A metro line that’s eight years overdue and counting, ugly late twentieth century buildings already being demolished and questionable clothing brands: downtown Amsterdam is too crowded with tourists and the prices are going up, pushing the locals out.
Urban and architectural geographer Mark Minkjan compares Haussmann’s clean up of Paris’ in the nineteenth to what is happening in Amsterdam today:
The city wants to get rid of its famous Red Light District, which lies just a few metres behind the Red Carpet [Damrak, as you step out of Central Station]; the number of coffee and tourist shops is being confined. In virtually all urban situations, temporary creative projects are parachuted-in to imperfect places to attract new audiences and new investments. It signifies the direction in which Amsterdam is going: it’s on its way to becoming an incredibly liveable, comfortable, clean and pretty city; but of course, the cost is its soul.
The Amsterdam chapter of the Awesome Foundation that awards people money every month to realize ‘awesome initiatives that solve problems or bring joy to the world’ has given art collective Indebt Studios 1000 euro to plant marijuana seeds around town.
The group bought some 40 kilos of cannabis seeds and planted them in all kinds of green spaces in Amsterdam, from flower pots to community gardens, including the ones at the Rijksmuseum.
Why plant 40 kilos of weed? It’s an artistic statement against the increased stamping up of Amsterdam’s wild side, like trying to shut down prostitutes, coffee shops and all the things that make Amsterdam what it is in the first place. “Yoghurt bars are not going to make up for the loss, and that’s sad,” one of the guys said. Big cities like New York and London are losing or have lost their edge, and yes it would be sad if Amsterdam lost its grit, too.
On 10 July the Dutch Vegetarians’ Union will attempt a world record: getting 1900 people to eat together at a very long table and score the longest vegetarian dinner table record. Last year the world record was set at 1750, and the year before that Mechelen, Belgium had the honours with 1000 participants.
The big banquet will be held at the Museumplein in Amsterdam, a big park surrounded by the Rijksmuseum, Stedelijk Museum and the Van Gogh Museum where large events often take place. Some 20,000 volunteers will be dishing out kilos and kilos of vegetables and tortilla wraps for the dinner party and everybody who wants to eat is invited. The union wants to point out that ‘meat production is the second major polluter of the environment after heavy industry’ and that ‘food can taste great without meat’.
Startup company MX3D that does 3D printing of metals and resin in mid-air has plans to print a steel bridge in Amsterdam without any additional support structures. Using ‘multi-axis’ industrial robots and an advanced welding machine, MX3D can print with steel, stainless steel, aluminium, bronze and copper in mid-air. In September the city of Amsterdam will announce where the bridge will be built.
“The robots will begin printing the bridge on one side of the canal and will create rail supports as they go. They will be able to gradually slide forward on supports, literally creating the bridge upon which they are crossing the canal.” MX3D’s bridge will be made of a new steel composite designed by the University of Delft.
On of my first visits to Amsterdam as a child we went to Waterloo Square, and what an impression it left on me.
You could buy everything at the daily flea market. Pins and suits and sabres and boat lamps, it was like walking around in a Tintin story. It was bigger then, before the city of Amsterdam decided to ban the market in 1977 for 11 years so that it could build its monstrously ugly city hall there.
Waterloo Square (Dutch: Waterlooplein) was where the merchants from the nearby Jewish quarter were told to ply their trade from 1885 onwards. Last Saturday I visited the festivities surrounding the 130th anniversary. A lot of the stalls these days offer the same knickknacks you can get from every generic tourist shop in Amsterdam, from wooden tulips to gable shaped fridge magnets, from T-shirts with marijuana leaf print to colourful chullos. You can still find something special there if you know where to look, but politics and the likes of Lonely Planet seem to have done a number on the flea market I remember.
The disturbingly casual Dutch terms ‘black schools’ and ‘white schools’ in the Netherlands, particularly in Amsterdam refer to schools with ‘kids that don’t look Dutch’ and ‘kids that look Dutch’ because Dutch is code for Caucasian and everything else gets lumped into ‘black’.
