Jottings of Amsterdam: Rusland to Centraal

By: | Post date: March 18, 2009 | Comments: 1 Comment
Posted in categories: Countries

The title is a reference to McGonagall, and is about as well-informed…

If you’re not live-tweeting your photographs into interwebosphere, doing a blog based on your photos three days after the fact is something of a challenge. Let’s just see what I can throw at the wall and make stick.

Did I fall in love with Amsterdam like I was supposed to? No, not really. Partly because I don’t fall in love much any more. Partly because when I went tramping around Sunday morning, the good bit of Amsterdam (southern Oude Zijde) was empty and overcast. (At least, that’s how I remember it; from the photos, it looks more empty than overcast.)

When I was leaving Tuesday afternoon, it was sunny and busy. And it made a lot more sense. The photos don’t convey it, but I paused and looked around at the Waag, and smiled: this wasn’t half bad after all:

The Waag? (Or as they would say there, [vɑɑχχχ], and you weren’t really planning to use that uvula again, were you.) It’s an old weighing station for farmers’ produce. And it looks much more important than that. (As a conference participant who hadn’t read his guidebook put it, “that castle thing in the middle of the street.”) It’s a restaurant now. More importantly than that, it’s a signpost for lost tourists.

Without people, the houses and the canals are pretty but decontextualised—a regiment of soldiers guarding a moat, each with different epaulets.

Because even the epaulets blended in to each other after a while, houses tended to put up little ID badges as well.

(Anyone have a translation for this, or do I have to hit Babelfish, and cross my fingers because it’s in Old Dutch orthography?)

The regiment of houses has some soldiers wider than others:

Some soldiers more industrial than others:

Some soldiers more surreptitiously stoned than others:

And some soldiers turning up like it’s Casual Bauhaus Friday:

The disaster in the middle is Rembrandt House Museum. The pretty and Hollandically sensible house to its right is Rembrandt’s actual house. And the place to the right of that is where you too can buy a Rembrandtburger downstairs for €8.50…

Amsterdam used to be a maritime city.

That ship-looking thing to the right? It’s not a ship, because Amsterdam *used* to be a maritime city. Now it just remembers that it was a maritime city, and erects memorials: the ship-looking thing is the Nemo science museum.

Now instead, Amsterdam’s all about the bicycles:

(ok, bicycles, and please no doggie doodoo.)

By the time you get to Centraal station, it’s not funny any more. I mean really:

Amsterdam was also all about the religious tolerance. Unless you were Catholic; which is why the guidebook gave the impression there were more clandestine Catholic churches in town than above-ground Reformed churches. When the Catholic churches went above ground, it was payback time, and I’m not surprised that a lot of Amsterdammers were put out by the Moses and Aaron church: it had two centuries to make up for, and it does: this is not a Hollandically sensible regiment.

I did want to get a snap of the Portuguese synagogue, which was one of the beneficiaries of Dutch religious tolerance, and is around the corner from Moses and Aaron (hah… just realised the irony there). But it was pretty non-descript on the outside; as the door opened to let some people in, the inside looked interesting, but I didn’t get the impression I was the target audience.

So I headed to Centraal station, as good a staging post as any, noting the houseboats…

… the somewhat more Hollandic majesty of the Nicholas church….

… and the new centre of Amsterdam, displacing the harbour and also memorialising it—Centraal station itself

Which, like a lot of buildings in Western Europe (as I also found in Brussels) is undergoing restoration, and so offers you a simulacrum of the facade:

I also scanned the horizon to see where I would be staying on my return to Amsterdam Friday. The selection criteria were (a) I had not been paid in two months, and (b) I was getting the train in at 10 pm, and in no mood to traipse along the cobblestones, so get me something next to the station. I had decided on the A-Train hotel:

Oh great. A hotel at a slight angle to the rest of the universe. Given that Amsterdam is built on sand, this happens more than you might think.

Those of you who know Amsterdam geography know where I ended up next, without even particularly intending to. Those who do not, will find out next post.

One Comment

  • pne says:

    Anyone have a translation for this

    Do you have a larger version of the picture? It’s hard to make out anything in the first place.

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