50 SHADES OF AMSTERDAM + THE HAGUE

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About a month ago, I was drinking coffee with my friend Matilda who plays the guitar in a girl pop/rock band Luminize. We haven’t seen each other for a year because two years ago she moved to The Hague and she is currently kicking ass with her band all around Netherlands and Europe. She invited me to Amsterdam to a promotion of their first album “All or nothing” which was supposed to be held on 16th of February in a popular club “Sugarfactory”. She said: “You just take care of the plane tickets, a place to stay and carry a lot of cash cause everything is expensive as shit over there and I’ll take care of everything else.:)” Naturally, I couldn’t have declined such a kind invite, but I still wondered:

“Dear God, have you invited me to travel to Amsterdam?”

GOD: “Yes, Joe. Actually, Matilda invited you, but I told her to do that.”

Who am I to oppose the Creator. I wouldn’t want to end up with Donald Trump after I die.

“Hello Croatia Airlines! God sent me to tell you I needed a return ticket to Amsterdam, business class.”

CA: “Unfortunately, the flight is full. We have only one more seat available in the economy class.” Even though I was very disappointed at first because I wouldn’t be able to enjoy nightingale cheeks and Dom Perignon, I soon realized this was a good sign. Only one place left just for me? I am that man. I have been chosen to travel on that plane. I smashed my piggy bank and bought a ticket to far but friendly Netherlands. Off I go through paths of cannabis.

I thought of that scene when Delboy, Rodney and Albert traveled to Amsterdam to smuggle some diamonds. They were careful about all the details so they traveled by boat in order to be as unnoticeable as possible. Albert skippered the boat even though his only experience was working in the boiler room. Del even practiced the language so that he would be able to say Hello! to the  citizens in fluent Dutch with – Ajax! Much like them, I was worried about being stopped by the police, but not because I was smuggling weed or diamonds. Namely, I had the ugliest fucking laptop case ever. I called my neighbor Ira to lent it to me because I was going on a trip. She said she had one, but it was a bit girly. I said if my laptop fits in it, it’s good. Good my ass! It looked like it was designed by Brüno. Perfect for a gay symposium or a wedding in the backyard of someones trailor. The case was so tacky that my childhood idol, Delboy, would surely love it. I told myself: “What’s good for my idol, must be good for me too.” I was fortunate enough not to have anyone opening my bag. (Bianka, forget seeing this bag, I know what you’re up to!).

Hvala ti susjeda Ira za proživljeni stres:) Foto: Josip Novosel, Flash.hr
Thanks dear neighbor Ira for the stress you have caused 🙂 Photo: Josip Novosel, Flash.hr

I was supposed to be situated in the center of Amsterdam in a luxurious hotel, but when I saw how much that costs, I called my colleague Maja and asked her to fix me up with a cheep hostel because I didn’t feel like wasting my entire paycheck on a few nights in Amsterdam. Luckily, Maja was well aware of my general cheapness so she found me a hostel in the center for just around 20 euros a day with breakfast included (Stayokay Amsterdam Stadsdoelen). Hostels can be great for meeting people from all around the world. The  only problem is when your roommate looks like Osama Bin Laden.

I arrived at the center of Amsterdam at noon. I was swearing all of the taxi drivers closer and further relatives because he charged the six of us 65 euros for a drive from the airport to the center (we would’ve payed a bit over 30euros if we had decided to take the train). It was actually my fault because I thought the drive would be cheaper if more of us go. Don’t do the same mistake. I was hungry like a wolf and, as a real gourmet, I choose only the best. I hopped to the first McDonalds in the city and ordered a BigMac. For this greasy pleasure, my wallet was lighter by 3,75 Euros, but I thought that was better than Pizza cut for bloody 8 Euros.

I also went to get my Amsterdam City card at the office right across the main train station (make sure to do that if you’re staying for a few days because a single tram ticket is 3,5 euros and if you’re using the tram frequently, that price can grow a lot considering one ticket is only valid for an hour. Make sure to scan it when you enter and exit the tram. With this card you also have a free entry to a lot of museums which is cool).

