Sunday, 11 May 2014

Amsterdam: East to West

Thoas Swallowtail

After an extremely wet morning, we made our way to the zoo (Artis - Natura Artis Magistra, in full) to enjoy the butterfly pavilion in the dry - I was thrilled to get a reasonable picture of a Thoas Swallowtail. This post describes the walk back when mercifully the rain had finally stopped.

Just along Henri Polklaan street from the zoo is de Burcht (1899), once the headquarters of the General Dutch Diamond Workers Union.

It was designed by H P Berlage and part of his brief was to create a defensible building that could be used as a refuge during a strike. The building's real glory is its interior, but unfortunately this was not one of its open days.

After going through the Wertheim Park we passed the massive Portugese Synogogue, inaugurated in 1675. It apparently inspired the Bevis Marks synagogue in London which I saw on a walk around the City East earlier this year.

 Jodenbreestraat brought us to Rembrant's House, now of course a museum. The artist lived and worked here from 1639 to 1656.

Then, to the left there was an excellent view of the tower of the Zuiderkerk, dating from 1612. 

We now turned left down Kloveniersburgwal and crossed the Amstel to see the Munttoren. The base of the tower formed part of a gate in the city walks and survived a fire in 1618. The clock tower was added later in the century. It gets its name from the Mint being temporarily housed there during the French occupation in 1673.

We headed up the pedestrianised Kalverstraat, the only cycle-free street we have yet seen, and turned left into Spui to find the Begijnhof. This was originally founded in 1346 as a sanctuary for the Begijntes, a lay Catholic sisterhood.

There are only two entrances, one of which is the small door in the building to the left.

You go through a tiled arched passageway.

Inside it is like a village green surrounded on all sides by terraced houses. One of these is the oldest surviving house in the city.

And there is a church at one end of the green: the 15th century English Church.

We finished this walk behind Dam Square where there is the enormous and imposing former Post Office building, now a shopping mall.

Conditions: dull at first, becoming  brighter.

Distance: about 2 miles.

Rating: four stars.

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