[with the support of]
[Exall.club Bitcoin exchange]
[and Hashflare Cloud Mining]
[Through Europe on Bitcoin]
Despite us refusing his offer of lodging, Marek Skonieczny didn’t take offense. We met him in the café where the very first Amsterdam Bitcoin meetups took place.
Today the Bitcoin Embassy in Amsterdam and Bitcoin Ambassador Marek have gone their separate ways.
This was only our second day in Amsterdam, but it seemed we’d already been living here a long time.
Surprised by the complex relationships among Dutch Bitcoin activists, we set out for the second Bitcoin Embassy, also located in the city center.
We got around mostly on foot for all of our three days in Amsterdam.
Here we are inside the official Amsterdam Bitcoin Embassy.
This is the place we’d been planning to go to: the Bitcoin Embassy and Bitcoin café, where you can buy Bitcoin souvenirs.
But as it turns out, there’s no embassy here and no Bitcoin souvenirs either.
There are things you can buy with Bitcoin, but everything’s unbelievably expensive.
To give you an example: there are seven in our group, and the dish we’re about to order costs 20 Euros.
20 times seven is 140. That’s 11,000 rubles in our money.
Sadly, it seems that the public’s original interest in Bitcoin, which awoke when the price peaked in 2013 and 2014,
when there was a wave of enthusiasm, when Bitcoin embassies opened, and meetings, seminars and conferences began taking place…
that original wave is slowly dying out—and maybe not even slowly but rather quickly.
Sergei, a member of our expedition whom we met up with in Hannover, spent extra time just to pay for our expensive lunch with Bitcoin. But there, in Hannover, paying was easy.
We expected Amsterdam to be the European capital of Bitcoin.
It promotes itself as such, because Bitcoin Wednesday takes place there, because it has not one, but two, Bitcoin Embassies…
So once again we expected a city with “Bitcoin accepted” everywhere, with Bitcoin ATMs everywhere, and with constant activity at the Bitcoin Embassy…
The reality is somewhat different.
Though local enthusiasts continue to work with Bitcoin, they’re working mostly with the public rather than on specific business projects.
At the Embassy, we didn’t see the Bitcoin ATM Marek had told us about.
Later, Bitcoin Wednesday organizer Richard Kohl told us that something very curious had happened with them.
We asked Richard: “What’s with the Bitcoin ATMs? We haven’t seen a single one in Amsterdam.”
He answered: “They were stolen four months ago.”
Someone took them away. Maybe the authorities, who are basically against Bitcoin too, who harass organizations and cafés,
who subject the ones that accept Bitcoin to inspections, as we were told by Marek Skonieczny, the self-proclaimed Bitcoin Ambassador.
So it might have been the authorities, or maybe robbers, or maybe competitors, that is, others with their own Bitcoin ATMs…
In short, the whole thing is shrouded in mystery. But the fact is, we didn’t see a single Bitcoin ATM in Amsterdam, though we did see them later in a few other countries.
The mysterious story about the Bitcoin ATMs that all disappeared in a single day, it’s really weird…
Where did they go? Who did they belong to? Why didn’t their owners look for them or replace them with new ones?
In short, though there’s lots of talk about Bitcoin in Amsterdam, there seems to be less action.
At least that was the impression I got.
Richard added that native Amsterdamers aren’t so proud of the tourist areas in the city center.
For visitors, he tries to recommend routes that avoid these areas.
But it was already too late for us. We’d already formed our impression of the city.
To describe Amsterdam in a few words: lots of sex shops, coffee shops and girls in showcases—and the smell of weed everywhere.
A funny thing happened: there’s Andrei, who’s short, like I am, and we were walking around together. Just the two of us, because the streets are too narrow for large groups to pass, so we’d broken up into pairs.
So we were standing there in front of a window, and inside there was this very big prostitute. The woman was just enormous.
So Andrei and I were standing there, bewitched, looking at this enormous half-naked woman.
And she was gesturing to us, for both of us to come in, as if she’d take two for the price of one.
I gestured back to her that Andrei and I were too small, that we couldn’t.
But she misunderstood, of course, saying: “Oh, yours are too small!”, and broke into hilarious laughter.
Then some of our guys came up and asked what was going on, and we told them. And she started explaining to them too that “ours were too small”.
This continued for several days. Whenever we’d pass through that district and ladies of the night would come up to us,
we’d gesture to them that “ours were too small”, just to get rid of them, and then walk away.
That’s how we got off the hook.
[Through Europe on Bitcoin]
More than a day remained before the conference, and we’d already come to the end of our list of Bitcoin sights.
Things got so bad that we started buying Bitcoin from each other.
Our group has a small problem: unfortunately, Bitcoin isn’t accepted everywhere
and sometimes we need cash to buy souvenirs, or just food and drink.
But we solve this problem too with Bitcoin. For example, one member of our group, Andrei, just bought 100 Euros from another member, Sergei.