I left my stuff at the hostel and went roaming around the city. Since I am well known for my cultural uprising, I immediately went to the Allard Pierson museum. It was on the way and free, thanks to my Amsterdam City Card. I managed to take a few photos before the security guard approached me and told me it wasn’t allowed to take photos.

Allan Pierson muzej u Amsterdamu foto: Josip Novosel, Flash.hr
Allan Pierson in Amsterdam; Photo: Josip Novosel, Flash.hr
Allan Pierson muzej u Amsterdamu Tepih je bio prevelik da ga uhvatim cijelog s kamerom. Ovo je tek četvrtina tepiha. Foto: Josip Novosel, Flash.hr
Allan Pierson muzej in Amsterdamu. The carpet was too big to capture entirely on the photo. This is just a quarter of it. Photo: Josip Novosel, Flash.hr

After the museum, I continued with the cultural stuff. I stopped by the Red neighborhood where I found out from the local weed seed merchants that everyone is allowed to plant 5 plants from which 3 of them can be female. Everything is legal unless someone decides to constantly report you to the police. There were all kinds of marijuana seeds and hemp oil at the store but unfortunately, I don’t smoke nor plant. If I wasn’t afraid of the police, I would’ve gotten my mum a pack of seeds to plant in her village. She wouldn’t know what that is and I would tell her it’s a Dutch tea. I can already see my old man accidentally vote for the greens instead of the democrats because he is high on THC on election day.

Marihuana Foto: Josip Novosel, Flash.hr
Marijuana; Photo: Josip Novosel, Flash.hr

There is also a marijuana museum next to the store but unfortunately, I didn’t have time to visit it. The merchant also told me the coffee shops mostly buy at the black market because they need a large amount of weed but they sort of get away with it and actually sell it legally. Medical marijuana is a 100% more expensive than the one at the store even though it’s the same thing. The Netherlands also has a conservative political current under the influence of the pharmaceutical lobby which would like to ban marijuana but most Dutchmen are against it because marijuana brings great profit to them. It is interesting how I haven’t seen anyone dig through the garbage cans. The Netherlands has only 7% of unemployed people.I also didn’t see any raged, drugged or extremely high people roaming about the roads. Everyone was cheerful and kind and I didn’t feel like a stranger in the city. Amsterdam will earn almost 50 million Euros this year just from tourism taxes. Croatia should totally do that too.

I was surprised by the ladies of the evening at the Red neighborhood. I thought they were going to look cheap and old, but they were real babes. At least the ones I saw. One prettier than the other. I didn’t take any photos of them because I was warned they didn’t like that so I could lose my camera. I am not a fan of prostitution, but I don’t want it banned either. I don’t get it how it is legal to film and watch pornography where people fuck for money and prostitution is illegal? Both fuck for money, it’s just that one of them film it and the others don’t. I say pay the taxes and you can fuck as much as you want. Everyone is happy! The clothes showcases were interesting. This is, for instance, what Dutch Harrods looks like in the Red neighborhood.

Nizozemska NAMA Foto: Josip Novosel, Flash.hr
The Dutch Harrods; Photo: Josip Novosel, Flash.hr

The city is actually beautiful. There are no buildings standing out as monuments to some communist civil servants. Everything is similar and fits in. Every building has gorgeous big windows (probably in order to catch every ray of sun they can). In any case, I’ve been avoiding city transport and tried to walk as much as I could so that I could experience the city better and take some good photos.

The Dutch aren’t really known for their gastronomy delicacies (waffles and cheeses are amazing but they don’t really have other specialities unless you’re a haring lover), therefore you can find Italian, Japanese, Chinese or even Argentinian restaurants on every corner. I decided to go to the Argentinian one called “Siga la Vaca” and I haven’t regretted it. There I tried a great steak with a spicy sauce, french fries and a large beer for 25 Euros. Compared to London, this is super cheap. Naturally, for us Croatians, this is still very expensive.

