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At Home in Amsterdam-West


This is where I live: the Bilderdijkkade in Amsterdam, seen from the south. A 'kade' is a quay, and the first element, 'Bilderdijk', is the name of an almost forgotten Dutch poet (1756-1831). It used to be a busy street, but because a supermarket has closed its entrance, this has changed, and now it is very quiet. My home is to the right. In the background, you can see a bridge, which separates the southern part of this canal from the northern half.
This is the northern part, seen here from the air. Most houses are rather old and are rented by middle class families, but in the center is a modern complex with luxurious apartments. One of them was reportedly bought by the American singer Madonna, although she doesn't live there; I believe I have seen her once, but no one in the neighborhood is really sure about our famous neighbor.
The southern part of the canal again, now seen from the north. This is not one of the 'classic' canals for which Amsterdam is famous; those are in the center. The Bilderdijkkade used to be a stream in the wet peat area west of the medieval city. Gradually, this area was developed, and the streams became decent, straight canals. There's hardly any traffic on this canal. The boats you see are either for fun or serve as houses.
The neighborhood is neither very expensive nor very poor. If there is something special about it, it is the ethnic mix. All kinds of nations live here together, none of them being really dominant. This is one of the four pubs in my street. It serves Amstel Beer, which is made in Amsterdam, and is considered to be the common man's beer. Heineken, which is made by the same brewery, used to be for the rich. This brand is now in an acute crisis of identity, trying to be hip, which it simply isn't.
Along the canal is a gym; I often see the owner, a kind man born in the Far East, arriving on his big mountain bike. Once I decided to visit the gym, together with my friend Marco. We went to the dressing room, prepared ourselves for some exercise, and saw a man running on some sort of walking machine. The idea that one is paying to walk struck us as very strange, and we decided to dress again. So much for our career as sport men.
This is the rear entrance of the supermarket. It used to be the main entrance, but now it is only used by the personnel. The building is called Assumptio, which reminds one of its past: it was build as a bakery by a Catholic cooperation. ("Assumptio" is Latin and refers to the ascension to Heaven of the Virgin Mary, who, as mother of God, is believed to have gone to Heaven without waiting for the Last Judgment.)
Cycling in Amsterdam. Photo Jona Lendering. When the entrance of the supermarket was still open, there was not sufficient room for all bicycles, but now, I can nearly always place my bike right in front of the door. It's the one to the left. The yellow bike is the property of one of the visitors of the gym; the pink one of the girl next door. It was painted and decorated for the Dutch equivalent of the MTV-show "Pimp My Ride", but part of the decoration of this bike is now gone.
The Cooperation "Assumptio" still exists. There are three hundred share holders who own a part of my block. There are many small apartments in these houses, occupied by either students or immigrants. I rented one of these apartments as a student, fourteen years ago, and never saw a reason to leave this neighborhood. This is another café, aiming at the upper segment of the market. It serves Grolsch Beer.
Opposite the canal used to be a yard where all kinds of products were stored and the garbage collectors stored their machines. The carriage house of the streetcars, built in 1900, is a monument. This area, now used as a parking lot, will be redeveloped. I proposed to build a ziggurat of ninety meters high, but for one reason or another, this brilliant plan was not accepted, in spite of the fact that the design could be copied from the Etemenanki in ancient Babylon, so it would be cheap.
The Council of the Old West Municipal District has decided to transform the former yard and the carriage house to an entertainment center. Not everybody is happy with this, because there will also be a new, large parking, which will be build underground, partly under the canal. The person who wrote this sign, is one of the opponents of the redevelopment of the yard. Like all buildings in Amsterdam, the new structure will be build on piles, to found it on a more solid soil than the peat that is at the surface. Ramming piles is terribly noisy, and I am not very happy with it. If the entertainment center is successful, my rent will be higher too. I haven't found any advantage yet. On the other hand: blessed is the neighborhood that has no greater political problems than the development of a yard.
This is the next street, the Bilderdijkstraat, called after the same forgotten poet. The elm trees are the other political issue in the Old West Municipal District. This street desperately needs bike-ways, but that means that the trees will have to disappear. Not everyone is very happy with it, and cutting the trees was an issue during the last municipal elections.

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© Jona Lendering for
Livius.Org, 2006
Revision: 8 May 2006
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