Latin joke carved in stone

I was in Amsterdam last week, at the Rijksmuseum which was fantastic. The most surreal experience was when they opened the glass roof to one of the courtyards. Not sure if they were testing the fire strategy or just ventilating as the place gets hot and stuffy. It was a very noisy process so nobody could miss it.

We were sitting in the cafe and there was a collective ‘aah’ as the fresh air came in. Then a couple of minutes later a kind of nervous laughter, as it started to rain. They closed the roof, but it took a few minutes, and it was odd sitting indoors with rain pattering on the cafe table.

But then Amsterdam is odd, in an endearing way. Near the museum and the Leidesplein I spotted this colonnade, with its cod Latin inscription carved in the stone. It reads ‘Homo sapiens non urinat in ventum’ which translates as ‘A wise man does not piss in the wind’. Apparently it was built in the 1990s. Unlike most architectural jokes this one works, I think because it does not look funny until you concentrate on it, and you can just let it fade into the background. And opposite this there are some exotic creatures:

As I said, funny place, Amsterdam. Long may it continue to be so.




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