This time I have no problem choosing the topic for my column. I was lucky enough to spend four days holiday in Western Europe and I think that is worthy of the title: A European Holiday!
It all started with the invitation by the two Russian business men to accompany them to Belgium for talks1. Well, why not? So off we went, first to Frankfurt where we were joined by another partner from Germany who was kind enough to drive the whole company to Brussels, the capital of Belgium. The roads were wonderful, so we did not notice how soon we found ourselves at our destination. The city is very compact with a beautiful palace in the central square which reminded me of Brabant lace2, so exquisite3 it looked.
Надежда Никифоровна Рогожина, проректор по международным программам, зав. кафедрой лингвистики и межъязыковой коммуникации Самарского муниципального университета Наяновой, кандидат педагогических наук, доцент.
Директор негосударственного учреждения дополнительного образования “World Class-Samara”.
The talks were successful so we decided to celebrate this and go to Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands. We stayed in the five star Hotel Krasnapolsky, a huge one which is named after its first owner who was of Polish origin. I was very much impressed by the special booklet which greets all the guests on behalf of4 the Mayor of Amsterdam, Job Cohen, and asks them to share any suggestions on improving the services.
Amsterdam is a city which tolerates many things. If you want to learn what tolerance in action is, you should go to Amsterdam. You may be surprised, even shocked, to see soft drugs sold and used quite openly and the public display of prostitution. However, the Dutch view of freedom seems to be that one should not arbitrarily pick and choose5 what is permitted and what is forbidden – with the obvious exception of things which clearly harm other people.
It is a city of flowers too. The flower market is in the centre and it attracts crowds of people. Holland (another name for the Netherlands*) is proud of her tulips and we even saw a rare black tulip.
Amsterdam is a city of canals, like St. Petersburg and Venice – it is sometimes called the ‘Northern Venice’. But I don’t like such comparisons as I think every city has its own charm and need not borrow other cities’ epithets.
Amsterdam is a city of fine arts and you can see a great number of art dealers’ shops where one can buy antiques. It is situated in the historical district opposite the Rijksmuseum. Of course, we couldn’t miss a chance to visit it and to admire such masterpieces of art as ‘The Night Watch’ by Rembrant. It is the national museum of Holland and we could see paintings by Van Gogh there, too.
Amsterdam is also the city of diamonds, a centre of the diamond polishing industry with lots of factories and workshops where one can watch the polishing process and learn some things about diamonds. I did! What I learnt is that the value of a gem diamond is determined by four ‘C’s, that is, by four essential characteristics:
Carat (1 carat is 0.2 gram or 100 points);
Colour (eg River – exceptional white, Top Wesselton – rare white, Wesselton – white, Top Crystal – slightly tinted6 white, Crystal – tinted white, Top Cape – slightly yellowish, Cape – yellowish, Fancy Colours);
That might sound a bit technical, but at least you will learn some names and can pass for an interesting and knowledgeable conversationalist when discussing the matter!
Amsterdam is a city with strong sea-going traditions, exemplified by the Maritime Museum in which is exhibited an ancient ship – actually a replica of the original ship.
Amsterdam is also a city of cyclists. There are special paths and parking places for them and you can see men, women and children, all cycling. It is environmentally friendly and very popular.
We visited the most famous restaurant ‘Five Flies’, famous for its traditional Dutch cooking and historical atmosphere and enjoyed walks along the streets of this ‘naughty7’ city.
The weather too was kind to us throughout our stay: bright and sunny in Europe while it was snowy, rainy and icy back home in Samara.
Three days passed very quickly and we had to return to Frankfurt, by high speed train this time. It was an all together unforgettable experience!
*Holland is the common or colloquial name for the Netherlands but it is, strictly speaking, just one northern part of the country.
1 talks – переговоры 2 Brabant lace – брабантские кружева (Брабант – провинция Бельгии) 3 exquisite – изящный 4 on behalf of – от лица, от имени 5 to pick and choose – быть разборчивым 6 tinted – тонированный 7 naughty – порочный