I came back to my hostel that evening and met this Australian guy called Dennis Lang. He quit his job to travel around the world and take amazing photos. Seriously, I thought my photos were good, but after seeing his, I realized I knew shit about photography, or maybe just don’t have the right camera. The equipment is to blame, not me.:) The cover photo of the article is his craft and here are a few more of his photos of Amsterdam that really left me speechless. For other work of Dennis Lang, check out his Instagram profile.

I was so beat from the trip and walking around the city that I wasn’t even slightly bothered by my roommates snoring. I slept like a baby. The next day I woke up early in order to enjoy the breakfast that was served from 7,30 am, but also to not waste my day and enjoy completely my stay at the city of light drugs. I had a decent buffet at the hostel (cheese, ham, different types of bread, yoghurts, butter, cereal, cheap copy of Nutella, jams, coffee, tea…yum!). Even though the weather report said it was going to rain, outside was sunny.

At one moment I realized I was actually the famous gangster Joca Amsterdam from now on. I was thinking: “What should I steal here?” People in Amsterdam mostly steal bikes and people drive them even if it rains cats and dogs. Very often they style their bikes in a way that looks old and ugly so that they wouldn’t get stolen. And this is how the Dubrava (my gangster neighborhood) professionals do it – Bike theft 101:)

My travel wouldn’t have been possible without a pair of comfy shoes.

To be in Amsterdam and to not try some of their finest cheeses is the same as being a politician in Croatia and not counterfeiting your university diploma.  Cheeses with pesto, truffles, chilly and all kinds of different spices aren’t even worthy of the cheddar from my local shop Diona. I can already see my favorite cashier Helga glowing with pride. Nah, I’m just fucking around. Dutch cheeses are to die for.

A day without some cultural uprising is like a joint without the weed for someone from Dubrava. I was just roaming around, looking for some museums. It turned out there was one just a few meters away from the cheese shop. The BODY WORLDS museum. People donated their bodies to be used at this awesome, slightly morbid but very educational and fun museum after they died. You can see human bodies in all positions, all of the organs, blood vein system, muscles, bones, development of a human from the conceiving to death, what tumors look like… The med students will surely love this but so will probably everyone else who visits it. That was 20 Euros well spent.

I had to demonstrate an ancient Chucherye art of ghost summoning to the Dutch. From now on, I shall be known as the “Corpse Whisperer”.

After all those bodies, stomachs, livers and the rest, I had my inner Hannibal Lecter awoken in me. Someone would be fucking grossed to death but I felt hungry so I decided to go to a Japanese/Chinese restaurant called MIU where you can pay 20 Euros for “All you can eat” option. You get a list with 5 rows and 5 columns each and you can  order 5 portions of food in every row. That is 5 times 5 courses, but only if you eat all the courses from the previous row. If Honey Boo Boo and her family were here, they’d never go back home.

I proudly went through 11 courses while my colleague Dennis managed to finish 18 of them. Suddenly, a loud shout in fluent Chinese could be heard from the kitchen: “Kung Sun Pa!!! Harakiri!! Beijing”. Roughly translated as: “Damn you Melania, you fucking ho! I told you at least a hundred times that this “ALL YOU CAN EAT” thing is a stupid idea. These motherfuckers will eat us to our bankruptcy. Pack your shit, we’re going back to Beijing!”

I apologize I wasn’t able to fit all the courses on the photo.

MIU - ALL YOU CAN EAT - Japansko/kineski restoran u Amsterdamu Foto: Josip Novosel, Flash.hr

Amsterdam is a great shopping city. The food is much more expensive than in Croatia, but some things are much cheaper too. Their discounts go up to 75%, not only 10%. If you want to wear nicer clothes, you’ll find stuff you can only dream about in Zagreb. From cheap but great shirts for 3 euros to top notch designer clothes for reasonable price. I almost bought this jacket but I was just around 350 euros short which was a nice change from only being short in my legs. I will definitely buy it the next time I visit the light drug city.

