Sunday 12 June 2016

Amsterdam - the University area

Our short stay in Amsterdam began with an evening walk around the University district which is where our hotel is located.  The bright lights in the corner in this photographs is Staalmeesters, where we always have our evening meal on our first night. Weather permitting, we like to sit outside

facing Café De Doelen.

Following our meal we walked around the area, enjoying the reflections of the lights on the canals

as the city winds down, the lights come on and people walk or ride their bikes at a more leisurely pace.

Hardly any cars around, a real plus

This is one of my favourite canals - the reflections are always wonderful and there is something magical about it, maybe because we have never seen any boats on this stretch

each crossing of a bridge affords great views along the canal and we always stop to have a look

and it's always rewarding.

Here's another bridge

and the views from it.

This is Nes, where our hotel is. One side of the street is a huge building site at the moment and it's all covered up with netting, so these lights have been added to detract from the ugliness - it's a great improvement

Some of the boats have been imaginatively done up - note the settee that's on top. On the left is a pissoir, and then the Grand Hotel.

This bridge is featured in one of Van Gogh's paintings.

In this passage, which is part of the University, books and prints are being sold.

It leads to this courtyard

and to this area which is in fact a pedestrianised street, Vendelstraat. We had never been here before, so we started to explore

On the side of one of the buildings is Located Text, Amsterdam, by Joseph Kosuth, 1998, and two pieces of Banksy-like street art.

On the wall of another house someone has painted a reproduction of Matisse's Dancers.

More street art

and some more here.

On the right of this bridge, which is where Staalmeesters is, there is another large bridge where you  cross the Amstel

and which leads to Rembrandtsplein

which is dominated by a statue of the artist and in front of it a sculptural representation of The Nightwatch, Holland's most iconic painting, symbolic of its people.

It's a painting that depicts democracy, a painting of a group of burghers, rather than royalty or religious figures. The burghers stand together, as a community, acknowledging one another's individuality and difference. It's an icon of tolerance, diversity and what makes a society work and in this it epitomises Dutch national pride.

As we sat on a bench looking at the sculptures, it hit me again, as it does every time we visit Amsterdam, that it's that tolerance, that diversity that draws me back to the city. There is such a rich variety of people, all peacefully co-existing, like in no other city I have visited before: businesspeople, bikers, people living alternative lifestyles, young and old, rich and poor, all getting on with their lives in a spirit of tolerance and acceptance. (I have to add here, that the rowdy British rugby fans got a bit too much this time, but the spirit of tolerance persisted). Even the means of moving around the city is non-hierarchical. There is none of the dominance of the car as in other cities: pedestrians, push bikes, trams and cars all make space for one another and peacefully co-exist - it's so refreshing, so liberating, so just right!

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