fun time while still thinking about the terrible event that had taken place. We decided to push on with our weekend and explore the city together, attempting to dodge the rain and shelter ourselves from the wind. And, of course, enjoy some beer.

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Candid Laughs

I became friends with Ambrey and Maddie through our time at The Gavel (Hence the pun in the title! Get it? Ok.) and we chatted quite a bit about writing and the upcoming elections for the position of Editor-in-Chief. Ambrey has also been working on a blog during her time abroad and we talked about some of our struggles. “A lot of times I push it off so the things I want to write about kind of pile up.” I agreed with her but Ambrey said she enjoyed that People & Pints has a “theme.” I admitted that it does help keep me on a weekly schedule. Maddie teased me about the blog, “are we going to be the people for People & Pints?!” “We’ll see,” I said, laughing. Maddie later revealed that she had read all of my posts, which was a sweet surprise. One effect of People & Pints, Maddie suggested, was just an overall increase in her interest of beer, which I realized was subconsciously part of my goal. “I do hope people find it more interesting, not just about drinking.” I offered Ambrey and Maddie some practical information about craft beer throughout the weekend but it was more fun to just enjoy the beer together and talk.

IMG_2940 (1)Now that I had the People for the blog, we had to find the Pints. I decided to take Ambrey and Maddie to Brouwerij ‘t IJ. Although I had been several times before, I thought that ‘t IJ would be a very clear representation of the craft beer experience in Amsterdam. The bar was packed but we managed to get our drinks and find space to chat. I ordered the IJwit, a delicious wheat beer.The commercial description from ‘t IJ labels it “a delicious thirst-quencher” and I agree it is incredibly refreshing. The IJwit was light in color but flavorful with notes of orange, lemon and coriander.

Our conversation became a bit sober, though, as we began to discuss the realities of the Paris attacks. When we first heard about the attacks we were preparing to go to a party for the night. We were getting ready when Ambrey very matter-of-factly stated, “There’s been a shooting in Paris.” I remember initially thinking it was probably a small scale shooting. But we quickly continued to receive information and each of us, with our eyes focused on our phones, reported whatever news we could. “It happened outside of the soccer stadium.” “There are hostages.” “They don’t know who is responsible.” Then we started asking the hard questions about our friends’ safety. “Is Tyler safe?” “Did you hear from Evan?” It took some time but eventually we found out everyone was ok. We had confirmed that friends and fellow students were safe but it was still strange to consider the proximity of the attack. We contemplated the response of France and whether or not Ambrey would have trouble returning to Paris. Paris was of course not the only city attacked; Beirut had also been targeted. But we were more struck by the immediacy of being within the continent. “We’re in Europe at a pretty crazy time,” I stated. Ambrey and Maddie agreed. Eventually we transitioned to more lighthearted topics like recapping our previous night at the club and our plans for dinner.

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poffertjes

One revelation for Ambrey and Maddie was the delicious food we enjoyed. We sampled some homemade stroopwafels and our friend Elise led us to some of her favorite poffertjes. Elise was hosting another friend from BC, Kara, and they joined in on most of the activities of the weekend. Our guests were ultimately very charmed by the great food available. However, much of what they saw of Amsterdam was not exactly a surprise. Ambrey and Maddie elaborated that they both were expecting the weather to be cold and that bikes would be very prevalent. Moreover, when we later took a tour of the Red Light District, though it was a unique experience, Maddie said that she was relatively aware that it would be “tame” and “not too crazy.” I was indeed glad that Ambrey and Maddie weren’t in shock or appalled of this reality of Amsterdam. More importantly, I was just happy that they were enjoying the city I have been calling home.

Throughout the weekend we chatted about returning to Boston and how we were missing aspects of being in the US. We each have been enjoying our abroad experiences but, as Ambrey aptly noted, “the United States just has more convenience.” Both Maddie and I agreed that certain things were much easier in the United States, like getting sick or talking with family and friends. We also expressed our anxiety about returning to “real life” at various points. Although we spent a good deal of time joking, eating and drinking beer, we did discuss serious things like classes, internships and relationships.

