Monday, 10 February 2014

Amsterdam - Through a window.

Let’s be very clear before we start, there is one notable exception in this ‘Amsterdam -Through a window’ blog post and that’s the views through various assorted windows in Amsterdam’s famous red light district.  Sorry to disappoint but that just wasn't going to make it to my blog page.

However on my recent weekend trip to this beautiful city it was this very experience (educational and shocking as it was) that led me to seek out alternative windows that displayed the culture, History, innovation and diversity of this melting pot of a city.  Here are just a few that I found and want to share along with a few principles that are worth remembering.
This collection, like Amsterdam is eclectic and diverse and I’ve saved the best Window to last.

Windows that make a statement
The Condomerie shop window around which a crowd of tourist were gathered to peer at the colorful and eclectic display really aimed to make a bold statement. Established in 1987 by two visionary women concerned about the spread of HIV/AIDS and other sexually-transmitted diseases. It bills itself as the world’s first condom specialist store.

It must have taken real courage and a degree of fearlessness on the part of these ladies back in the day. As with all Innovation endeavors bravery and a passionate belief lies at the heart.

Windows to surprise
Now where to start? Virtually every window in Amsterdam promises and delivers a visual feats of surprises in one way or another. Take for example the shop that offered you a Haircut and or espresso. The options yours, come for either one individually or both. In reality a tiny shop with coffee at the front and Barber chairs at the back but filled with a feeling of warmth and welcoming.
‘The Darling’ shop likewise offered you a cup of tea and a cup cake while you browsed for a new dress. Cupcakes spun around on turntables in the window alongside the display of clothes. Even the price tags were cupcake cases and although the shop was no bigger than a walk in wardrobe you felt immediately very ‘at home’.

The Dutch have cracked the ‘break the rules’ principle of innovation and seem to have a philosophy that says ‘Why not’ Rather than ‘No we cant’.

Windows of wonder
At the newly restored Rijksmuseum I stood and wondered in awe at this cathedral dedicated to Art. In the Grand Hall with its vaulted ceilings and painted walls there is a wall of stained-glass windows featuring images of famous Dutch artists. And why not?

The Dutch know how to celebrate and be proud of their achievements and this window is a testament to the skills and craftsmanship not only of the glass makers but the Artists it depicts.

Windows of History
My weekend came to a close with a visit to the House of Anne Frank. A moving and very emotional experience. It felt as though we were somehow eavesdropping in on her inner most thoughts thanks to the remarkable diary she left behind. Anne’s diary provides a window on history from a unique perspective of a teenage girl in hiding from Nazi persecution.

What was most poignant as we walked around the house was the shuttered and blacked out windows. Anne and her family in hiding couldn't risk anyone seeing them from the street so virtually lived for two years in fear of getting too close to a window. Anne yearned for the freedom to simply breathe fresh air.
How strange is it that only a few years ago that this only known footage of Anne was discovered. It shows Anne leaning from the window of her parent’s apartment watching a wedding procession just before she was forced into hiding.

The lesson I took from this final window in Anne’s house is that everyone can do something, even a young teenager in hiding from the Nazis. 

I think a quite from Anne's diary says it all.

 “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” –Anne Frank

So finally my personal lesson is that every second of every day is a chance to start recreate or reinvent either yourself or the world around you. It takes small steps by many to make a big change.
Instead of walking over that piece of rubbish, pick it up. Instead of complaining about the decline of our society, volunteer just one hour a month. Isnt it amazing that we humans have potential to learn from our tragedies while moving forward helping ourselves and our fellow earthbound souls.