Today an interview with Martin Sollmann, Spotter for our Amsterdam cityblog, whom we ran into a couple of times in our favorite spots in Amsterdam lately!
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I am a studied visual artist, a free-lance graphic designer, a writer, a father, and I love to do what I do. I am not a careerist, I try not to take too much part in the rat-race, rather enjoying live as a whole. What you are is not what you reach in life, but also what you are as a person, and how you interact with your social environment.
Spotting is social interaction for the benefit of the people who come to visit Amsterdam, for the benefit of the bars and venues that I recommend, and, actually, for my own benefit, because I get a lot of positive response from doing it, I am getting to know a whole lot of new people, and I am getting to know my own city in a complete different way. By spotting I make Amsterdam even more my hometown than it already was.
How do you like being a Spotter?
I don’t have a catchy spotters story, but the response that I get from spotting in general is great. Sometimes people come to me and tell me things like: “Do you know what? The other day there where two Americans from California here, cycling all the way from Leidseplein to here (the Music Matrix) on their rented bikes, and when I asked them how they got here, how they knew about this place, they said, well, they just read your article on Spotted by Locals!” When people are having a good time in places where I send them to, that’s great, I mean, isn’t it a great feeling when you are exploring another town somewhere in the world, and you find yourself in that particular hide-out that the local crowd is just about to discover?
Amsterdam is divers, international, multicultural, a big city and a small village at the same time. The city of cycling is a cliche , but it’s true, every spot in the city is within reach by bicycle, and when you are exploring the city, there is no need to spend money on cabs, organizing yourself with public transport, just rent a bike, and it will only take you a 10 to 15 minute ride from the city center to the off-center hotspots. As you can see in my articles, there is a lot going on in Amsterdam, and everything is quite accessible. Amsterdam has a good music scene, and there are a lot places where you can have good music, or a concert, for a little fee or even for free. You can come across local as well as international start-ups at small venues, Amsterdam is a city where everyone wants to have played once.
Save the Anne-Frank-house. You are only going there for the reputation, but actually there is not so much to see. Go to the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh museum only if you have a genuine interest in old paintings and not because you feel like you have to. Otherwise you will miss out on many things the city has to offer, and you are queuing for hours. Also the boat trips are nice, but by doing these things you will only experience Amsterdam as a tourist. Everyone can create it’s own Amsterdam experience, and I definitely hope my articles will contribute to making your experience of Amsterdam a little special.
Galleries in de Jordaan Amsterdam By Martin Sollmann
Which prejudices about Amsterdam are true? Which ones are not?
Liberal drug policy? – well, it’s true that there are coffeshops in Amsterdam where they legally sell small amounts of weed. But: does that mean, every person in Amsterdam is regularly using drugs? The answer is: no way! Actually, liberal drug policy means that those shops are tolerated, but nothing more than that. In fact, everybody wants to get rid of them. In the center they are tolerated because they attract a lot of tourists, but in the neighborhoods all of them are a cause of annoyance. If you smoke weed in public, people will recognize you as a tourist. They will look at you with an expression saying ”Well, I also tried that when I was 16, you do that when you are young.” In some public places it is even prohibited to smoke weed publicly.
What do you know about Amsterdam what no tourist will know?
Well, do you want to know the secret behind the fact that all the social life in Amsterdam takes place in public? You rarely get invited to someones house, which is really different from other places I know. There is a rigid line between life inside and life outside the house. When you want to meet people, you are having a date, you will always meet in a bar. You will never hear “just drop by if you like”. Dutch houses are not open houses, even if the traditional lack of having curtains might suggest the opposite. The reason (apart from a mentality question) is that most dutch people live in very small, sometimes crappy houses. To have a proper, reasonably spaced house in Amsterdam you have to live either far in the outskirts, or pay an for most people not affordable amount for the rent. But, if you are looking for a subject of conversation, Amsterdam people can go on forever about the housing problem, it is always an issue, and everybody has to deal with it.
What is the most popular neighborhood to live in at this moment?
The most popular neighborhood to live in definitely at least for the past years has been the Pijp (oud-zuid). There are lots of bars, restaurants, the biggest daily open market (Albert Cuyp market), a well-respected art center (De Appel), a nice little park (Sarphati park), all together really lively and nice. The inhabitants cover the spectrum from students, expats, immigrants, to the yuppie end of the line. It is a really nice area to spend there some time. But it got so crowded, first of all by day-trippers, that you will have to ask yourself whether you want to make this area a place for you to live in.
Zaal 100 by Martin Sollmann
There are upcoming areas in Amsterdam that are relatively close to the center but less crowded, and eventually a better place to live in than the Pijp. De Baarsjes has been in the lift for a couple of years now, housing areas with beautiful turn-of-the-century elements and attracting more and more artists and creative people. I think for the years to come, De Baarsjes will be in a better balance between young and creative inhabitants, the old population with mostly immigration background, new bars and old businesses, the rough and the trendy.
Check out all Martin Sollmann’s articles and the other interviews with our Spotters.