Windy and overcast. As I boarded the Buiksloterweg ferry across the IJ gray clouds bunched up over the Overhoeks tower. Next to it, the white plastic EYE winks at the lady with the parasol on the tower. The crossing takes about three minutes. I take cover in the inside deck. The ferry casually dodges tugboats, pleasure craft, cruisers and great big barges transporting logs and slag.
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(note: original date of this entry: Sept 14, 2012)
On the "other side," rain splashes on my head and I take cover in the nearest structure, the Tolhuistuin. Hipsters checking their laptops in the bar. Paintings, abstract profiles of black people on exhibit. By the time I reach the garden behind, the sun breaks through, warming me slightly, then disappears behind fast-moving gray clouds. The garden is pleasant and uninhabited, old trees, paths, hanging chair. I've been here before when Os Mutantes played at a little summer festival. Then the garden was populated by hipsters, with makeshift restaurants and picnic tables. Another time I attended one of Mikkel's "beat club" happenings, with the rear part of the Tolhuis becoming a dance hall.
Noord is no newcomer to the urban panorama. It's just been on the edge. This garden was part of the toll-house compound. There was a toll house here centuries ago, where they collected fees for the ferry crossing. Amsterdam shut the door after dark so latecomers had to spend the night at the inn. Now the ferries run all night long.
"The IJ is just a square," said Adri Doorneveld, a tourism promoter for Amsterdam-Noord, meaning that the river is more a point of reference on the Amsterdam landscape than a significant cultural barrier. Foot and cycle traffic span it in a constant stream, the ferry no more than a floating lane: no toll collected, nothing to deter the movement. But northerners know too that Amsterdam-Noord is another scene entirely, a cast-off piece of the central Amsterdam fabric.
Cross-IJ view of Amsterdam Central Station
|EYE cafe, Overhoeks tower|
And the museum? ... Exhibit shut but I was able to explore the basement for free. They've got "pods" which you can sit inside and watch full movies (West Side Story, a few Dutch films) and a "panorama" room with theme-based stations showing scenes from a few of the movies in the fabulous collection. There was some kind of film conference going on in the café.
Amsterdam is a town that's made for cycling. Cycling is not a "green initiative" but a long-term part of the country's infrastructure, a cheap, convenient, safe, muscle-toning form of transport, and everything is close enough to reach. It's not primarily a recreational or family activity (though it is both those things) but a functional and aesthetic one. And there's always somewhere to park your vehicle at no cost.
|Leaves of steel: Noorderpark bridge|