Amsterdam hidden beauty: Heritage Days
Because the Open Monumentendag event is coming soon, 13 and 14 September 2014, I was feeling nostalgic and browsed through my pictures from a similar event — the Heritage Days. Last year, on a very windy day when I could barely keep my camera straight to take a decent picture, I went to see what the first edition of the Amsterdam Heritage Days had to offer.
In 2013 the Heritage Days celebrated 400 years of the city’s history and their promise was to reveal some of the secrets behind the permanent change to the city’s architecture and lifestyle. Focusing on the birth and growth of the Amsterdam canals, this first edition gave access to 15 historic buildings, including monuments, institutions and private homes. I especially wanted to see some of them, because I’m fascinated by the beautiful old canal houses, and always wondered what they look like on the inside.
Unfortunately, because of the cold weather, I couldn’t stand in the long queues for too long, so in the end I visited only a few of them: West Indische Huis on Heremarkt (the former headquarters of the Dutch West India Company, where the construction of a fort on the island of Manhattan was planned, laying the foundations for New York), Doopsgezinde Singelkerk (a Mennonite hidden church on Singel which looks like a normal house from outside), Grachtenhuis De Solemne (one of the houses built by architect Vingboons in 1665) and De Bazel (Amsterdam City Archives, am imposing, beautiful building).
One thing that surprised me was that, even though the event was publicized on the tourist websites, it was not very well organised for tourists outside the Netherlands. None of the buildings I visited were very English friendly and I had to practice the little Dutch that I know at the “improvised” Dutch tour; an English guided tour that a nice guy tried to offer at West Indische Huis. There were mainly Dutch people in the group, so the speech inevitably turned to Dutch. Nonetheless, aside from the fact that I couldn’t understand some jokes, the language added more charm to the visits, and it was a great experience that I was very happy to repeat on the next Open Monuments Days and probably will do it again this year.
Some photos taken at the first 3 monuments mentioned above (De Bazel will get a separate article):