Five Hours in Amsterdam

“Would you like to join us for karaoke?’ the young woman standing nearby asked me. As I looked at the list of available songs (all of which were in Dutch) there was one which caught my eye, “Tulpen uit Amsterdam”. With a slight twinkle in my eye, I looked at her and said, “I’ll give it a try”. What I later found out was she didn’t know there was an English language version of the song which I knew, almost by heart, thanks to a fondly remembered episode of “The Goodies”. What she also didn’t know is that I have some previous experience of singing karaoke in Dutch. As I’ve blogged previously in 2008

In a bar that comprised only two Dutch bar-tenders, two Dutch customers, five Spanish customers and one Australian, it was time for a karaoke sing-a-long (in Dutch). As it turns out, it was the final night of residency at the bar for Jason and Kylie, and we were encouraged to sing them a farewell serenade. The words (in Dutch) appeared on the television screen, and without evening thinking twice, we all burst into song. I can’t begin to imagine how hilarious it must have been for the locals to watch the Spanish guys and the Australian bloke sing a long to a Dutch language pop song. “I’m singing in Dutch”, I kept thinking to myself in between moments of laughter. So funny.

My attempt at singing “Tulpen uit Amsterdam” in the original Dutch resulted in a combination of laughter and admiration. “You didn’t know many of the words, but you knew the tune”, one of the group of people today said to me. That’s when I told her about the English language version. “You should sing it in English for us too”, she said.

With just five hours in Amsterdam, as I waited for my overnight train to Copenhagen, I decided a visit to “Amstel 54” was how I would best pass the time. Having considered the tourist options of a canal cruise or a visit to a gallery or museum, I decided it would be more fun to hang out with some locals. So I grabbed a map and made my way to a bar I fondly remembered from my last time in Amsterdam. It’s a predominantly gay bar, where they a great combination of pop music, and where I remembered there was a friendly vibe towards travellers.

The bar staff may have changed since 2008, but the friendly vibe was still there. I chatted with one of the bar staff briefly before his shift. He had observed there was a woman sitting in the corner (along with a male friend, probably her partner) who was doing a line-drawing of the scene outside. “She’s a good artist”, I said. “And she’s got a great rack”, he responded with a smile. “As two gay men we can be objective about these things”, he added.

Later, a couple of older guys wearing some amazing outfits joined the group of people in the bar. I kindly asked for a photograph, which they were to happy to do.

And then there was an Australian guy in his early 30s who I also chatted to for a while. With that distinctive accent we all know without resorting to cliché, I’d overheard him telling the barman he was travelling independently for a month, revisiting some of the places he had been to while backpacking ten years earlier. He was a nice guy who told me he was originally from Adelaide, but who now lives in Darwin. Within a few minutes of chatting, I quickly realised he didn’t know he was in a gay bar. Or at least not until the main group of people left later in the afternoon.

The main group was there for the 39th birthday of a lovely woman called Amanda. When she and her friends began packing their bags I wished her a “Happy Birthday” and thanked them for inviting me into their group. They all responded kindly with with a hug and a with a “Safe Travels” wish for me also.

Minutes later it was time for me to leave. With the departure of the main group and with myself shortly afterwards, I wondered how long before the bloke from Darwin realised he had stumbled into one of the most fantastic gay bars in the world.

2 Replies to “Five Hours in Amsterdam”

  1. we just came across you website and the story about visiting amsterdam the gaybar Amstel 54. That couple of older guys are the Brothers Grimm form Amsterdam have a look at their facebook page bye bye nice blog by the way and nice picture of us XXXX
    Robert and Thom aka Brothers Grimm
    10 pair of costumes designed and made by the Brothers Grimm themselves with 75.000 sequins and 75.000 beads… some with cockfeather boa’s

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