A WALK THROUGH AMSTERDAM
In my sister’s neighbourhood, things change all the time. I notice the difference between my visits to Amsterdam every two years, when my family gets together around the birthdate of my mother, who passed away more than a decade ago. I used to live in the Kinkerstraat, not too far away from de Witte de Withstraat, where my sister eventually settled on her repatriation to The Netherlands from the USA. Since my own departure to Canada, the neighbourhood underwent many changes over time.
The area I am describing lies between the outermost canal surrounding the centre of old town, the Singelgracht, and the Admiralengracht, the canal ending at the border of the first tram zone, direction Old-West Amsterdam. It became the settlement area for immigrants from the Mediterranean—Morocco, and Turkey in particular. Shops changed into typical small food and clothing shops where Muslims could buy what they needed. Halal shops sprang up everywhere offering lamb and cow meat products, butchered according to the prescription of the Koran. The neighbourhood day-market at the Ten Cate Street became a mixed market as many merchant stalls changed hands, as its customers changed who needed a variety of different products. I would estimate this development period lasted two to three decades.
A new restaurant in a corner property. Across from it the old mosque.
I loved that development and the new changes, although I wondered to which area of the city the Muslim residents were moving to in this latest trend of the last few years. During the eighties, because the original Dutch citizens (autochthones) moved into the newer housing projects further out into Suburbia, the streetscape altered drastically, as the traditionally dressed Arab pedestrians replaced the original Dutch—allochthones. This created the feeling that I had made a trip to Morocco without having had to board a plane. A nice bonus. Now that is changing again.
The women’s entrance of the little mosque with a bread basket, for those who don’t have any.
Moving day, Amsterdam style. In this case, the house is under renovation.
Most of the old, residential neighbourhoods in Amsterdam contain subsidized rental housing in mostly pre-war blocks of four-story apartments with moving hooks on gable in the attic. Renting is the preferred method for housing, as real estate is expensive. The various housing co-ops are by law obliged to restore and maintain their properties, so the modern rebuilds or renovated neighbourhoods look especially beautiful, as maintaining style is a must! A beautiful, large Mosque and blocks of matching new construction, designed by a Canadian architect, arose in my sister’s backyard several years ago and are now complete and inhabited.
At the same time, a brand-new hotel was constructed that is accessible from both sides of the block. It accommodates the more adventurous travelers, mostly young people. It is called Hotel Not Hotel. All rooms have some quaint characteristic, such as an actual train compartment. It has a bar and restaurant. The lounge seating extends into the street onto the sidewalk.
In the millennium, the trend to share or sublet housing (AirBnB, etc.) became widely acceptable, as young professionals and youth, who began living independently, cannot afford to rent houses on their own, so are sharing housing. So also happened in Amsterdam. The Kinkerstaat and Oud-West changed from a barren, working-class neighbourhood into a sloppy little Morocco, then in the last two years, it again changed: into yuppy streets, well-maintained and clean: a gentrified part of Amsterdam catering to low-income students and young families, mostly Caucasian. I am attaching photos of this neighbourhood.
Above: the little mosque in de Witte de With straat, in use prior to, and after the construction of the large, brand new mosque.
The new mosque along the canal.
The cafe/restaurant across the mosque with the new apartment buildings, to buy, not rent.
My sister did wisely to just stay put. Her renovated third-floor two-bedroom home with a large sit/eating area across the width of the building and French doors with a view to the inner courtyard of green space leading to the balcony, is only a bike ride away from everywhere, and a five minute walk to the trams that will take you downtown, Schiphol, or anywhere in the city. Wonderful!
Any mobility issues of residents with the steep stairs in 4 story apartment buildings are solved with chairlifts, or with a move to a ground-floor apartment on request of the renter. The housing co-ops are in charge of the buildings and the renovations and are comparable to the Canadian situation of strata developments.
My sister and I had dinner on the balcony when it was still about 32 degrees—a hot summer.
The whole of the country is interspersed with canals, and the Dutch are still a nation of boaters. All waterways connect and are under the control of the government water control body, specifically established for that purpose in The Netherlands. As roughly a third of the country is situated below sea level, this is the most crucially existential institute in the country.
Old harbours and ship-building wharves around Amsterdam are renovated/rebuilt for additional housing or for recreation. This year I only visited for two weeks, but it was worth it.
Churches are also repurposed, and tear-downs are the last option, only when no use can be found or the structure is unsound. As the subsoil is permeated with water, all buildings are sitting on foundations of piles, so are expensive to build.
The renovated presbytery of the adjacent church that is now a hotel.
The church is converted to a neighbourhood social centre.
The leaded glass church windows are maintained, as beautiful works of art.
An old-fashioned bike that reminded me of how I sat in front of my dad as a child. We never had a car and I never had a car either as an adult—didn’t need one. M older sister could sit on the back carrier.
Nowadays, the modern, one-child family, or even families with more than one child, have this Cadillac among the bikes, hogging the roads and bike paths. Still, better than a car.
One street over is a canal, and if you had a boat, you could park it here and go to work by boat.