Amsterdam can be a very easy city to navigate. Its neighborhoods are named for the cardinal directions - Noord, sud, oost and west. Since I was staying in the Oost neighborhood, I decided to spend my first day in Amsterdam waking around that part of the city.
|both photos via www.oncampus.global|
My base of operations was The Social Hub. The Hub is more than a hotel. It serves also as student housing, an event space, and co-working/conference center. This produces a very young and relaxed vibe. My room, a single, was small, but the lobby was huge. There, I found a wonderful cafe which offered excellent coffee and and pastries for breakfast, and sandwiches and snacks throughout the day. There were booths and tables that were filled with students doing class work, studying together, or just hanging out. There was also an on-site laundry (free) and a restaurant. The staff was wonderful, helpful, and one of the happiest hotel hotel staffs I have ever seen.
I started my exploration walking through Oosterpark, which, when built in the early 2000’s, was the first large park laid out by the city of Amsterdam. Oosterpark was built on land that had been a large cemetery, and now is beautiful place to spend an afternoon, with tree-lined paths and a lake at its center.
In the southeast corner of the park is the Dutch National Slavery Monument. Dedicated in 2002 by Queen Beatrix, this statue by Erwin de Vries, is a remembrance of the role played by Dutch imperialism in the history of slavery in the Americas.
As I walked along the southern side of the lake, I came to the fascinating stainless steel statue. It is a memorial to the Tachtigers, a group of writers and and artists in Amsterdam, who, during the 1880’s, were inspired by the impressionist movement, to rebel against the tight control by those who championed “traditional” work. They wanted a freer visual and written style. The memorial is in Oosterpark because this movement was centered around the nearby house owned by artist Willem Witsen (1860-1923).
The northeast corner of the park is home to the Tropenmuseum. Founded in 1864 in the city of Haarlem as the Colonial Museum, it was the repository and display of materials stolen from the colonies of the Netherlands. The museum moved to its current home in 1926, and served as the main ethnographic museum in The Netherlands. Starting in the 1960’s , the focus of the Tropenmuseum began to change, looking more at social issues. Today it is one of the most progressive national museums I have ever seen. When I visited, there were temporary exhibits on the use and effects of plastics in our world, and an exploration of history of music and movies in 20th century Egypt.
I was most impressed by the permanent collection regarding the history and ongoing ramifications of Dutch colonialism. It includes a display of images used to identify the different ethnicities present in the Dutch colonies. It explores the issue of race and racism that still exist in the The Netherlands and its former holdings of Surinam and Indonesia. It is the most thoughtful exploration of colonial history that I have seen that was put together by a former colonizer.
|Territory Dress by Susan Stockwell|
One thing that I loved about staying at the Social Hub, is that is in a neighborhood that of “real” Amsterdammers. A five minute walk from the Tropenmuseum is the Dappermarkt, a street market that serves the community with low cost clothes, household goods and food. The Dappermarkt is open Monday-Saturday from 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM.
For dinner, I headed to the New Draver, which was just around the corner from my hotel. This restaurant serve tradition Surinamese food, which is familiar to anyone who knows the cuisine of the Caribbean. Family run, make sure that you have brushed up on your Dutch, because no-one here speaks English.