Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Amsterdam - Haunting

A Balinese is selling jewellery; A Javanese is offering batik shirts; a South American has a pile trinkets from Peru. There are bits of bikes, mildewed books, designer undergarments, second hand watches, wads of Third World currency; and all the usual car-boot-sale stuff. This is Amsterdam's wonderful Waterlooplein flea market, open Monday-Saturday 9-5. To get there, take the Metro to Waterlooplein Station; or tram 9, 14, 20.

Waterlooplein was originally a manmade island. It became a popular neighbourhood for Jews. During the Nazi occupation convoys of trucks would drive into the market and ferry away hundreds of people at a time. It wasn't until the 1960's that squatters began to bring a bit of life back to the place.
(Source: 'Cadogan City Guide, Amsterdam', by Rodney Bolt)

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"Someone tried to break my neck," said Herman, a normal-looking 18 year-old I'd started chatting to in a coffee shop. His arm was in a sling and nobody else was talking to him, or me.

"What happened?" I asked.

"It was at the place where I work," said Herman.

"This German tried to break my neck. I went to the police."

"Where do you work?"

"It's a club. Gay brothel."

"Good heavens. What makes you work in a place like that?"

"Problems. My dad walked out. My mum's an alcoholic. I met this guy."

"I hope the police will take action," I said.

I made my excuses and left. Alone.

That was several years ago. I wonder what happened to Herman.

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ATMOSPHERE

Mime artists in Vondelpark, flea markets selling second hand clothes, canals full of bikes and bodies, bicycle thieves, illegal drugs, legal prostitution, and a high crime rate...

Spiky towers, grey skies, trees, canals, fancy brickwork, fancy step-gables and bell gables, facades with elevated cornices, gardens, warehouses...

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BIKES

Hire a bike and cycle round the city. (But watch your bike and it's lock don't get stolen. Thieves carry clippers to cut chains) Take your passport and a deposit when you hire a bike.

Amsterdam has loads of bicycle lanes

Go to the entrance of VVV.Amsterdam Tourist Office opposite Central Station. Ask about getting a train to Volendam/Edam and the hire of a bike, guide etc. Then you see Holland's best sites : fishing villages, dikes, windmills....

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WALKS

My favourite thing to do in Amsterdam is walk, sometimes outside the main tourist areas. Set off, with a map and a camera, and enjoy the tree lined streets, the graceful buildings, the houseboats, the churches, the gardens...

It's a haunting city.

How about a walk that starts with Van Gogh at the Rijksmuseum Vincent van Gogh/ Van Gogh Museum, Paulus Potterstraat 7. (not the Rijksmuseum), mon-sat 10am-5pm/sun 1-5). (Best to get a FALK map) Tram 2,3,5,12.

Van Gogh was mainly self-taught and all the better for that. Wonderful bright blues and yellows and reds and greens and lots of lively jazzy lines. Look close and see the complex weave of colours.

Leaving the museum, turn right out of the museum and walk to Coster Diamonds (daily 9-5) to see how diamonds are cut.

Then to Pieter Cornelisz Hoofstraat for the poshest of shops.

On to nearby Vondelpark, with its English landscaping. Listen to "Tulips from Amsterdam" on an accordion or watch jugglers playing with whatever jugglers play with.

Leave by the gate next to the film museum and take a look at the Vondelkerk, a 19th century Gothic church turned into offices. Carry on along Vondelstraat and head for leidseplein and the art nouveau American Hotel. Try the Cafe Americain.

Onwards to Leidseplein with its English tourists and buskers and the sort of restaurants best avoided. Watch a tram doesn't run you over.

Using your Falk map, head for Spiegelstraat and Nieuwe Spiegelstraat. Enjoy the antique shops of Spiegelkwartier. Enter the Metz Department Store on Keizersgracht. Go to the cafe at the top for a great view.

Nearby Metz are lots of lanes with shops selling posh second hand clothes.

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TRAMS/METRO/BUSES
Buy a strip ticket at a newsagent or station.

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PARKS

(1) Vondelpark is superb:
Concerts, acrobats, cycling paths, children's theatre....cafe
(2) Amstelpark is ideal for kids as it has a maze, pony rides and a miniature train.

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MUSEUMS

(1) Verzetsmuseum, Museum of the Resistance.
plantage Kerklaan 61, tram 6,9,14,20, Open Tues-frid 10-5 Sat & Sun 1-5. Closed mondays and Sat/Sun mornings. Here you can see spy gadgets, a secret door,....

(2) Tropenmuseum, Tropical Museum.
Linnaeeustraat 2, tram 9,10,14, Mone-Frid 10-5 Sat& Sun 12-5. Closed sat/sun mornings)
This is the place to view an Indonesian village and much more fro m the former Dutch empire.

(3)Museum Fodor, Keizersgrachts 609,, daily 11-5, has modern art of the sort you might find in the Tate.