We came back to the hostel with our belies full. I couldn’t breathe so I just crashed in my bed. I woke up around 7 pm, took a shower and went to the Sugarfactory to Luminize’s album promotion which was the original reason for my trip to Amsterdam. The girls from the band were doing last preparations in backstage while the line was forming in front of the club as if Justin Bieber was going to perform.

LUMINIZE i njihova managerica Danijela u basckstageu kluba Sugarfactory u Amsterdamu Foto: Eric van Nieuwland
LUMINIZE and their manager Danijela at the backstage of the Sugarfactory club in Amsterdam; Photo: Josip Novosel, Flash.hr

The club was so full and the girls performance was amazing. There were a few Croatians at the concert but also people from all around the world such as Netherlands, Austria, Sweden, The US, China… We enjoyed the amazing concert as well as domestic Prosecco, meat strudel and cakes. It took me almost an hour to say hi to Matilda because all of the fans trying to get their CD’s signed and take photos with the band were making it impossible for me to get there.

LUMINIZE - dijeljenje autograma nakon koncerta Foto: Eric van Nieuwland
LUMINIZE – signing CD’s after the show; Photo: Josip Novosel, Flash.hr
Sugarfactory Amsterdam - promocija albuma/koncert grupe Luminize Tražila se karta više tu večer:) Foto: Robert Schmidt
Sugarfactory Amsterdam – promotion of the Luminize’s album/concert. People were grabbing for tickets; Photo: Robert Schmidt

One of the guests at the promotion was Jasper Wilkstorm, a Swedish owner of one of the biggest music studios in Europe (enough said, Rihanna, Lady Gaga and many other big shots recorded there). There were also some Universal music directors at the concert alongside with numerous big names of the music industry, including myself. 🙂 The girls are currently No1 in Croatia with a massive hit ‘Zašto još volim te’ and in a few years, they could own all international top charts. Very recently, all of the media went on about how Taylor Swift borrowed a few scenes from the latest Luminize video for ‘Kill It With Love’.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bnVKP0QlOGY

It was a great evening and the next day I shall continue hanging out with the girls from Luminize

in The Hague, where they currently live and work.

 

The Hague is just around an hour away via train from Amsterdam. The return ticket is a bit more than 20 euros. I said to my motherI had to go to The Hague and she said: “Jesus Christ! What on Earth have you done now?”. There was a red alert at the central Committee of Chucherye. I said: “What would I have done? I’m not Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi. I’m simply visiting as a tourist, don’t worry.

I arrived to The Hague at around 11 am and since Matilda and the girls were not free before 3 pm, I headed on a tram 11 to the last stop where the beach was. Namely, The Hague is situated on the coast of the Northern sea. The wind was blowing through my thick hair while the waves splashed upon the kilometers of sandy beach. I took out my saxophone and started playing. Suddenly, the people started approaching me, asking me about the strange and beautiful melodies I was playing. I said: it is “Hurry, oh white horses” by Croatian superstar – Milo Hrnić.

As a guest, I wasn’t going to come empty handed. My hand might be small but is ever so generous. I cheered the girls with flavors of our country: instant chocolate flavored baby food, instant soups and also the Kiki fruit caramels which I have devoured on my way over.

LUMINIZE: Marcela, Tea, Matilda i Irena s darovima iz Hrvatistana:) Foto: Josip Novosel, Flash.hr
LUMINIZE: Marcela, Tea, Matilda and Irena with their presents from the homeland.:) Photo: Josip Novosel, Flash.hr

I have arrived just at time for lunch that Tea was fixing up. After all that food, I hopped onto the couch and the girls continued signing CD’s for their fans.

LUMINIZE - potpisivanje CD-a za fanove Foto: Josip Novosel, Flash.hr
LUMINIZE – signing CD’s for the fans. Photo: Josip Novosel, Flash.hr

Before they took me sightseeing, we hopped to their manager Danijela, who is also originally from Croatia. She greeted us alongside her three children and her parents. Her husband Romeo also joined us later. Voices were coming from each side. There was yelling, laughing, rivers of schnapps and plenty of wine too. You could feel the warmth of a real Croatian home. And as it happens every single time a bunch of Croatians are at the same place, we exchanged our music for politics and economics talk.