With Bitcoin. He sent the Bitcoin and received fiat in return. It was fast and simple, and most of all, both of them are satisfied.
I didn’t pay for anything with Bitcoin in Amsterdam. No, not anything.
If you talk about Amsterdam and don’t mention drugs, you’re leaving out the main thing. They’re here everywhere you look, in every shop window.
It’s great, actually. Well, when it overwhelms you, it’s not so great. And the next day’s not so great either. But on the whole, it’s great.
Stop. Let’s do that again!
It smells of cannabis everywhere. You’re walking down the street, a wide street, almost an avenue, and even there there’s that smell.
The smell is literally everywhere.
It’s the city’s aroma, the natural fragrance of Amsterdam.
We travelled a long time to get to Amsterdam. We really wanted to go there. It was our main destination.
But when we finally arrived and saw those red-light districts, that moral decay,
we were overcome at once with the desire to leave. Immediately.
Before that, there was no homesickness, no feelings like that at all.
That all appeared in Amsterdam. Suddenly, I wanted to go home to my wife, my kid, my mother-in-law, my plate of borsch, Mommy and Daddy… “Get me out of here! Please! It’s horrible!”
In Amsterdam we ran into an unexpected problem: whenever you talk to someone, you never know whether they’re normal or if they’ve had a smoke.
However, our contacts with the city’s residents revealed that they’re very vivacious and positive people.
So there’s this tipsy guy passing by, a Dutchman, it seemed to me.
But then he speaks to me in Russian.
He says: “Мой брат работал на фабрике.” [My brother worked at the factory.]
I’m reaching for my lighter and suddenly hear this in my native language
and I’m listening to what he’s going to say next, thinking:So he worked at the factory, and…?
But his next sentence is: “Где моя книга?” [Where’s my book?]
I couldn’t figure it out. I thought the dialogue ought to continue and wanted to answer but didn’t know how to begin.
As it turned out, it was just a good-natured Amsterdamer who knew exactly two sentences in Russian.
And he’d probably gone for years without saying them, as there was no one to say them to.
But then I appeared and he could say his “My brother worked at the factory” and “Where’s my book?”
In nighttime Amsterdam this all seemed rather odd, even creepy.
We thought for a long time: “Where could he have learned this?” But we couldn’t come up with a hypothesis.
Anyway, I praised him, gesturing that I understood and that his knowledge of Russian was godlike for someone from Holland.
At last, our third and last day in Amsterdam arrived.
We checked out of the hostel in the morning and loaded our stuff into the van, which had been awaiting us for three days in the underground parking lot.
From there, we set off for Bitcoin Wednesday. On foot, because parking in the city center is incredibly expensive, five Euros an hour on average.
In that underground parking lot I saw every Tesla automobile ever produced by the Tesla company.
Or so it seemed to me. First we saw one Tesla and said: “Look, there’s a Tesla!”
Two steps later we saw another one. And then another one. And then the fourth, which was driving towards us.
And then another three just a little further on.
And I realized that this wasn’t even all the Teslas in Amsterdam, that they couldn’t all be here in one parking lot.
So it seems to me that 90% of all cars produced by Tesla are here, a few more in America, and about three automobiles in Russia.
In Moscow and Novosibirsk.
Electric cars enjoy special privileges in Amsterdam.
For example, there are special parking places for them with free charging.
Here’s a vivid example of civilized European hypocrisy.
There are two cars charging up here, and that would seem to be good for the environment.
But in fact, for electricity to appear in this socket, they had to burn an enormous quantity of our gas.
But the main form of transportation in this city is the bicycle.
Oleg, who’s a big fan of two-wheeled transportation, was in bike heaven here.
The further you get into Europe, the more bicycles there are.
If there are a couple of them in Lithuania and a few hundred in Hannover, in Amsterdam there are a million.
And I got the impression that if you went even farther West, there would be a mountain of bicycles instead of the ocean…
and no more people, because they couldn’t get past all those bicycles.
Amsterdam is a city of bicycles. You walk over bicycles and around bicycles. There are broken ones lying about, new ones chained up to posts with cables this thick…
They’re everywhere. They’re two storeys high…we saw two-storey bike racks.
They’re on pontoons on the canals. They’re lining the canals. Some are being ridden, but most of them are just sitting there.
Once we got away from the tiresome city center, Amsterdam revealed itself as a pretty city with unusual, striking architecture.
There are an enormous number of sights here.
If in other cities you have to walk from one sight to another, here you can just stand in place and look around you.
Here every building is a work of art. There’s an enormous number of churches, castles and palaces.
We’re forced to look at everything on the run, and I wish I had the time to see everything in more detail.
We were in a hurry because the main event of our trip still awaited us.
So we crisscrossed the streets of Amsterdam at a sprinter’s pace.
There’s so much to see here. Behind me, for example, is a building where Rembrandt lived, now a museum.
We won’t go there, of course, because the prices are sky high, but I’ll mention an interesting fact:
The plaque on the house reads “1606”. The year this house was built, Russia was in the midst of the Time of Troubles.
