Amsterdam- Twin City of Jakarta

Amsterdam’s golden years were from 1500 to 1600, when the Dutch flourished as a trade nation. You can still see and feel the signs of that era: the small shops, the handicrafts and the city’s maritime heritage. At times it feels like sailors from that period rambling through the city have been replaced by today’s tourists looking for a great night out.

The old historical city centre has been my unfailing source of inspiration, spurring me on in life and in my work. Then there are the old industrial areas, like the former NDSM wharf on the north side and the Van Gendthallen, or Hallen van Stork (a former railway plant) on the east side. Falling into disuse, they started acting like a sort of “free haven”, attracting all sorts of creative and cultural initiatives. Amid all the changes, this combination of old and “ever-renewing new” has made Amsterdam a wonderful place to live in.

With about 20 percent of the Netherlands lying below sea level, the Dutch became very practical in shaping the land. From water management to infrastructure and city planning, everything is organised down to the minutest details. This mentality, combined with a no-nonsense approach, resulted in some notable achievements in the field of design and architecture. With established architects like Rem Koolhaas and the MVRDV collective shaping upcoming cities around the globe, this creative element that lives on in Dutch culture remains a profound influence on art and architecture today.

BREEZAND

21 May 2013 --- BREEZAND - Joost Pennings removes Tuesday the less beautiful tulips from his field with 'success flowers': the Vincent van Gogh. 
The patented and exclusive dark crispa color appears to be a huge hit at the visitors to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.
The Van Gogh tulip is for sale at the museum as a bulb. J. S. Pennings-De Bilt from Breezand in the Northern part of the Netherlands is the only breeder in the Netherlands with breeding right of the Van Gogh tulip.
To ensure the quality, the poor tulips are all selected out. The tulip bulbs are harvested in the summer.
Foto: VidiPhoto dpa - NETHERLANDS OUT --- Image by © Vidiphoto/dpa/Corbis

Amsterdam’s streets are a unique feature of the city that I also love deeply. In fact, they are my muses I look to when I’m lost. Although extreme subcultures in themselves might be interesting, I get greater inspiration from multicultural expression or even more so, the clash of cultures. The streets are the only places where cultures collide. And Amsterdam is extremely good at this collision; you’ll get the good, the bad and, for sure, the ugly. Between Leidsestraat and Raadhuisstraat, there is an area known as De 9 Straatjes (T he 9 Streets), named after the nine side streets connecting the main canals. Together, they constitute a charming neighbourhood full of unique shops, with a great atmosphere and an eclectic mix of people.

Food-wise, there is a popular saying that the Dutch are as bland as bland can be. Fortunately, due to close ties in the past with Asian cultures, in particular, there is a large choice of foreign cuisine available. The Surinam cuisine from the West Indies is absolutely mouth-watering. But I still do enjoy Dutch food, like our simple hearty fare of meat and potatoes. Moeders restaurant is packed with kitsch in the best possible way. Then there’ s Haesje Claes, which is housed in six connected historical buildings and will take your gastronomic senses back in time. The menu features exclusively old-fashioned Dutch food – pea soup, fish stew, chicken livers, and more.

Growing up, it was a combination of places, mentality and people that kept my heart here. Amsterdam is like a gateway to the world, historically a gateway for trade, with its port and lines to the Far East. In the 60’s, it became a more spiritual gateway to the world; it was the starting point for the hippie trail – the Silk Rout e revisited! In shaping my artistic thought process, Amsterdam taught me that there is more than the world inside the borders of your own place or culture and that you always have to do your best to look beyond those borders.

by Bram Belloni 

This article first appeared on Asian Geographic Passport No. 31 Issue 2/2014

 
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