At seventeen years old in Amsterdam, my accommodation was the Vondelpark, and my bed - also known as a sleeping bag - I had brought along myself.
And so it stayed for a couple of years, until I began to grow up and squat houses to sleep in. Unfortunately, the room service there was limited to drugs and lice. That’s the reason why I would eventually only ever visit Amsterdam on expenses, reaching for the stars. One, two, three and four I could afford, but never five. For forty-eight years I had only ever known the outside of the Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky.
Now I was finally inside. The great poet Oscar Wilde bequeathed us countless immortal phrases, one of them now being rather fitting: “when the gods wish to punish us they answer our prayers”.
I exaggerate - I can’t remember ever putting a five-star hotel on my wish list to the universe, nor did I feel punished. But I did feel like someone was taking the mick.
The white marble flooring in the lobby and hallways stretched on to the horizon, where about half way down we should turn right, according to the man at reception. Okay, I got a look at the map, but where are we here? In a youth hostel? Or the Tokyo Underground? Already one star has been deducted. Without the assistance of a hotel employee familiar with the hotel’s layout (formerly ‘page’), we managed to get through the wrong glass door into a sort of courtyard, where we took the wrong lift up to a designer labyrinth and tried to find the door with our room number on it.
As we finally found it, the key card didn’t work, and with a loud thud, down came another star.
Our way back to reception was abruptly cut off by the very same glass door we had just (or rather; recently) exited the marble lobby from. It didn’t open in the other direction. Stranded in a now 2-star hotel courtyard? Well, at least we could have a smoke. After about the amount of time it takes to smoke a cigarette, some other hotel guests liberated us. Once again we felt the white marble floor cool our soles. At reception they checked our key cards, and gave us a young Dutch girl to accompany us for the second attempt, but no bicycles. Eventually she found out that we
were in the completely wrong part of the building. Sometimes the devil isn’t in the detail, but in absolutely everything, Oscar Wilde would say - I however, was speechless. For a third time I stood in that courtyard and looked up to the sky. It was cloudy, and therefore as starless as the Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky, which had lost all five before we had even reached our room. Luckily though, the location was perfect - before us Dam Square, and behind us the red light district.
Prostitutes and hashish are a mere five minutes away from the Krasnapolsky on foot. My girlfriend was particularly interested in both of these tourist attractions - she had never seen living shop-window-mannequins before, and never been to a coffee shop, where you can smoke joints but cigarettes are strictly forbidden.
After she had acclimatized, we went back to the hotel. Two glass doors blocked the entrance. The first one could be opened with our room key, but not the second. And then the first one wouldn’t open anymore. So it was there we ended our evening, Stoned, in a five-star-trap of shatter-proof glass, no better than it had been back then being stoned in Vondelpark.
Translator Artemis Meereis
Proofreading Nadia Ratti
Foto von Helge Frank Zauritz
Foto / Fjuan Federico Bartelsman
Marmor / Prairat Fhunta
Hippies im Vondelpark / Fotograaf: Onbekend Bert Verhoeff / Anefo / Nationaal Archief / Commons Wikimedia
Monument op de Dam 1973 / Fotograaf: Bert Verhoeff / Anefo / Nationaal Archief Materiaalsoort / Commons Wikimedia
Wintertuin / NH Collection Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky /Wikimedia Commons
Author Helge Timmerberg
Published in Bilanz Magazine