Every week author Maurits Koelewijn talks about the coffee culture and life in his hometown Amsterdam. This week he drank his black coffee at café Plantage at the Amsterdam zoo.
It’s Saturday morning, 10 a.m. The sun is still standing low in the spotless, blue sky. It promises to be a sweaty day. It’s time to pay a visit to one of the finest neighborhoods of the city, the Plantage neighborhood.
Two elderly people reading a newspaper are the only ones on the nice terrace of the Plantage at Artis (the Amsterdam zoo). I’m easily distracted by the sound of clattering of white poultry in a big, black cage. Do I see storks in there? I take another good look. No, they are spoonbills. I think. Or aren’t they? I’m consulting Internet.
An average person from Amsterdam doesn’t know anything about animals of course. I use my urban lifestyle as a cover when people ask me surprised:
‘You don’t even know what a Japanese macaque looks like?’
‘No, is that so bad? You know I live in Amsterdam, right? Where would I see such an animal in the city? I’m already pleased when I know the difference between a Saint Bernard and a dachshund.’
My lack of knowledge about animals also came forward ten years ago, I was twenty-four at the time, when I was visiting the Berlin Zoo. I was with my former girlfriend, Jessica, looking at the polar bears and shouted:
‘Look at that polar bear. He’s pacing up and down all the time.’
Jessica looked at me, full of disbelief, and said:
‘You have got to be kidding me.’
‘You didn’t know polar bears did that? Oh my god. Even my dog knows that! That’s really stupid..’
‘Well, did you ever see a polar bear before? How should I know?’
‘You’ve never been to your biology class, have you? Skipped that, didn’t you?
Ah, I found the answer. They are spoonbills, just like I thought they would. I knew it! Ten years ago I would have thought they were marabous, flamingos or pelicans. And when people would have shaken their heads full of pity, I would have used my cover and I would have said:
‘I’m sorry, but I live in the city... Where on earth would I run in to such an animal?!’
Written by: Maurits Koelewijn
Translation: Lisanne Verduijn
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