17 June 2012
Bridges and buildings in Zeeburg, Amsterdam
The limited research that I did beforehand suggested that the Python Bridge was worth seeing so a plan was formed to explore the Zeeburg area just to the east of the old heart of Amsterdam.
As with a lot of the Netherlands, this is reclaimed land. In this case it was dragged from the sea to provide more housing for the expanding Amsterdam.
Getting there was easy. A short walk towards the new opera house and then a choice of trams east. The No 9 came first.
I bought a daily travel card from the hotel which, for 7.5 euros let me travel anywhere for 24 hours. It works similarly to the Oyster card in London except that you have to swipe the badge when leaving the tram as well as when getting on. There is a conductor on board checking that you do this and who also sells tickets to those that need them.
Getting off the tram one of the first unusual buildings that you encounter is this large angular block.
It is set in a large square that cuts diagonally across the northern of the two artificial spurs built in to water.
Further down there is another diagonal cut, this time it is a wide open space. You start to get a clue for what Town Planning (long abandoned in the UK) can achieve.
The positive impact of good town planning is a subject that we will return to in other posts when I talk about some of the museums.
There are two similar bridges between the two spurs, similar in that they are both constructed of red metal with an open mesh style that offers you good views of the water. The first is a single low span with a smooth path that allows bikes to cross too.
Taking the bridge to the southern spur brings you to a heavily residential area, and one designed to be varied and interesting, as this collection of waterfront houses shows.
There are large blocks of flats too and while these appear to be designed as (relatively) cheap housing there is the same care and attention to detail with, for example, coloured bricks, interesting windows and rooftop spaces.
The area is well maintained and looked after. There is no litter and no graffiti and, instead, there are flowers and private benches that reinforce the friendly and lived in atmosphere. Again this is so missing from many English developments.
The Python Bridge gets its name, and fame, from its double curve that creates a high channel for boats to pass through. The wooden path follows its own route and weaves a little less that the metal supports do.
This is stepped path with gaps between each step, and that means that you can see the water below as you climb up.
At this point the primitive back brain argues that if you can see the water then you can fall in to it whereas the newer front brain points out that the gap is only 10 centimetres and you are considerably wider than that.
The reward for crossing (apart from getting to the other side) is the view from the middle. Looking west back towards the centre where the block we saw at the start of the walk makes a distinctive mark on the skyline.
It is good to see all the boats too. Amsterdam has never forgotten that it lives on the water in the way that London has.
I could have picked any one of a number of examples and this one got chosen because it is so not England.
We still build twee houses that are a pastiche and a mockery of vernacular styles like Tudor and Georgian.
Amsterdam is bolder and is delighted to build new houses that look new.
Every step back toward the station is a reminder of what Amsterdam does well and England does not.
From the station two trams take me back in to the centre of Amsterdam along a different route and to a different quarter. There one story ends and another one starts. And I'll come to that one soon.