Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Cycling Amsterdam: De Plantage

This is one of the "off-the-beaten-track" cycling tours which the Amsterdam Tourist Board gave me when I was researching an article about Amsterdam-Noord. I've got about half a dozen of them, and I want to try out each one. Each tour has a minutely detailed itinerary through a certain part of town and provides all kinds of details about the historical and socio-cultural background.

Today's cycle tour goes right by my office on Wibautstraat. It's a tour of De Plantage, which takes in some of the districts of Amsterdam-Oost and Watergraafsmeer. It's a sunny, cool Sunday.

(note: original date of this entry: Apr 21, 2013)

"The city developed this land as part of the urban expansion in 1683." A few decades later,  construction plots were being rented out as gardens "for recreational purposes for the residents of Amsterdam." So even back in the 17th century they had the concept of recreation. By the 19th century, the "idyllic location" had become a desirable place to live. "The green character of this city district has remained intact."

Nowadays this area, east of my office in the Volkskrantgebouw, on the atypically sterile Wibautstraat, has a strong immigrant character. I'm at a pleasant residential plaza called the Iepenplein, soaking up the sun before I embark on the tour.

I proceed up to Beukenplein, where I score a pizza at a little Turkish bakery, then devour it at a little table out front. Many of the women around here pushing baby carriages or shopping carts wear headdresses and seem to speak little Dutch. The men typically sit at cafes, sip tea and smoke cigarettes. You also see Dutch people milling about but it's as if the Turks own the place. Generally young Turkish or Moroccan men don't ride bicycles but mopeds, often weaving in and out perilously, as if they were in Izmir instead of Amsterdam.

The route then has me skirting the west side of Oosterpark, resounding with bongo drums on this sunny spring Sunday, to a point just north of the park, the Hotel Arena. A gothic brick structure, it used to be a home for single women, as if the unmarried state was for women a sort of mental illness.

I continued to the Mauritskade, which skirts the undulating Maurits canal, past the Tropenmuseum (an anthropology museum dedicated to Holland's former colonies), then found the path blocked by a public works project, yet another section of an Amsterdam street that was torn up indefinitely. I detoured to a residential street on the right, with more women in headdresses and a row of apartment blocks with white metallic facades. Soon I hit Dapperstraat with its famous Dappermarkt, a long street market where they sell cut-rate clothing, produce, fish, snacks, hardware, you name it, and is interspersed with busy little terraces where sun-cured, leathery, middle-aged Dutch women smoke and drink coffee, mingling with the immigrants. I used to live near here in the Indische-Buurt and sometimes shopped at the Dappermarkt.

Sarphatistraat, east end.

At the top of the market I'm back on Mauritskade, still torn up at this section so I have to walk my bike along sandy paths through the construction site. In front of me is tthe famous brewery pub, the Brouwerij 't IJ by a big windmill. I know the place well, having enjoyed their fine brews with various visitors and local friends. My brochure provides the additional info that the windmill is called De Gooyer and milled flour for a few centuries but stood in other spots before it landed here on the east end of Sarphatistraat. It being a gorgeous sunny afternoon, the place is packed with chattering beer drinkers. I had a pilsener, cool and refreshing, and looked at the crowds. It was nice to sip my beer and stand in the sun beside a bench full of racing cyclists in lycra. As always, the staff circulated, stacking up empty beer glasses in perilously tall towers. 


The Hoogtekadijk runs parallel, across a waterway, to the Wittenburgergracht -- the way I invariably return to the center of town from the brewery. I never noticed this back way, which passes the old 't Kromhout dockyards, where a steel contraption raises and lowers the bridge, now traversed by blissful cyclists. I find an ideal spot alongside the canal that the bridge commands, the bright afternoon sun splashing a cobblestoned terrace backed by a graffitied brick wall, which must be the west wall of the old power plant known as the Kadijken. It's a lovely, deserted spot to hang out. Though it's still chilly, boats of revelers ply the canals.

Café Bloem, Entrepotdok
Continuing along the former dike, you find a gap in the line of old warehouses which have been renewed so pristinely they almost look like new condos, to find another pleasant spot, the Entrepotdok, built to facilitate traffic for the delivery of goods within town. The Café Bloem, at the foot of the bicycle bridge, catches the sun nicely, and though that star is now lowering and the chill moves in, the terrace of the Bloem is still full of drinkers. There's a little canal-side platform where a pair of women wrapped in black fur sit on a bench and a lanky teenage girl practices her kazoo. Another bit of Amsterdam I knew nothing of before this cycle tour.

To be continued ...

1 comment:

  1. Netherlands have to seen one of the beautiful country in Europe lovely roots to travel million of visitors to come their. i wannabe desire to travel their with my bike cycle.

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