That was even before the Romanov Dynasty.
[Through Europe on Bitcoin]
Bitcoin Wednesday takes place once a month.
The conference draws people interested in everything connected with Bitcoin.
Some are entrepreneurs with startups, others are activists… Now we’ll see for ourselves what it all looks like.
I’m here in Amsterdam University. Let’s see how student life in Amsterdam differs from student life in Russia. Let’s go.
Let’s recall our student years. Many of us lived in dormitories, and they all had an “independent study room”.
But that was in name only, because no one used it for studying.
It was used for all sorts of things, but studying wasn’t one of them.
What you see behind my back is an Amsterdam “independent study room”. Actually, it’s an entire wing with an incredible number of studios.
It’s all up there.
Where we are now might be called a student cafeteria, or maybe a snack bar. In any case, this cafeteria in Holland is different from ours because it sells alcohol.
That means you can come down here and drink a bit of beer between lectures, and it’s perfectly legal.
In that sense, Dutch students aren’t very different from Russian ones. We’re also known to raise a glass or two.
Students are the same everywhere: lively and agreeable. The only difference is that they sell alcohol in the snack bar in Amsterdam. But we were used to their ways by then and weren’t surprised by that.
Now I’m going to ask an ordinary Dutch student what Bitcoin is. “What’s Bitcoin?”
Oleg’s lack of English put him in a tight spot. But he wasn’t about to give up.
Please say: “Я люблю биткойн” [I like Bitcoin]. Go ahead. Say it.
“Я. Люблю. Олега.” [I. Like. Oleg.]
“Красавчик!” [A fine fellow!]
The inventors of such well-known technologies as Ethereum and Augur have spoken on this podium.
Speaking today were the developers of the NXT platform, an ambitious project that uses the blockchain for a wide variety of financial assets and data.
I spent five hours shooting the conference, because we were shooting not just for ourselves but for those who were speaking.
At a certain point, we thought: “Why not have digital ownership of art, just as one owns Bitcoin?”
I liked the combination of art and money: my doctoral thesis at the Sorbonne was on the topic of money and art.
We found the blockchain interesting: it’s like a big sheet of paper in the sky on which you can write something, and no one can delete what you’ve written.
For intellectual property this is very valuable.
Though the event is called Bitcoin Wednesday, much besides Bitcoin is discussed there.
In fact, only one of the talks was devoted strictly to Bitcoin.
Everyone’s doing and promoting blockchain projects now.
Deutsche Bundesbank economist Paolo Tasca, a well-known specialist in peer-to-peer finance systems, gave a fundamental analysis of cryptocurrency markets
including a study of the dynamics of mining pools, exchanges and the black market, along with other elements of the financial ecosystem.
Our talk devoted to the situation in Russia and our work was met by viewers with great enthusiasm.
We want to explain Bitcoin both to those people who’ve never used it and to those who use it all the time.
We want to share our knowledge, to tell people that Bitcoin makes our lives more convenient, easy and free. And we want to share this with everyone.
As I understand it, Bitcoin is already yesterday’s news for those who aren’t directly involved with its use, for those startuppers who are always looking for the latest thing.
The blockchain, yes. On the basis of the blockchain one can do pretty much anything.
We saw that at the conference, where there were several interesting projects with varying degrees of practicality.
And I’m a bit sad about that, because the blockchain is just technology, while Bitcoin is ideology.
The Bitcoin conference is over. It lasted five hours.
I, a guy who doesn’t know a single foreign language, sat there for five hours without understanding a word.
Now I want to say the main thing. Question: What do we have in common with people in Europe?
Answer: The fact that the real business takes placeafterthe meeting. You can see that for yourselves.
The most important event is the banquet afterwards.
Taking advantage of the fact that authoritative people in the field of cryptocurrency were sitting at these tables,
Oleg decided to find out: What is Bitcoin, in their opinion?
Amsterdam saw us off with rain. Our journey had reached its halfway point, and the road home lay ahead.
[See in the next series:]
After seven days of traveling, I’ve finally found a guy who understands me better than anyone else. I think I’ll have a sit here.
Here’s that same Room 77 Bar with which the history of Bitcoin in Berlin began.
And here’s that first Bitcoin sign, maybe one of the first in the world. Bitcoin is accepted here.
Here in this Berlin office they’re developing a solution that integrates Bitcoin into traditional payment systems.
You won’t have to search any more for a “We accept Bitcoin” sign.
You’ll be able to pay with Bitcoin literally everywhere.
We’ve run out of Euros: all that’s left is Bitcoin. But no one accepts it here. We’ve reached a dead end. We’re in Berlin.
[Producer: Victor Fomin]
[Manager: Alexander Bezzubtsev]
[Director: Valery Perelygin]
[Cameraman: Anatoly Borodin]
[Editing: Alexander Meshkov]
[Graphics: Anton Kuznetsov]
[Translations: Sergei Tikhomirov]