On a weekend in Amsterdam, I noticed how many residential buildings had benches right outside the front door on the narrow sidewalks, like this one. It struck me as romantic and kind of sweet, though I never seemed to catch anybody actually sitting on one. Were the benches for the residents themselves, a makeshift stoop in a city where outdoor space was scarce? Did unwanted suitors use them as a comfortable stake-out? Did homeless people sleep on them? Didn't this kind of thing encourage loitering? Wasn't it awfully trusting to leave a piece of furniture out on the street through the unguarded night and expect to find it in the morning? And then I saw the padlocks.
"Those benches are from the residents, padlocked down because people steal them," a friend in Amsterdam told me. "Space, and especially outdoor space, is rare here, and folks cherish their own bench in the sun. Don't know about the homeless thing, but being homeless is not common here and the wandering sorts (like junkies and crazies) tend to congregate around the Red Light District."
This one was built into the structure and thereby thief-proof:
Here's another one I saw on a pedestrian street in Tuscany last summer, made of heavy stone:
Do you have anything like this where you live?
- Kristin Hohenadel blogging from rue Vieille du Temple, Paris, France. She can be reached at kristinh @ apartmenttherapy . com