When I first came to the Netherlands, it was a while before I found out that Amstel was not only a beer, but a river, and even longer to discover that ‘Amsterdam’ meant ‘dam on the Amstel’. Maybe I’m just a slow learner.
Now I know the Amstel River very well. My cycling routes south of Amsterdam often begin with a few kilometres riding alongside it. My correspondent and fellow blogger Laura contacted me this morning and recommended a ride along the length of the Amstel from Amsterdam to where the Drecht River joins with a canal to become the Amstel at a village called De Kwakel. It’s about a 60km round trip, all flat.
Good idea, thanks Laura! I went straight out and did it.
The Amstel used to flow into the Ijsselmeer (formerly the Zuider Zee) through Amsterdam, but now the last part of it, the Rokin, has been filled in. So the Amstel really ends at the Muntplein and from there flows to the sea through underground pipes.
The city part of the Amstel is one of Amsterdam’s best addresses, lined as it is by the Stopera (Town Hall and Opera House), Carre Theatre, the Magere Brug (Skinny Bridge) painted by Van Gogh and the Amstel Hotel (George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon stayed there – wow!)
I generally avoid riding through the city and instead reach the Amstel as it winds out of Amsterdam, at Kalfjeslaan. There are often tourist buses pulled up there, because there are a few sights to see at this point.
The Amstel is no longer a useful commercial waterway, which leaves it free for pleasure craft. On a sunny afternoon (the first in a long, cold, wet summer) everyone with anything that would float was out on the water.
It’s just a few kilometres out to the village called Ouderkerk aan de Amstel (Old Church on the Amstel). There are pleasant cafes by the river here…
…but if you take a little detour through the village itself, you’ll find the interesting Jewish Portuguese cemetery, where the parents of my favourite philosopher Baruch Spinoza are buried.
The road along the river from Ouderkerk to the Nes aan de Amstel is one of the most attractive parts of the route. There are a few cars to contend with, but there are also well marked cycle lanes on each side.
From there it’s on past some industrial terrain to Uithoorn, a less-than-attractive modern village which nonetheless has a few more cafes by the Amstel. But Uithoorn is a convenient place for shopping – I ducked into the Albert Hein supermarket for a bag of krentenbollen (currant buns – the cyclist’s friends).
Past Uithoorn the river starts to split in two, and the cycling route skirts past the Uithoornse Polder, an area of drained farmland. It is sobering to notice that the level of the Amstel is usually higher than the surrounding farms. Only dykes and pumping keep it in its place.
And at the end of the path, I reached de Kwakel. Thanks again, Laura – a good day’s ride. The return trip was a breeze, with wind at my back, taking the shorter, though less interesting, route through Amstelveen.