If time and tide had their way, Amsterdam would be underwater. It’s an alarming thought, but the city becomes an even more edifying place to be if you keep it in mind. The fecundity of the gardens at Artis Zoo will suddenly seem all the more remarkable; the strident individualism of the high gables more worthy of note. These buildings were built to last, and Amsterdam, perhaps more than any other city on earth, is an affront to stoicism, and even pragmatism: it is a city determined to exist, geography be damned.
Try telling that to the fishes at the Aquarium. The sharks swim with a certain swagger here, blithely ignorant of their incarceration; smaller fish drift about aimlessly, their natural paranoia negated by a doting workforce who keep their would-be predators fat and indifferent. The anemones, earth bound, wave lethargically in invisible currents, grateful for whatever falls to them. It’s a very peaceful place to be.
Nobody visits an Aquarium for the architecture, but the building itself isn’t the dull, utilitarian structure it could’ve been; it is, in-fact, a fine example of 19th century neoclassicism, and stands in stark contrast to the tall, thin buildings designed for human residents that you’ll find elsewhere in the city. Inside, it’s something like an art gallery, but if you’d rather save the 20 Euro entrance fee, just stand in the street and admire the exterior. It’s the perfect place to appreciate the existence of the dam.