In late August we packed our bags and headed off to Amsterdam for a city break. None of us had been before and were very much looking forward to it. “I know why that is,” sniggered various people, “It’s because you want to sample the wares of the Red Light District and smoke a lot of funny stuff”. This was generally said with much conspiratorial winking and schoolboy enthusiasm which was not particularly infectious, especially after the first ten times of hearing it. “You haven’t done Amsterdam if you haven’t done the Red Light District!” we were told time and time again. Well, if that is correct then we haven’t done Amsterdam yet (and nor have our 10-year old twins, who between them formed two of the main reasons we did not venture into the Red Light District on this visit).
Actually, I have no problem with not having “done” Amsterdam, for it gives us all the more reason to return. Of all the city breaks we have done (and I readily accept there haven’t been that many), Amsterdam ranks top so far. Why? For me it boils down to one all-encompassing reason. The people have a very relaxed, very friendly and very healthy attitude to life.
On arrival we booked in at our hotel, the Owl Hotel, and then went straight out to the nearby Vondelpark, an enormous area of green space to the southwest of the city centre.
The Vondelpark started life in 1865 when a group of prominent Amsterdammers got together and raised enough money to acquire and open a 20-acre public park. This was originally called the Nieuwe Park, but two years later a statue of Dutch poet Joost van den Vondel (1586-1679) was erected. The Nieuwe Park became the Vondelpark. Here he is, presiding over the sunbathers, looking resplendent in his fine robes and his equally fine covering of pigeon poo that is the mark of all fine statues the world over.
Within another ten years, more money was raised and the park was enlarged to its current size of 100 acres. Ponds sweep and swirl around the park as bikes and rollerbladers sweep and swirl around the tarmac cycle routes – bikes have right of way wherever you go, and as first-time tourists we learnt very quickly to stay off the cycle routes.
The Vondelpark really is a place of peace and beauty in an otherwise bustling city.
As well as boasting a huge variety of plants and trees, the Vondelpark is noteworthy for its birdlife. As we wandered along green parakeets darted from one high treetop to another, whilst down below herons lived harmoniously with humans and dogs…
There were quite a few sculptures dotted around the Vondelpark. Various signs pointed to a sculpture trail running through it. Most of the sculptures were modern and, with the short time I had to study them, mostly indecipherable, at least to me. They were glazed in bright colours and adopted strange shapes at strange angles, requiring the observer to walk around them in order to try to understand them properly. This one, by comparison, was more two dimensional and grey. Perhaps that is why it looked so unhappy? I felt quite sorry for it…
The kids may not look entirely enthralled to be on this bridge, but don’t worry – there were plenty of tree climbing opportunities too.
Points on this part of the walk (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth):
- Gates to the Vondelpark: N 52° 21.700 E 004° 52.905
- Statue of Joost van den Vondel: N 52° 21.603 E 004° 52.440
- Waterfall and some of the Herons: N 52° 21.603 E 004° 52.500
- Leafy Bridge: N 52° 21.412 E 004° 51.774
- Date of Walk: 28 August 2013
- Walk distance covered: 3.61 miles
- CLICK HERE FOR LINK TO INTERACTIVE MAP!!!