This post is about a trip back home some years ago. My family and friends live In Amsterdam where I also used to live. I feel privileged to be kept up to date when my friends show me the new developments of the city.
I know that many readers would want to see the touristy things, but many other blogs will present that, so I won’t. One blogger that recently posted those photos of Amsterdam is the Going Dutch blog of Malou Prestado.
I want to show some photos of a new neighbourhood that was converted from an old, dilapidated collection of buildings located on three islands in the north harbour of Amsterdam, called the West Islands (Bickerseiland, Prinseneiland, and Realeiland) is located right smack dab in the centre of the city.
Its proximity to the centre of this very lively, international and also beautiful city, makes it a very desirable neighbourhood to working people, especially young families and professionals looking for reasonably priced accommodation. The names of the islands were eventually changed from more mundane names to names given in honour of a grand trader’s family (Bicker), the Prince of Orange–the first Dutch king appointed by the confederation of cities (Prins), and the rich family owning the land (Reael). (Wikipedia)
The neighbourhood originates in 1671 and was first mentioned in the Dutch literature in that year by a Dutch poet. This was an industrial area with ship building wharfs and packinghouses (three story units) for the merchandise passing through this international trade city on its way throughout the world, transported by the merchant fleet that made the Netherlands a great nation. The whole trade and its associated industries, such as smoking houses and salt processing plants became obsolete around the 1900s and the buildings fell in disrepair.
The island neighbourhood is located behind the Central Station (designed by Pierre Cuypers) towards the east. To get there, one can take the ferry behind the train station or one can rent a bicycle and travel first eastward behind the station on solid ground along the water’s edge until one hits a bridge that provides an entrance to the neighbourhood by bike.
The islands are connected via bridges. It is a neighbourhood occupied today by the more artistic types that do not choose to live in the Amsterdam suburbia, but want to be close to where the action is, and waterfront to boot!
I was very delighted with the interesting architecture and innovative mode of building while at the same time preserving the nature of Amsterdam in a modern version. Homes can be bought and are also rented out. On the way walking by the water front we passed the new concert hall built right on the water’s edge. I can just imagine how lovely the patio will be on a hot day that does occasionally hit the nation in the summer.
It was a dreary quiet day midweek in June, so we had lots of opportunity to wander around and shoot photos.
Also thinking about the little ones….playgrounds and green space in between buildings.
Old freighters converted to living spaces are allowed a spot as well along the waterfront, for a fee.
A restaurant in between the blocks of housing that pleases the eye and catches every ray of light in this so often rainy and dreary climate of the Netherlands.
Occasionally, a wealthy boat owner drops in on a poor relative….
Lack of solid ground between the canals and the harbour and the water (named Het IJ) surrounding the islands is dealt with in a creative ways. Bridges and some limited access by car is possible, although the neighbourhood with limited parking and no garages discourages car ownership and promotes green living and the low emission of carbon fuels. This area is only 15 minutes by bike or by ferry from down town Amsterdam, a crazy thought when hearing the quietness and inhaling the fresh air while walking this surprising neighbourhood. It truly is living rurally in the city.
I took this trip to visit my family, on the occasion of a family reunion, at a place in the country. My beautiful daughter came with me. Not to bore you, but I will post a photo or two to show you who we are.
The Dutch do not do many things out of the house, as opposed for instance to the British, who practically live in the pub and do not invite people much at their homes as I experienced. The Dutch on the other hand are very set on making a visit “gezellig” which means creating a homey, cosy atmosphere at their homes, offering visitors coffee and always cookies and after that, generally something stronger, such as jenever (gin made from juniper berries or grain) or of course a pint of beer and wine. No, Heineken is not considered a great beer in the Netherlands, but is sort of factory product, easily available at a standard price. I personally think the best beer comes from the micro breweries in Belgium.
A splash of artistic expression:
Public Transit – Amsterdam style. The sign reads: Do not proceed when traffic light is flashing. The top sign reads: cyclists must dismount.
Sometimes you just have to tell people the obvious, as the Dutch are pretty self directed and stubborn.
The gen Xers produced by the baby boomers of the previous photo.
In the back yard, lucky it was not raining that day, or not much.
They managed to occupy the best seats in the house–every time! The girl on the far right is my beautiful daughter. The leaf on the lower left corner is a plaster copy made by my sister of a real leaf.
On the way home by railway, cousins sharing music…
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Next time I will highlight another part of Europe.