The Traumatised Auckland Tenant’s Association Award for best value for location!
The advice I was given when figuring out accomodation options for Amsterdam was to not expect a central location without forking out big money. As an Auckland renter, this is a situation I am acutely aware of. The way student accomodation works for UvA is that you pick one of four options (shared room, shared facilities; single room shared facilities; double room, shared facilities; and double room, personal facilities), and UvA offers you a selection of possible rooms which you must quickly choose from in order to guarantee your place. I opted for the second cheapest option, and was extremely surprised to be offered two very central locations. For €422 a month (roughly 160 NZD a week), I have a room to myself right in the beautiful city centre. My accommodation borders Centrum, the famous and vibrant central district, and Jordaan, an extremely cool and sophisticated district full of beautiful houses and homes, and very non-touristy bars and eateries. In my room I have my own fridge, freezer, microwave and stove top. In the morning, I wake up to the sound of church bells, the same bells heard by Anne Frank during WWII. On the other side of the canal is a famous farmer’s market every Saturday, and I’m a 5-10 minute cycle to campus, the library and most museums and galleries. This is all for less than the price of my previous small, windowless room in Epsom.
The Karl Pilkington Award for ugliest building on the street
In the classic TV series, An Idiot Abroad, host and modern-day philosopher Karl Pilkington mused on the Petra Palace of Jordan that, given the choice, he would “rather live in a cave with a view of a palace than live in a palace with a view of a cave.”
The De Key student accomodation on Prinsengracht is that cave. Prinsengracht is one of three famous canals bordering the central city of Amsterdam. Outside my bedroom window is a constant stream of canal cruises, whose passengers all marvel at the rows of quintessential Amsterdam architecture lining the banks. And amongst them, the De Key building. Instead of beautiful facades and colourful brickwork, my home is a remnant of the sixties’ love of pragmatism over personal expression. Which means that, as its inhabitant, I get a full view of all the best Prinsengracht has to offer, blissfully ignorant of its lesser offerings.
The Dutch Courage Award for best transportation
Buying a bike is an inevitable initiation into Dutch life, and cycling through Amsterdam’s roads is a very sharp learning curve. Like a baby bird leaving the nest for the first time, there’s not much you can do but pedal out onto the busy streets and hope for the best. Amsterdam cyclists have little regard for road rules. Apparently, if any car hits a cyclists, the driver is fully liable no matter the circumstances, and Dutch cyclists take full advantage of this fact. Biking around the city often feels like you’re in competition with all other cyclists as to who can take the biggest risk at intersections, or who can overtake the most riders in a single journey. However, for all the stress and confusion, it’s easy to grow fond of this way of life. There’s a real feeling of belonging to this city the first time you internally curse the tourists on the streets, or when you first successfully manage to cycle the route the clubs with your friends while already a bottle of wine into the evening. The city is designed so that it’s quicker to get from A to B by bike than by car or public transport, so it’s a quick, convenient and healthy way to get around town while at the same time getting a renewed appreciation of your own mortality.
The BBQ Association’s Award for best backyard
The Dutch sun is quite elusive, but as the days have been heating up there has been more and more call to soak up some vitamin D. Amsterdam has many parks well worth visiting, but usually when the sun makes an appearance, all of Europe (and a great deal of America) make a collective decision to visit Amsterdam’s parks. With big groups it can make for a fun and lively atmosphere, but for days when I have wanted some sun and solitude, my own accomodation has been perfectly sufficient. Hidden behind the Prinsengracht rooms is a idyllic grassy backyard and concrete court. Surrounding it is the backs of many of the buildings on the block, providing a vastly different sight to the ornate street-side façades. It’s a vague enough setting that you could be anywhere, and residential enough that there is a constant supply of neighbourhood cats to play with. In a city as lively and active as Amsterdam, where there is always something to do and places to be, it can be nice to duck away from it all – while remaining in Wifi access. It’s also been a great setting for some social building-wide BBQ parties (during one of which a few of us were invited by our beautifully creative RA to make the vege garden sign below, which remains a source of great personal pride) and many lazy morning-after hangouts.