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Sinterklaas

The weekend ended on a pretty interesting note, having begun on a shocking one. Maddie left early Sunday morning but Ambrey stayed until the evening. In the remaining time, Ambrey and I joined Elise and Kara to witness the arrival of Sinterklaas in Amsterdam. Young, blonde, excited Dutch children lined the canals as we watched boatloads of Zwarte Pieten and finally Sinterklaas himself. The Netherlands’ version of Saint Nick or Santa Claus has his own helpers: Black Peters. I was aware of the character thanks to The Office but it was very strange to see Dutch people dressed in black face welcoming Sinterklaas as children excitedly cheered and mimicked the mildly racist costume. I was told that the role of Zwarte Piet–a moorish slave boy–had persisted, despite some complaints of racism, with minor changes and a stance that sites tradition, not prejudice. Apparently the story had changed to claim that Zwarte Piet’s face was just covered in soot from the chimneys, which is a bit of a hard sell. It was certainly a unique experience, if not a bit uncomfortable.

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A Boatful of Zwarte Pieten

Eventually I had to say goodbye to Ambrey too–after some jokes about the Sinterklaas events. I reiterated that I was glad she had left Paris on this particular weekend and Ambrey agreed, departing into Centraal Station for her train back home. I walked to my apartment thinking about the strange dichotomy of having fun with the knowledge of a tragedy in the background. I had felt guilty at certain points throughout the weekend but I did enjoy spending time with Ambrey and Maddie. The events of the weekend were scary but it reminded me to still enjoy fun times with great friend; I was very aware of the immediacy of tragedy but also about being with great people: laughing, talking and drinking delicious beer.

Featured Image via Flickr

It’s All Greek to Me

Hello everyone and welcome to this week’s People & Pints! This weekend I was able to travel to Athens with my lovely girlfriend Rosa, who is studying in Amman, Jordan. There aren’t a lot of cheap, accessible destinations from Amman–particularly in western Europe–so we decided to meet in Athens and spend a few days enjoying the historic city. It was a great chance to finally reconnect after a few months but as history enthusiasts, it was an incredible trip to learn about the city’s past and experience its complicated present. As a Classics minor, I thoroughly enjoyed being in Athens; it felt like I was living out things I had learned in my courses. Also seeing the way people interact with a distant, mythic past was fascinating. Although the ancient structures drew great crowds, there is quite clearly a thriving contemporary culture. We met some interesting characters and, although Greece may not be well known for it, I had a very tasty beer.

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IMG_3611Rosa and I only had a few days to spend in Athens–as we squeezed in our vacation between classes–so we attempted to do as much as we could in the few days we were afforded. We were staying very close to some of the main tourist attractions, which was incredibly convenient. We managed to see both the new Akropolis museum and the major sights of the actual Akropolis, including the Theater to Dionysos, the Erechtheion, the Parthenon and plenty others. The views atop the Akropolis were fantastic and it felt incredibly surreal to be viewing architecture I had read about in ancient accounts and textbooks. During the evening we decided to take a short trip to a nearby beach. Although the bars and stores alongside the beaches of Athens were mostly shut down during the off-season, we enjoyed the peaceful sunset.

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On Saturday we decided to depart on a half-day trip to Cape Sounio, the southernmost tip of Attica. The cliff of Sounio has magnificent views and was once a major port. It also houses the remains of the Temple of Poseidon. The bus trip itself to Cape Sounio was beautiful as we drove alongside the Greek coastline but the final reveal, looking out over the horizon, was breathtaking. Sounio felt very remote but the nearby beaches looked pristine and I’m sure they would be very popular when in season. Our final day was the day of the race from Marathon to Athens: the original Marathon. Rosa had a few friends from Georgetown running, including Andrew, who visited me in Amsterdam previously, so we decided to spend most of our day watching the race. Afterwards we explored the Monastiraki Flea Market and managed to see the Temple of Hephaistos and the Ancient Agora of Athens. Finally we had to return to the airport and get ready for our respective flights. On the metro we met two students from Fordham who were traveling in Greece. One of whom, Mario, was close friends with another Fordham student who is studying in Amman with Rosa.

Throughout our weekend in Athens, Rosa and I generally enjoyed our interactions with local Greeks. We met some very kind and helpful Athenians who were willing to give advice and directions; one elderly gentleman took the time to give us safety tips and inquire about the future of our relationship. However, we also found that, as Rosa stated, “the Greeks are not as laid back as their Italian, Mediterranean neighbors.” We met a few Greeks who were quite short with us, particularly those working in the metro who didn’t want to spend time directing tourists. Although those who were a bit blunt with us were in the minority, they do stick out. Nonetheless, we had some lovely encounters with plenty of locals and found the Athenians to be welcoming and convivial.

