On a bustling street in the heart of Amsterdam is the cozy Café de Sluyswacht: a canal-side café that leans oh-so-slightly to the right. Originally constructed in 1692 as a home for the sluyswacht, the man who controlled the neighboring lock, the building has been converted into a welcoming bar and café. As a place to indulge in a break for tea and hot chocolate (or beer and wine) the Café de Sluyswacht is nothing short of perfection. In fact, I’d say it is the definition of gezellig: a Dutch word that has no literal English translation but approximates to a combination of quaint, cozy and a feeling of belonging.
It was in this unique café that my Dutch Uncle Leo, the brother of a grandfather whom I’d never met, chose to reconnect with me. As I walked through the door of the café, I understood why my uncle had selected it as our place of reunion. Jumpy with nerves at the prospect of meeting up with a foreign family member, I felt as if I had walked into a familiar place even though I had never been there before. We sat together for hours that day, talking about my grandfather’s life and sharing stories of our own experiences.
While I can’t promise that everyone who enters the Café de Sluyswacht will meet up with a long-lost relative, I can say with absolute certainty that the tea will be hot and the beer will be cold. And after you rest your feet and refresh your spirit at this friendly café, you too will understand the meaning of gezellig.