This article was originially published on Maximum Amsterdam
‘AMSTERDAM, THE VENICE OF THE NORTH?’
Amsterdam is not only the capital city of the Dutch, it is also a multicultural mix of foreign students, expats and other people from abroad. In this monthly column, our international editors share their perspective with us. Today: Domiziana Turcatti (20), who was born in Busto Arsizio (Italy, close to Milan) and has lived in Dublin, before moving here.
My father has always called Amsterdam ‘the Venice of the North’. Although I have never been to Venice, I have not found it hard to understand the reason why. Maybe it is the wonderful canals, or the romantic alleyways. It’s hard to tell. It is probably also due to the magical atmosphere that unsurprisingly fascinates everyone, as I heard that the same happens in Venice. But this could happen everywhere, couldn’t it?
From my experience, I believe that this description does not do the city justice. I understand Amsterdam to be more than a comparison to Venice. For me, it is much more than a boat-tour across the canals or the pleasant view of those slightly bent houses, pending on frozen canals in winter and still water in summer. I believe that it is impossible to find a suitable description of Amsterdam, as it is multifaceted, it is the peculiarity that underlies its uniqueness.
And we should do the deserved justice to Amsterdam, by not defining it. But, at first, when my luggage, containing a tiny part of what was my life, and I arrived at the central station in August, I did not know this. It took me a while to realize that Amsterdam was not only its city center and its main attractions, from which not always its true and authentic character is visible. Only later on, I began realizing that the authenticity of Amsterdam lies in its diversity.
‘Amsterdam is also The Bijlmermeer and its high-rise buildings symbolizing an history of struggle and victory.’
Diversity in its landscapes, for example, because Amsterdam is also The Bijlmermeer and its high-rise buildings symbolizing an history of struggle and victory; the North, with its post-industrial development as an adaptation to the new economic system. And we should not forget Amstelveen and the West, which still remain unknown realities for me as it takes a while to discover the many areas that make up the city.
However, it takes much more time to discover the common thread that ties all its parts together, especially the people, diverse in their national backgrounds. I see the international aspect reflected everywhere, from bars and restaurants to galleries and cultural events. From the perspective of an Italian student, coming from a little town in the North of Italy, the way in which the city makes people’s diversity into a powerful and meaningful source of knowledge as well as cultural and economic enrichment was as surprising as exciting.
‘I have learnt about Amsterdam’s complexity, generated from its colonial history and subsequent immigration.’
Along with its diversity, by living and studying here I have learnt about Amsterdam’s complexity. A complexity that partially I understand as generated from its colonial history and subsequent immigration. Visible not only in the city’s museums but also in the spatial settings, it brings about difficulties among people because of their differences. I cannot give a name to these difficulties or understand deeply the reasons yet, although I can perceive them.
It is Amsterdam’s diversity and complexity that truly inspires me. As a social science student, these are the aspects that make the city a perfect place in which to find my answers and formulate new questions. As an individual in its social context, they stimulate me to play my role in this multifaceted city by giving voice to my thoughts and beliefs. As a human, I find myself attracted to the city’s uniqueness, its unique way of making all its components gears of the same mechanism.
In any way, I cannot help by being intrigued with Amsterdam and by all that is still left to be discovered.