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Along with the fantastic sights, the tastes of the weekend were definitely worthwhile. We enjoyed some delicious meals with plenty of local flavor like lamb and veal or baklava. According to Rosa, who has become accustomed to a Jordanian diet, “this was the first time that I didn’t have rice for almost every meal.” Rosa was also surprised to find that beer was so popular in Greece, though it was mostly macrobreweries and imports like Heineken or Amstel.

IMG_3687IMG_3689However, we did find a small dive bar called Pulp that served a variety of craft beer. I opted to chose a beer from a Greek brewery whose name I couldn’t decipher (I later found it was a microbrewery which translated to Plastigga). I decided to try their Urban Ale and I was not disappointed. The beer was a Pale Ale and poured a hazy golden color. The head was small and the smell, though I am still getting over a cold, was not particularly strong (though Rosa disagreed.) The flavor was very delicious with notes of citrus fruits and light malts. The finish was smooth and overall it was a great beer. Rosa teased me as I took down some notes about the beer and the venue and ultimately I cajoled her into having a sip of the Urban Ale. Rosa is unfortunately not a fan of beer so I have been on the hunt for a drink that she might enjoy but, alas, this was not the one. Rosa grimaced as she tasted the beer and I laughed knowing what she would say. “It’s fine,” she insisted, “but I wouldn’t have a whole glass of it.” Rosa often says one thing concerning beer and she repeated this sentiment, “if I wanted yeast I’d have it in my bread, not my drink.” Clearly the flavors of citrus and other fruits didn’t strike her as much as they did me. Still, we enjoyed the short time we spent in Pulp with large posters of old comics, some rock and jazz music playing and the overall atmosphere of a local, dive bar.

Our brief trip to Athens was fantastic and we both agreed that we hope to return one day; there is only so much you can in such a historic city over the course of three days. Although Athens, and Greece generally, has recently been regarded as a somewhat unstable place, we generally felt quite at ease walking the streets and taking in the nightlife. Aside from the few curt people we met, the locals were friendly and kind. I was also pleasant to see that craft beer had made its mark in Greece, a country typically regarded for its wine. Septem is a very popular Greek brewery–which I have also seen in bars in Amsterdam–and with good beer like the Plastigga Urban Ale, I’m sure the craft beer scene will continue to grow. At the end of our trip I was very sad to have to say goodbye to Rosa but I was disappointed to have to leave Athens as well.

Getting a Fresh Perspective on Amsterdam

Hi everyone and welcome to another People & Pint’s post! I apologize for the delay to all those waiting in anticipation for this week’s post (just my dad). This past weekend I had a lovely time with my friend Tyler, who was visiting from Paris. Tyler and I both visited our friend Caz in Heidelberg last weekend–you can check out that trip here. I had a great time hosting Tyler in Amsterdam; we had lots of laughs, some fantastic conversations and just enjoyed each other’s company. However, because I featured my time with Caz and Tyler last week, I decided to postpone People & Pint’s. Wednesday evening I had the great pleasure of meeting with Elysia Brenner, an American expat turned Dutch local. Elysia writes the Amsterdam pieces for Thrillist and her articles helped me acclimate to this great city. I initially reached out to Elysia hoping she could give me some practical journalism tips, which she gladly shared, but we ultimately just chatted about life in Amsterdam.

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‘Skek Exterior

IMG_3584Elysia managed to block out some time in her busy schedule and she suggested that we meet at a small cafe called ‘Skek. I hadn’t heard of it before but was happy to try new places and it was a short bike ride from my apartment. I set out in the cold Amsterdam rain and arrived at the small, warm restaurant to meet Elysia. We settled in on a couch by the window and Elysia informed me that ‘Skek is a very popular cafe for students. We began with some small talk about the typical Dutch rain and quickly ordered our drinks. Well, Elysia quickly ordered a white wine in Dutch while I tried to inform the waiter that I hadn’t looked at the drinks yet. I think the combination of Elysia’s Dutch and my English was confusing and he struggled to understand what I was saying. Finally I settled on the Zatte, a Tripel, from Brouwerij ‘t IJ. The Zatte, golden in color and incredibly flavorful, is one of my favorite beers from ‘t IJ. Though I had had it before, I didn’t mind; because I was really here for the conversation, not the beer. I found out that Elysia has lived in Amsterdam for about ten years after moving here with a partner and that she got her job at Thrillist a few years after arriving. She explained that Thrillist was searching for European writers and she eventually secured the Amsterdam position. I asked if moving to the Netherlands was a relatively quick process. “Quick? Yes, well it took me six years to become a citizen so if that is quick,” Elysia clarified with a laugh. “Quick maybe by American standards,” I chimed in. She affirmed and explained that though it may have been tough for her, she knows plenty of people who had even more trouble obtaining green cards in the States. After all of the hard work, though, Elysia has really enjoyed calling Amsterdam home.