(4)Museum van Loon, Keizergracht 672 Open only on Mondays! 10-5. If you want to see a canal side house, this is the place.

(5)NINT Technology Museum,
Tolstraat 129, Mon-Frid 10-5 Sat &Sun 12-5,
Lots of hands on buttons and levers and games. Kids should enjoy it.

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MARKETS

Albert Cuypmarkt, (tram 4,15,24,25, Mon-Frid)
Dappermakt (tram3,6,10,14 Mon-Sat) are recommended for second hand clothes. But there are lots of other wonderful markets.
Plus Waterlooplein (see above)

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CAFES

De Ijsbreker, Weesperzijde 23, has modern music and a riverside setting.

Nol, Westerstraat 109, has gangsters and sing-songs and kitsch.

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FOOD

Well, I like Indonesian food. Coriander, ginger, lemon grass, peanut sauce......
Kantjil & De Tijger, Spuistraat 291, (tel 020 620 0994) has top class Indonesian food (Dutch style) and good service. Tastes better than in Indonesia! And the staff look so beautiful.

For cheap food, try The Pancake Bakery, Prinsengracht 191 (Westerkerk), where you can eat typical Dutch fare.

More expensive Dutch food can be had at Die Port van Cleve, Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal 178 (Dam).

Best to book. No tips required in Holland (it's included in the price).
The Dutch eat early!

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ANNE FRANK

Anne Frank Huis. prinsengracht 263. Sept-May Mon-Sat 9-5 Sun 10-5. June-Aug Mon-Sat 9-7 Sun 10-7. Check for changes.

104,000 Dutch Jews were exterminated during the Nazi occupation.
Hollandse Schowburg, an old and grand theatre, was the assembly point for the 70,000 of Amsterdam's Jews who were sent off to concentration camps.

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WEATHER

The wettest months are March and October.

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HOTELS

Het Canal House
Keizergracht 148, 1015 CX. Tel 6225182. Tastefully decorated canal house. Moderate price, not cheap.

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CANALS

Amsterdam is made up of 90 islands separated by canals.
52 dead bodies are pulled out of the canal each year.

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NEWS

The media has reported a series of apparently random violent attacks. Many large companies, such as Kwik Fit and Gentronics, have closed down in certain Amsterdam districts, because they think they are too dangerous. Gentronics left BIJLMER neighbourhood after five of its employers were robbed. Former Amsterdam police chief Jelle Kuiper was reported as saying, "Violence used to be confined to certain places... many civilians still feel unsafe, probably because violence is more widespread and violent acts are not only performed by outcasts...."

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DRUGS

Estimated number of Hard Drug users in Holland :
1977 5,000
1982 15,000
1993 21,000-25,000

Cannabis is not legal in Holland. It is criminal to import, export, sell, produce or process any kind of drug. But you will not be arrested for taking cannabis in one of the 'cannabis' coffee shops. No more than 5 grams can be sold to anyone in one day.

In Amsterdam, about 30% of drug users who use needles are HIV positive (1990 figures).

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CRIME

Estimated % of the population who are victims of crime in one year (International Crime Victims Survey 1995)
Austria 18% Belgium 19%
Scotland 25% France 25%
USA 24%
Netherlands 31%

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THE DUTCH BUREAU OF TOURISM states:

"Avoid the following streets after dark, the alleyways of NIEUWENDDIJK - A MUGGER'S DELIGHT, AND PRETTY FOUL; the southern end of ZEEDIJK and the streets off are sleazy and riddled with miserable looking junkies; DAMRAK - "the worst, tackiest, neon-infested tourist excess in the country."

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PROSTITUTION

http://groups.msn.com/werkgroepMorkhoven/scotlandyard.msnw

In November, 2000, the award winning GUARDIAN journalist NICK DAVIES wrote :

AMSTERDAM PROSTITUTION

"Bristol detectives...found an informant....whom we will call Terry...

"He had come across some paedophiles the detectives were investigating - in Amsterdam, where he said they had become involved with a group of exiled British child abusers...

"One of the boys had simply been shot in the head...

"Another, he believed, had been thrown into one of the canals.

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For the record, I have nothing against Amsterdam (lovely city), or Amsterdam nightlife, or .... but, wouldn't Amsterdam be a lot more attractive if its unique selling point was cycling rather than prostitution?

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ISLAMIC IMMIGRATION

source: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2099-1488514,00.html

In Amsterdam, immigrants outnumber the native Dutch among under-20-year-olds. They will soon be an absolute majority.

Some immigrants came from former Dutch colonies. The two largest groups, however, Turkish and Moroccan, had no historic links with the Netherlands.

Last month a young Dutch Moroccan was killed. A driver had run him over, reversing into him after he had stolen her bag.

Among the people who have to live with bodyguards are Ahmed Aboutaleb, a Dutch Moroccan on the Amsterdam council, Cohen the mayor of Amsterdam, and Verdonk, the immigration minister.

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