It is most interesting that the banks aren’t allowed to advertise loans in Netherlands and interests for housing loans are 2%. If you are buying a car with a 3 year loan, your interest is 0%. The state gives you tax benefits and the only problem is that the ownership and land taxes are so high, most people don’t even want to pay off their loans. When they’re close to paying them off, they just get another one. In a way, the state is stimulating people to take loans, but the unemployment is also very low.

We took a photo together and then went sightseeing.

Ekipa iz Haaga:) Foto: Flash.hr
The Hague crew 🙂 Photo: Flash.hr

We took the tram to the center and girls didn’t let me sneak without a ticket because apparently, everyone pays for the ticket in Netherlands. Posh, posh!

Luminize uvijek plaća tramvajske karte. Vožnja bez karte je najskuplja vožnja Foto: Josip Novosel, Flash.hr
Aluminize always pays for the tram tickets. Losers… Photo: Josip Novosel, Flash.hr

When we got to the center, I was surprised by how well Matilda knew the city. She was an excellent tour guide. “This, to the right is an old building and to the left is where the minister of finances lives. This on the other hand is where they sell herrings.” The center is really beautiful, but much more quiet and calmer than Amsterdam I’d say. Since I grew up in the mobster part of my town – Dubrava, I found the graffiti, or shall I say street art, the most interesting.

All that walking made us hungry so we went to a nearby Greek restaurant for supper. Too much onion in the meat for my taste so it made me turn in my bed like a suckling pig on a spit.

After we ate, their friend Kimberly picked us up and took us to the city of Delft and straight to a pub named Bierfabrikkoncert where we saw a concert by a group named Jon Tarifa where her boyfriend sings. Even though the PA system was shit, the band itself was great. An interesting mixture of reggae and rap. At the pub, we had to buy chips and then used them to pay for our drinks. I guess it’s a way for the owners to protect themselves from waiter manipulations. It was interesting to see people sitting outside after the concert without jackets or even in T-shirts at the mild temperature of minus fucking 1. They’re batshit crazy if you ask me.

Kimberly works for a company that has to do with space flights. If you have 150 thousand dollars to spare, you too can fly to the outer space. I was considering the idea but I was just about 200-300 dollars short.

All in all, we had a great time and came home beat. I had the honors of sleeping on a sofa in the living room and just to be polite, I shall not post a photo of my improvised bearing. I know my legs are short, but I’m not a Hobbit.

We woke up pretty tired in the morning. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day and if you want to stay fit, you must be careful what you put in your system. We had nice and light melted Gauda cheese, ham, scrambled eggs, a bucket of Nutella and a a bit more cheese, just in case.

Dijetalni doručak foto: Josip Novosel, Flash.hr
Dietetic breakfast, Photo: Josip Novosel, Flash.hr

You might have noticed that the girls look really pretty on the photos and on top of that, they are great musicians. However, one of them really stands out in my books. I know Matilda is jumping with joy right about now, thinking: “I knew it. I am the one. Must be my ears. No one has bigger ears than me.” Unfortunately, I will have to disappoint her. Irena is my new idol. She can talk backwards and read anything she sees backwards. I tested her great skill on lyrics of Croatia’s favorite “Hurry, oh white horses” by Milo Hrnić. Naturally, she could do it. Take a look.

Now I know how the Elvish language was made for Lord of the rings. Those are just Milo Hrnić’s lyrics said backwards. I swear I heard Legolas say a vers or two!

Girls were bragging about being an opening act for ZZ TOP and how they have a photo with the bearded guy from the band. I tried to stay cool and unimpressed because a real Croat always is. I said: “That is nothing. I have a photo with Croatian Elvis imitator.”

