Tag Archives: Amstel

AMSTERDAM TO NAARDEN – a fine spring cycle

By the Amstel River. 'Amster-dam' = 'Dam on the Amstel', remember?

By the Amstel River. ‘Amster-dam’ = ‘Dam on the Amstel’, remember?

We’ve just arrived back in Holland, the breeze is gentle and the rain won’t be with us for two more days. So what better way to fight the jetlag than a ride through the Dutch countryside?

One of the most hit-on posts on this blog is my brief list of Holland’s Prettiest Villages. I decided I’d see how many of them I could manage to ride around in a day. My route took me through Ouderkerk aan de Amstel, Abcoude, Weesp, Naarden, Muiden and back to Amsterdam. A respectable 72kms, plus a few where I forgot to switch the computer back on.

If that seems a bit energetic for Day 1 in the saddle, let me confess up front that Mevrouw T kindly offered me use of her electric bike. I know, that’s cheating, but we thought the beast should be tested again, before we take it farther afield.

It was indeed a lovely ride, and the bike’s electric booster left me energy over for photography. Continue reading

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THE AMSTEL – a ride by the river

Where else in the western world are there ferries just for cyclists and walkers?

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. Continue reading

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RONDE HOEP – a 40km loop ride from Amsterdam

Out past the village of Nes aan de Amstel. The 18th century writers Betje Wolff and Aagje Degen, depicted in this little sculpture by Hans Bayens

Cows, dykes, windmills, Rembrandt, locks, churches, appeltaart, a Spinoza connection (no, that’s not a European group-set brand) and roads with no potholes – a perfect little cycling loop out of Amsterdam. Continue reading

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HERMITAGE AMSTERDAM – from Russia with love

Hermitage and Amstel River

The Dutch and the Russians go way back as allies. In 1813 Peter the Great sent some Cossacks to help the kick the French out of Holland. The royals on both sides got matey and Prince William of Orange married Anna Pavlovna Romanova in 1816. Hitler’s mistake in invading Russia hastened the end of German occupation of the Netherlands. Dutch supercoach Guus Hiddink now trains the Russian World Cup soccer team.

Now there’s an art gallery connection. Last year the famous Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg opened a regional branch in Amsterdarn. The Hermitage has more paintings lying around in the dusty cellars than it has walls to hang them on, so it was a sensible idea to lend some of their surplus pics to their Dutch pals.

Amstel River

Amsterdam had a nice big building on a spectacular site on the Amstel River. For three hundred years it had been a home for old people, but with the rising standards of care demanded in modern Holland, it was no longer considered suitable for housing anybody. So in 2007 the last old person moved out, and the redevelopment team under architect Luuk Kramer moved in.

They did a beautiful job. The fabulous Matisse to Malevich exhibition has just opened and will be in Amsterdam till September. It features some of Matisse’s masterpieces, including the stunning Red Room and his famous Dance II (those girls holding hands and dancing in a circle), as well as some of the best work of his fellow “fauves”, Derain and de Vlaminck. Then there’s a room of full of great Picassos, and another of Kandinsky’s bright-coloured landscape period as he moved towards abstraction.

The view of the Amstel from the gents’ toilet is lovely too.

The displaced old people are not entirely forgotten in this museum. Downstairs in the cellar is a reconstruction of a 1725 kitchen, to show how the old people used to live, on a diet of artificial potatoes, apparently. Upstairs is a super modern Luuk Kramer designed café – so smart that we assumed we couldn’t afford coffee there.

I suspect most visitors go to St Petersburg for one main attraction – the Hermitage. Shame it’s so complicated and so expensive to get there. It’s much cheaper and easier to get to the Amsterdam branch.

TIP: A Dutch ‘museumkaart’ (museum card) gives unlimited access to most museums in the country. It is valid for a year, costs 40 Euros and is good value if you’re planning to visit five museums or more. You can buy a museumkaart at all major museums.

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AMSTERDAM’S 10 most beautiful streets

A newspaper poll asked people to vote on their favourite street in this most beautiful of cities. The results are out, and it was a good excuse for me to spend a sunny day going round on the bike, with the camera.

The top 10 were:

Brouwersgracht

1. Brouwersgracht. Oh, we did want to live here! The old brewers canal features houseboats, bridges, markets, trees and 17th century warehouses converted to apartment blocks. Unfortunately inside the apartments are usually dark, small, low-ceilinged, structurally dodgy and far too bloody expensive! But they do look great from the outside.

Nieuwendammerdijk

2. Nieuwendammerdijk. Some would consider the “new dam dyke” to be outside Amsterdam, but it is just across the water from Centraal Station, then a ride along the North Holland Canal. Old wooden cottages and very little car traffic give it a village feel, and make it a perfect place for a bike ride.

Amstel river

3. Amstel. It’s hardly fair to call this a street. It’s the wide river on which old Amsterdam was built. Features the Hermitage Museum, the State Opera building (Stopera), the Waterlooplein flea market, the Carre Theater, the posh Amstel Hotel, elaborate bridges and lots of glass-topped tour boats!

Begijnhof

4. The Begijnhof. Begijnhofjes were originally built as housing for the Beguines, devout single women who didn’t want to take vows – sort of plain clothes nuns. Now the hofjes are attractive complexes built around lovely communal gardens. They’re usually open to the public during the week, but close at weekends to give the residents a break from the stream of visitors.

Drawbridge onto Prinseneiland

5. Prinseneiland. Another place we could easily live. Amsterdam’s western islands, not far from the centre of town, are a quiet backwater of bridges and canals, converted warehouses, boatyards and artists’ studios. If you’re not an artist here, try to dress like one. Shame about the train line running right across in front of the island, but it makes it feel more like a real artist’s garret when you have noise.

Kromboomssloot

6. Kromboomssloot One of many quiet little places no visitor knows about but locals love.

Groenburgwal

7. Groenburgwal Any street which ends with a view of the beautiful Zuiderkerk (southern church) tower is going to be a strong contender for Amsterdam’s Most Beautiful. Of the ten streets others voted in, this could be my favourite.

Noordermarkt

8. Noordermarkt. Dominated by the 17th century Noorderkerk (Northern Church), this is where the popular farmers’ market is held every Saturday, and a clothing and material market happens every Monday in the adjoining Westerstraat. Cafe Winkel on the corner regularly wins the award for serving the best ‘appeltaart’ in the city. It’s perhaps not particularly beautiful to look at, but it is very lively and interesting, especially on a market day.

Henri Polaklaan

9. Henri Polaklaan Right by Artis, the Amsterdam zoo, this is a street of handsome gentlemen’s residences. A little too grand for me – maybe I’m not enough of a gentleman.

Reguliersgracht

10. Reguliersgracht. One of the classic canals of the city. You could make a case for many of them, but this is as good as any. All the tourist boats stop here so visitors can admire the seven or nine (depending on who you listen to) bridges in a row.

TRIP NOTES:

Riding around all ten of these streets took about four hours, including camera adjustment and coffee and appeltaart stops.

Next time I’ll go looking for my own personal street list…and if you have suggestions as to other beauty spots, let me know and I’ll try to cover them in the sequel to this post.

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