WORDS BY JIM KULACKOSKI
PHOTOS BY TOM WYNN
Editor’s note: Lifestyle consultant and yoga instructor Jim Kulackoski and architect Tom Wynn spent the recent holidays in their favorite foreign destination, Amsterdam. Jim tells us why the Netherlands’ capital is their city of choice.
Why do I love Amsterdam? For a bustling city, Amsterdam is surprisingly easy to explore. Although it is a European capital, it has the scale of a village. This makes it not only charming but also easy to get around.
One of our favorite things to do is to simply walk around and explore all the unique little nooks and crannies of the city. The elegant yet modest 16th century canal houses and their exquisite gardens, as well as the canals themselves, provide a beautiful and romantic backdrop for a peaceful evening walk.
The weather is not as bad as one would think. Even in winter, the temperatures tend to be generally mild, ranging from the 30 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Due to its location, climate, and weather patterns, the light has a softness to it that makes everything look like a Vermeer painting.
The Dutch seem to love museums and have museums dedicated to nearly everything. From Anne Frank and Dutch Masters to antique handbags and purses to medieval torture devices, no subject is taboo. They are all very interesting, and well curated.
In my opinion, the Dutch Masters produced some of the greatest examples of European art, and the Netherlands is full of museums, which beautifully display them. Many of them used highly original and innovative techniques to express their unique points of view. For example, the mood in Van Gogh’s paintings is palpable due to his heavy use of paint and intense color. Rembrandt’s paintings are deeply spiritual, using intricate layering to boldly express experiences common to all humans. Vermeer’s ability to paint light, which somehow looks more real in his paintings than in reality, is mesmerizing.
The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra offers amazing classical music performances in a venue where there are no bad seats due to its egalitarian design and acoustical engineering. The Dutch are truly master engineers. From the large varieties of tulips they cultivate and export—the month of April is tulip time in the Netherlands, and travelers can wander through fields of tulips of every color imaginable—to the innovative techniques of the Dutch Masters, their ingenuity is intriguing. They have literally engineered their country to exist, despite significant portions of it being below sea level.
The Dutch seem to care about how every inch of their country is used. There are no “no-go zones” or slums because there is simply no room for them. Being an outsider, I am fascinated by this. People seem to look out for each other and I love how it feels so safe compared to so many other places.
The culture of the Netherlands is so interesting. The Dutch have very accommodating and tolerant dispositions. This is reflected in their facility with languages. Most Dutch people speak several languages and easily shift between them, making it an easy place for American tourists like myself, with limited command of the Dutch language, to visit.