LUMINIZE & ZZ TOP Foto: Josip Novosel, Flash.hr
LUMINIZE & ZZ TOP; Photo: Josip Novosel, Flash.hr

After breakfast I went to the center of the city for one last sightseeing with the guitarist Matilda before I went back to Amsterdam.

Dobri ljudi Haaga prostirali su crveni tepih gdje god bi Dragi Vođa prolazio:) Foto: Matilda, Flash.hr
The good people of The Hague spread the red carpet wherever the Dear Leader went. 🙂 Photo: Matilda, Flash.hr

 

Josip Novosel i Matilda Oroši Foto: Flash.hr
Josip Novosel and Matilda Oroši; Photo: Flash.hr

I wanted to buy Matilda lunch, but she is allergic to everything. In the end I gave in and said: “Take us to a restaurant where I can get you some food without killing you, please.” She took me to the Eat Company where we had a delicious pumpkin soup, a decent sandwich and an average apple pie. I also had a fruit shake which was so good I could drink it all day long.

Matilda samo na prvi pogled djeluje umiljato dok jede juhu. Foto: Josip Novosel, Flash.hr
Matilda looks so cuddly while eating her soup. But that is all just a pretense. Photo: Josip Novosel, Flash.hr

The former deputy Prime Minister of Serbia – Šešelj was happy to leave The Hague, but I would’ve stayed more if I could. I would just want to thank Danijela, Romeo, Matilda and the girls for their hospitality.

I got back to Amsterdam and had just enough time to take a few photos before it got too dark.

I got up early in the morning so to grab some breakfast before my trip. I had some spare time at the train station before the train arrived and, since they had a semi concerto piano over there, I couldn’t resist playing a little something. Every once in a while someone sits down and plays a tune. I’d love to see something like that at our murky train stations.

A friend told me I should call myself The Traveling Hobbit because I travel a lot and my legs are short. May your funeral reception be short Orlanda, you witch! I won’t go into cursing her and her close and distant relatives like the old Croatian custom dictates. It is not time nor place for that. I looked at all of the sequoias on the plane and thought to myself: “What’s up you tall losers? Look at how much room I have for my legs. I can dance The Chucherye shuffle.

Čučerski dvokorak u zraku:) Foto: Josip Novosel, Flash.hr
Chucherye shuffle in the air 🙂 Photo: Josip Novosel, Flash.hr

When you’re looking at Netherlands from the air, you can notice that every piece of land is plotted and processed and the place is crowded with windmills. I guess renewable energy is a new hipster trend or something. Long live our uncultivated Croatia. Long live poverty!

Pogled iz aviona Croatie Airlines Foto: Josip Novosel, Flash.hr
The view from the Croatia Airlines plane; Photo: Josip Novosel, Flash.hr

I didn’t even have time to say Caviar! that I nibbled on the plane, I was home already. Back then the airport was still named Pleso and now it is Dr. Franjo Tuđman. The flight was comfy and lasted only 2 hours. That is approximately the amount of time I would need from Chucherye to the Jarun lake in Zagreb if I used public transport.

Here is the last photo before coming back to the Zagreb rut. I will miss Amsterdam. Four days weren’t enough. So many hookers, so little time. I’ll be back to the crime scene again, surely this year. I’m just messing around. I didn’t really visit any hookers. I haven’t even smoked pot, but I did drink schnapps and wine so don’t mistake me for some kind of a square. The city is really beautiful and you really need 10-ish days to fully experience it. It isn’t even that pricey, compared to London or Scandinavian destinations. I hope I will motivate you to hop on a plane to Amsterdam and feel free to get properly high in order to forget about the shit hole we live in. 🙂

Don’t forget to buy LUMINIZE’s first album-  All Or Nothing and for more photos visit my Instagram profile https://www.instagram.com/joeflashhr/.

ps I’d like to thank Amsterdam City Card and www.iamsterdam.com

Author: Joe Novosel, aka Joca Amsterdam, effacing lover of Albanian cannabis, a great traveler with short legs, a friend of the wealthy, above all a human, at last but not least a taycoon and a snob.

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