Unfortunately but not surprisingly, ‘black schools’ don’t do as well as ‘white schools’, and smart parents of both groups try to get their kids into ‘white schools’. Many parents will claim to want their kids to go to a ‘mixed school’, but they are only considered good schools when there’s more ‘white’ kids than ‘black’ kids.
Two schools in one neighbourhood decided to challenge this segregation by getting the ‘kids that don’t look Dutch’ to wear T-shirts that say ‘Is this white enough for you?’, so that two ‘mixed schools’ don’t close because more parents are sending their kids to ‘white schools’ in other neighbourhoods. It’s sad that small children are being taught that their skin colour is putting people off, to put it mildly.
Amsterdam is a city that proudly keeps counting how many different nationalities live together in harmony, but when it comes to schools, segregation is commonplace.
The local Anti-Facist League is demanding the book be confiscated and that the gallery be closed down, but the police told them they cannot legally do either of those things. ‘Mein Kampf’ (‘My Struggle’) can easily be found on the Internet since about 1998, but the book version is still banned. As well, the copyright on the book will run out in 2016, making it even more difficult to control any distribution of the work.
Gallery owner Michiel van Eyck is currently displaying the book in his shop, not selling it, and there’s nothing illegal about that. There’s an appeal currently ongoing on the original verdict against Van Eyck. However, banning a physical book that can be found easily and for free is ‘mopping the floor with the faucet running’, as the Dutch would say.
Using a modified cargo bike named the Poopymobile, inspired by the Popemobile, pet shop entrepreneur Thomas Vles cycled to London with his two cats Mushi and Cheesy last month. Owner of pet design company Poopy Cat in Amsterdam, he knows that cats hate to be locked up in small cages or fly and decided to cycle with a typical Dutch ‘bakfiets’. Mushi and Cheesy are apparently used to going everywhere by bike since they were kittens.
On YouTube Vles said that, “the cats were priority number one during the trip. Should we even remotely think that they were not comfortable, we would stop. There was driving an accompanying car with in which they could always go. Our trip was supported by two veterinarians and we kept an eye on everything 24/7. We have noticed that Mushi and Cheesy were really enjoying their time in the ‘kitty mobile’ – they wanted to stay in there even when we had to get out to sleep!”
Everybody was worried it would rain, but it was sunny and dry all day on the second edition of King’s Day, replacing the previous tradition of Queen’s Day. The person who left their rubber boots for the rubbish heap at the end of the day was indeed ready for rain and King’s Day.
At 24oranges we’ve always been into the rummage sale side of things and very much enjoy picking up a lot of stuff people leave behind at the end of the day, which never fails. Why buy Trivial Pursuit when you can just pick up a free game at the end of the day from someone who can’t be bothered bringing it back home? Exactly.
I talked to a Frenchman selling stuff and he had just heard of King’s Day a few days ago, and wondered why he hadn’t heard of it before. I answered that not all countries celebrate their national holidays in July.
Amsterdam has also reached a tipping point as well: the amount of British people who come just for our national holiday sounds like it has increased. Even rubbish bags featuring weird Dutch-style passive-aggressive messages aimed at Brits could be found around town. The other thing with foreigners celebrating King’s Day is that it makes the party in Amsterdam look more like a Dutch royal themed Halloween. ‘Just wear orange, you’ll fit it’, is about right.
The idea of a cat café started in Taiwan in 1998 and got big in Japan, New York City, London, Paris, Berlin, and Copenhagen. This month it’s Amsterdam’s turn to have a cat café that will open on 22 April.
Amsterdam already has quite a few cats in their establishments to catch mice, but following international trends, it was a matter of time before the capital got an official hangout overrun with furry friends, which amusingly enough is not too far from 24oranges HQ.
The entire idea was crowdfunded with 975 cat lovers contributing 33,000 euro to the project.