After I explained that I an English major and that I do plan on being a writer, Elysia gave me a few tips on focusing my career goals. I shared my passion for writing about craft beer abroad and she confirmed that I should continue to search for various websites and magazines about beer and brewing. Moreover she was happy to hear I enjoyed writing for a community based site in BostInno. She elaborated that community based sites can be great experience and that she had been employed by similar sites as well. We talked about writing for a bit but the conversation quickly turned to life in Amsterdam. Specifically, Elysia agreed that Amsterdam has a great craft beer scene and we chatted about the various breweries and beer bars. “It wasn’t always like this though,” Elysia explained, “the scene scene has really grown in the past ten years. Restaurants, bars, music, all of it.” It seemed like Elysia has experienced the growth of everything I am currently enjoying her in Amsterdam: the delicious food, the great beer, the fun events.

We also talked about language after I asked Elysia about learning Dutch. Because Elysia was able to converse with our waiter so easily, I was curious if it were difficult to master the language.  “Yea it was difficult. But it really isn’t very different from English. Pronouncing some of the words and some of the grammar is really tough but other than that.” I also wondered if it were easier to approach other languages while traveling now that she had learned Dutch. “Yes and no,” she responded. Elysia confirmed that with Scandavian languages and German, especially, she felt relatively comfortable but she hadn’t necessarily noticed any difference in her ability with other languages. I clarified that I was curious about her confidence, about just being able to approach another language. I explained that although my mother is from Argentina and I have some hold on Spanish, I don’t have enough of a mastery to approach other languages. “Or like my girlfriend grew up speaking Italian and is now studying in Amman, in Jordan, learning Arabic.” Elysia nodded in agreement, expressing that she understood, and said that she did certainly feel comfortable in other countries. “I think learning another language really clicks when you don’t start looking at it as directly translatable, you know? Like you look at it as something on its own. That’s what has helped me.”IMG_3583

We ended our evening by jokingly chatting about the perceptions of the city of vice. “When people first heard I was studying in Amsterdam, they’d say to me ‘Oh! Amsterdam?’ You know?” Elysia laughed knowingly, “yea I know what you mean.” We talked about how tame and friendly even areas as infamous as the red light district are. I described it to Tyler as the “Disneyland of Vice,” which is what Elysia had dubbed it in one of her articles. The assumptions everyone holds of Amsterdam being some sort of despicable city quickly fades after walking, or biking, around the city. Amsterdam while permissive and “liberal” in certain aspects is really just an inviting, friendly city.IMG_3581

Although Elysia is originally from Philadelphia, she fits in Amsterdam just like any local. Alongside her mastery of Dutch is a subtle accent, a blend of having lived in both America and Amsterdam. I have had the wonderful pleasure of calling Amsterdam home and I expressed to Elysia that I have felt very comfortable in the city. “I definitely want to come back and live in Amsterdam at some point in my life.” However, meeting with Elysia gave me a great perspective about living here. I certainly am no expert of the city, there are plenty of things I have yet to experience. Tyler was very flattering this past weekend in expressing how impressed he was with my knowledge of the city. But Elysia’s comfort with Dutch and familiarity with the culture greatly surpassed mine. Learning this reminded me to keep an open mind with Amsterdam and to not assume that I have learned everything about it. Elysia left me with an interesting thought. “I’m not a huge fan of Eat, Pray, Love but in the ‘Eat section’ she makes a cool point. Everyone has a word, that is their essence, and every city also has a word. People are just looking for the city that matches their word. And I think that’s what Amsterdam is for me.” I can’t say for sure if Amsterdam possesses the same word that I do, but it’s at least very close.