I hate flying. Even though it’s said to be the safest method of transportation, my fear of heights, fear of speed, and claustrophobia don’t really make it feel that way. And if something goes wrong, you’re doomed. Sooner or later, everybody found out about me and flying. Some were a bit surprised, especially when they found out while sitting next to me on a plane. I had this rule that I’m willing to fly once a year, usually for a vacation. And I broke that this year… why?
If you asked me what I’d be if not a (functional!) programmer, teacher would be my response. While growing up, I hated school. Even though I loved math, programming, and most of the other subjects, like history. I was frustrated with the system itself and usually also with the quality of teachers. How can something that determines so many people’s careers, and thus life, be so frustrating to undertake? As a teacher, a person can really change lives. This desire of mine emerges within me even as a programmer. I am something people often call a speaker. And it’s not just because I speak a lot as a person. From time to time, those speeches are given before an audience about a specific topic. I love to both share and gain knowledge. Actually, I believe that the best way to gain knowledge is to share knowledge.
If you had looked into my portfolio of talks before the story I’m about to tell, you’d have seen one thing in common: they were all held in Prague. With Mews being a global company, I was often pushed to speak at conferences across borders, but, as mentioned, that would involve planes, flying, all that kind of stuff. Not gonna happen… until Žížala and Gabča came to me with an offer you can’t say no to. (Žížala is Head of Developer Relations at Mews and happens to have a cool nickname: Žížala — “worm” in English — make up your own mind about that…)
He said he’d arrange a talk at .NET Amsterdam Meetup about my favourite topic (of course it’s functional programming, of course it is), with great accommodation, breakfast, and bikes (remember those, those will be important), in the very cool Teleport Hotel. The flight distance was acceptable and I took a friend, Filip, to spend the weekend there with me.
Our trip was set, everything arranged.
Neither me nor Filip are big planners. Sitting on the plane, we had no idea what we wanted to see in Amsterdam. One goal was sure, though. To eat a lot. (Sometimes I’m not sure If I travel more for the place or the food…) Anyway, what was really surprising is that I actually enjoyed the flight. Just like that, the fear was gone. It’s like a food that you never liked, but gave it one more chance, and it worked! And that was only the beginning of what was to be an unforgettable weekend. We were more than welcomed by the Teleport Hotel and headed off to the city center.
The city, horse & food
Amsterdam gave me a comforting feeling like no city before. Right from the beginning I knew this city was one of the very few places I’d be willing to live. One reason being that we had pretty delicious sour pancakes with sweet toppings right after arrival (I didn’t believe the waitress that it would be good, but it sure as hell was). One thing that didn’t occur to us until the end of the weekend was that the best landmark in the city is the city itself! Oh boy, the atmosphere… and, of course, the food. However, there are some great places to visit, like the view at Adam’s Tower (which was beautiful, but not as much as Filip on the horse) and Van Gaugh’s museum, which I, as a former painter, had to visit. We also managed to visit one of the best bars I’ve ever been to, Rosalia’s Menagerie, recommended by our CTO (you can see he really cares about our well-being), where we enjoyed local gin drinks prepared by a Czech bartender. What a lovely surprise! I got a bit hungry there and since they also had some food to offer, I ordered one plate. When I found out it was very small, I ordered five. I think I made some kind of a record maybe.
As expected, the food in Amsterdam was astonishing, my favorite being “A little bit of this and a little bit of that” served at Hummus Bistro D&A. But we also enjoyed “Father’s ribs” from a place called “From Mom” in English. We initially headed there to try local cuisine, but then we saw the ribs on another table and… well, I guess I already spoiled the end. One thing very specific to Amsterdam is that all the restaurants are rather small and the place is full of them, one next to another, all very cozy, which added to the already great experience and taste.
But then we tried the bikes. Riding a bike in Amsterdam was better than its food, which is near impossible! It was raining like hell, we were absolutely wet and cold, but we still enjoyed it a lot. I must say that I love that the most about the city. The infrastructure for them is just incredible. The place is not that big and mostly flat. Really a must! Bikes included, we enjoyed the whole Amsterdam package (I will let you ponder what I didn’t mention…).
From all the eating and biking I almost forgot why I came to Amsterdam in the first place. On Monday evening, I parked my bike before a place called Effectory, where .NET meetups are held. Eric (the organizer) showed me the roof and amazing view before my talk in a very fancy room. They really treated me special there. One of the attendees even apologized to me for not recognizing me, so I guess I should start to look up books on how to handle fame. The talk was my classic Functional Programming 101. Luckily, the whole session was recorded and is available on Youtube.
Landing in Prague, I must say I’m definitely going back to Amsterdam, hopefully to give another talk! It’s been a wonderful experience. Thanks Gabča & Žížala!