I'm just coming off what felt like the busiest week of my life. Besides work and the fact that I have zero willpower in turning down invitations to do fun things (when I should really be say, sleeping) I moved! This is my second night in my beautiful new apartment, and I love it. I've moved about one zillion times (give or take), from different countries to different cities to different everything, in every possible type of weather and environment, using planes, cars, bicycles, taxis, metros, etc. So even though the weather was great during my moving process and I mostly kept a positive attitude, moving is just never really that fun... especially early on a Sunday morning.
In theory, I could have rented some sort of vehicle and driven it myself and tried to round up some friends, but the idea of driving a vehicle through Amsterdam - not just any vehicle, but some sort of large van - sounds like the worst idea on earth. So I hired movers, which is the type of thing that always seemed like such a luxury, but was actually the best decision I ever made. Lee, the White Van Man (+31 20 4122312), was amazing. We started at my former apartment and stopped at 3 other places throughout the city (I was picking up furniture from a bunch of different people who offered it to me) before heading to my new place. Our first stop was to pick up a bed, shelves, and nightstands from a nice couple with a large apartment. Now. I can not emphasize enough that staircases in Amsterdam are narrow. I mean, narrow doesn't even begin to describe it. They're narrow and steep. I have literally, and I'm not kidding, used my hands to help me when walking up stairs here in Amsterdam. So how on earth do people move furniture? Through windows.
Again, I've moved a lot. And there has come a point in my moves when I've said "ok, this is just simply not going to fit up the stairs/through the door/etc so it goes on the sidewalk." That attitude doesn't fly here; instead it's "ok, it won't go down the stairs, so go grab the rope and put it through the window." And of course this is all being done on a Sunday morning, when everyone who helping was terribly hung over. The bed was the hardest part of the move - everything else went rather quickly, and I'm really lucky to have moved into a place on the 1st floor with wide staircases (in the US, that would be considered the 2nd floor with normal-size staircases). The entire process took about 2 1/2 hours, and I felt incredibly lucky to have amazing friends and random strangers help me out throughout the day. The movers charged me about 160 Euros (including tax), which seemed like a really good price compared to what people pay in New York City. After I was finished, a friend of mine (who had just carried most of my furniture up and down the stairs) offered me a ride, and I happily jumped on the back of his bike and got dropped off in the center. I spent the rest of the day trying to visualize how to set up the furniture and daydreaming about all the dinner parties I want to host.
So how did I get this place? The same way anyone gets any apartment in a city where everyone tells you it's impossible - through contacts. That simple. A friend of mine knew someone who was renting a place, sent me the details, I got in touch with them, and that's that. I knew that I couldn't pass up the deal, because this is a legit apartment where I can register and have a legal contract and pay a fair price, so I took it. I didn't shop around at all, but I've become familiar enough with the Amsterdam rental housing market to know that I would be insane to pass this up. So there you go - the magic solution is that there is no magic solution. It works the same way here as it does everywhere else - get to know people, make contacts, put the word out, and hope you get lucky.
I've been in Amsterdam just over 2 months now, and I love this city more and more every day. I keep thinking, okay, eventually it won't seem that great. But then I'll ride my bike home from my friends houseboat at 11pm, while it's still pretty light outside... and I still marvel at the fact that everyone (pretty much) yields to me, the cyclist. The parks don't close their gates, the dogs run next to the bikes, the buildings lean drastically to one side - and I love all of this. A really good friend from New York is now staying with me for the entire month of July, and I can't wait to show the city off to her, and hope she loves it as much as I do.