“Amsterdam’s Market-ability”

Story by Lindsay Lowery, Study AbroadPhoto by Will Lake

The lure of class-free days with no responsibilities is exemplified in students’ love for Fridays. In Amsterdam with no Friday classes, I had the whole city at the feet. My only limits were the money on my metro card or my exhaustion from biking. Fridays quickly became my market day, as I ventured throughout and outside the city, becoming wonderfully lost in the aisles of stalls.

The market culture is as embedded in Amsterdam as its canals. Big and small, niche and varied, they are found in every neighborhood. The Albert Cuyp Market is possibly Amsterdam’s most famous market, especially for tourists. Cradled in the De Pijp neighborhood, it features daily selections of fruit, cheese, vegetables, and knick knacks like watches and clothes. Its marketability has left it brimming with tourists, but catering to them has cost it some of its feeling of authenticity. Other markets include the monthly goods market in Museumplein against the backdrop of the Rijksmuseum; the Bloemenmarkt, a flower market in the city center; Nieuwmarkt, for which an entire metro stop is dedicated; and a smattering of other food, antique, clothes, and art markets that flourish along the city’s streets and canals.

The smell of stroopwafels waft through the air in many Dutch markets. These wafer-thin waffles are traditionally sliced in half and filled with caramel syrup. They can be dressed up with Nutella chocolate or sprinkles, but I think it’s best to stick to the tried and true. Cheese, another Dutch staple, is found in every market. It must be due to the abundance of farms that dot the countryside just outside Amsterdam’s limits. Poffertjes, mini Dutch pancakes, are dusted with powdered sugar. Other assorted foods are colorfully displayed with enveloping aromas and inviting prices.

My local market gave me the picturesque Dutch lifestyle I dreamed of before going abroad. Each Friday, I rode my bike even farther outside the city. My path wound along quiet canals lined with old, small houses that each seemed uniquely sculpted. Just ten minutes away and nestled in the open courtyard of a surrounding mall was the Stadshart market. Here, they greeted me in Dutch, not English. I knew I had escaped the confines of touristy markets and found a true Dutch market. It contained almost anything you could imagine: mattresses, fruit, purses, meat, handmade cards and jewelry, seafood, the list could go on. As time went on, this became my weekly retreat where I relished my Friday market day.

I gorged myself on the abundant cheese samples, but always came back to my favorite stall and type (30+ Belegen). Light and soft, this cheese was perfect for slicing, shredding, and eating straight. I wandered the aisles, trying to learn Dutch by matching foods I knew to the displayed Dutch words. Thoughts of “when will you get to do this again?” rang in my head, and I frequently treated myself to ripe strawberries or freshly-baked muffins.

“When will you get to do this again?” This question drove many of my decisions abroad from start to end. Previously, I had rushed through grocery stores, grabbing what I needed from shelves with a few impulse buys. In Amsterdam, I tried to appreciate basic opportunities more. I slowed down and truly enjoyed food shopping, intentionally treating myself instead of impulse buying. Luckily, I now still don’t have class on Fridays. While I may no longer be biking to get my cheese from a local farmer, I walk to get my groceries from grocery stores.

The peace I found while abroad and exploring markets lingers. I found another place and routine to call home, and it made me hungry for my next adventure – and a stroopwafel.