Amsterdam, Netherlands
52° 20' N 4° 54' E
Mar 18, 2002 21:01
Distance 34km

Text written in: English

Amsterdam City Centre

It was shortly after 0900hrs before we went down to breakfast.  We were in no particular rush today and just planned to wonder around the city centre area.  During breakfast we could see a lot of police officers hanging around outside the hotel.  Some sort of protest march passed the hotel and then the police dispersed.  Never did find out what it was all about as I was too involved in eating breakfast.

Once we were all kitted out in warm clothes we headed out into the city centre. We started round the corner at St Nicolaaskerk, the city's main Roman Catholic church, built in 1887 after restrictions were lifted on Catholic worship.  We then walked down the Oudezijds Voorburgwal canel until we arrived at the Oude Kerk, the oldest surviving building in Amsterdam.

"Archaeologists think that the 'Amstelledammers, founded their first church at the turn of the 13th and 14th century. As site they chose a "terp" (artifcial mound) which served as a cemetery on the east bank of the Amstel. The church was built in the form of a basilica. "

The original church was built around 1306 but was replaced by a far more grand structure in 1340.  This became a great medieval church (RC) at the heart of the religious and secular community.  It exhibited some of the failings of the Temple in Jerusalem, which were 'put right'  during the reformation.  However iconoclasm ripped the heart out of the building.

"Before 'the Alteration' as this reformation is called, the 'Oude Kerk' literally was used as a 'living room' of the city. In the same way as now tramps seek shelter in the Central Station, beggars and wanderers slept in the church and pedlars displayed their goods in the building. To the followers of Calvin this of course was unacceptable...The 'Oude Kerk' suffered from the iconoclastic fury in 1566 which left a trail of destruction throughout the Netherlands. The church was violently looted and the images were destroyed. The victory of the Calvinists in 1578 made this violation complete."

I have grown used to the plain nature of the 'reformed' medieval churches, which were saved from total destruction.  Glasgow Cathedral & The High Kirk of St Giles (Edinburgh) are the best preserved in Scotland.  The chapel of Aberdeen University (King's College) also has a rood screen which survived the reformation.  Dunblane Cathedral has been rebuilt.  Only Pluscarden Abbey holds to the Catholic faith, but being rebuilt is largely as plain as any of its Protestant contemporaries.  This should not be seen as a complaint as Pluscarden has a special place in my life.  Sadly I have not made the effort to spend meaningful time at Pluscarden for many years.

We did not actually enter the Oude Kerk.  I do not enter churches which charge an admission fee.  Remember how Jesus dealt with the money changers in the Temple.  Perhaps I am just too Scottish.  Anyway we moved onto Dam Square at the true heart of the city.  This was originally a dam which was built across the Amstel River.  Today we walked around it, viewing the Royal Palace (from the outside) and the National Monument.  The children were starting to look a little cold by this point so we got on a passing tram and headed for the Heineken Experience at Stadhouderskade.  When we arrived we discovered that it was closed (Monday) which was a bit of a blow.  However across the road was a children's playpark which boosted the morale of Erin.

We headed further afield to the Tram Museum only to find that it too was closed.  At least we had our three day pass to get out and about and see the city!  Seriously it was time to head back to the centre and visit the hotel pool.  This was where we spent the middle of the afternoon.

In the early evening we walked to the Eetcafé De Staalmeesters, Kloveniersburgwal 127.  This is across a canal from the Balmoral Restaurant.  I read in one report De Staalmeesters described as a:

"Small eetcafé of the ‘chandeliers and candles’ type in a ‘unusually quiet part’ of the centre of Amsterdam. It’s also a popular dining place for the theatre crowd as staff take performance times into account. ‘Slightly cramped’, but the ‘chef beams at you from his little kitchen’ and the food is as it should be in ‘one of the better eetcafés.’"

I agree that space is at a premium in this place, however it is the most authentic Dutch restaurant we have ever eaten in.  It has that small scale European café feel about the place.  We were dining early but the restaurant did fill up quickly.  Erin watched all the food being carried from the tiny kitchen next to where we were sitting and drew pictures with her notepad and crayons.  Both food and service were of a high standard.  I really wish we had come here last night as well.  The ambiance/atmosphere was just right.  I must remember the address for future reference. 


Photos / videos of "Amsterdam City Centre":

Ruth & Erin Burnett at the junction of Kloveniersburgwal Canal and Binnen Amstel, Amsterdam.