amsterdam, then & now

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  • amsterdam, then & now

  • amsterdam, then & now

    2 | amsterdam marketing

    4 City built on trade and tolerance: What defines Amsterdam.

    7 A Golden Age: A bit of 17th century history and its heritage.

    8 The epicentre of European counterculture: The liberal legacy.

    11 Two wheels good: The bikes and their owners.

    12 Neighbourhood watch: Centre, Oost, West, Zuid, Noord.

    15 Living the dream: To live and work here.

    16 An evergreen cultural life: The cultural life in 10 icons.

    20 Get out of town: Haarlem & beaches, Old Holland, flowers, castles.

  • amsterdam marketing | 3

    amsterdam, then & now

    Stately 17th-century houses sit seamlessly beside cutting-edge contemporary architecture, in a compact

    capital with more bikes than people, more nationalities

    than New York, more canals than Venice and more world-

    class museums than pretty much anywhere.

    Welcome to Amsterdam.

    text: Toby Main

  • amsterdam, then & now

    4 | amsterdam marketing

    Wherever you are in Amsterdam, look around and try to imagine the scene a thousand years ago. What would there be in place of the meticulously lain cobbles and postcard-perfect bridges? Chances are, there would be little more than a boggy wasteland. One of the citys many famous landmarks would be recognisable, however: namely, the Amstel River. Nothing much of note happened here until around the 12th century, when intrep-id people from the North came floating down the river in hollowed-out logs. The ground being too soggy to build on, they dug a structure of dykes and ditches the very first of which is commemorated by Dam square. These enterprising Aems-telledammers, as they became known, be-gan levying toll money from passing beer and herring traders, and quickly became expert boat builders themselves, attract-ing yet more attention to the emerging town.

    In 1275, Count Floris of Holland formal-ised these activities by granting special toll privileges to the merchant town, and in 1300 Amsterdam got its first charter. It was also around this time that the first church the core of todays Oude Kerk was consecrated.As the historian Fred Feddes notes in the introduction to his book A Millennium of Amsterdam, the Amstel was never going to be a body of water to rival the Thames or the Danube. It wasnt even the most im-pressive waterway in this land, and yet the rights and privileges awarded to the city of Amsterdam ensured that it would be-come by far the most important. The spirit of commerce has always played a crucial role in shaping Amsterdam, which is a city built on trade like no other. Whats more, the importance of trade ensured a certain degree of religious freedom, nurturing the pragmatic tolerance for which Amsterdam is still famed. By accepting differences where other societies tried to quash them, Amsterdam turned diversity to its advan-tage, fuelling an economic miracle that would make it the envy of Europe.

    A city built on trade and tolerance:What defines Amsterdam.

  • This backwater town []

    remains the worlds laboratory

    of liberalism Londons

    Financial Times, October 2013

  • Dutch East India Company (VOC) the rst multinational in the world

  • amsterdam marketing | 7

    amsterdam, then & now

    The whole of whats now known as the Netherlands used to be part of the Span-ish empire, but in 1581 the northernmost Dutch provinces declared independence, mainly out of a desire to practice Protes-tantism, which was strictly forbidden by the Catholic Spanish. It was at this point that religious tolerance was enshrined in the constitution of the new Dutch Republic, and its capital soon became known as a refuge for Protestants and also Jews, who were being persecuted or oppressed in many parts of the world. Many of these incomers were successful merchants, and the wealth and expertise that they brought with them benefitted the Republic materially. Spanish Jews moved their goods and operations here and main-tained foreign trading relationships with, among other places, Morocco and the Levant. New trade missions to India proved a huge commercial success, and in 1602 the Dutch East India Company (Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie, or VOC) was founded. The city of Amsterdam had a majority share in the organisation, which was to become the first multinational com-pany in the world, financed by the sale of shares that in turn established the worlds first modern stock exchange. The compa-ny acquired the Dutch monopoly on Asian trade, and the Dutch provinces became the most important financial centre of Northern Europe. During this period, the city of Amsterdam underwent two massive urban expansions, and for the first time both functionality and aesthetics were taken into consideration

    during the planning stages. The results were the now-famous Canal Belt prime real estate whose grand houses were status symbols for the very wealthiest merchants and the Jordaan district, with its modest dwellings for an expanding working class. Rich Amsterdammers soon began to demonstrate concern for the less fortunate and established institutions to care for the poor, the sick and the orphaned.

    Of course, the sign that youd really made it as a 17th-century merchant was a fab-ulous painting or two, and the art market flourished during this time. Lavish still life paintings such as those hanging in the Rijksmuseum ( evoked the rich abundance of life during the Golden Age, depicting a diverse array of exotic fruits, flowers and game much of it straight off the VOC boats. Sculptures were commissioned all over town for gov-ernment buildings, private dwellings (often adorning house facades) and the exteriors of churches. Within just 30 years, Amster-dam became a thriving cultural centre, leav-ing a legacy of respected painters includ-ing Johannes Vermeer, Jan Steen and, of course, Rembrandt van Rijn. Science and philosophy also benefitted from Amsterdams climate of tolerance. Books concerning topics that might have been deemed too controversial elsewhere were printed here and covertly exported abroad. Amsterdam was at once Europes importer of treasures and its factory of ideas.

    A Golden Age:A bit of 17th century history and its heritage.

  • amsterdam, then & now

    8 | amsterdam marketing

    In its Amsterdam DNA exhibit, the Am-sterdam Museum ( lists the citys defining ingredients as follows: enterprise, free thinking, crea-tivity and citizenship. These characteristics found their heyday during the Golden Age, of course, but they saw a resurgence under very different circumstances in the 1960s, when a host of disparate counter-cultural movements earned Amsterdam a reputation as the cradle of youthful revolt and a new nickname: the magisch centrum (magic centre) of Europe. Foremost amongst these movements were the Provos. So-called because their aim was to provoke a violent or heavy-handed response from the police through non-vio-lent means, the Provos saw themselves as shattering the self-righteousness of those in power. Their happenings focused in Amsterdam around Het Lieverdje, the famous statue of a street urchin on the square at Spui were a bizarre mixture of absurdity and activism. Provos mocked the establishments ignorance regarding of marijuana, for example, by smoking tea-filled joints in the hopes of getting wrongfully arrested. The Provos political wing gained a seat on Amsterdams city council and, under the umbrella term White Plans, set about making the city a nicer place to live.

    The most famous of these proposals was the White Bicycle Plan, which advocated closing Amsterdam to all motor vehicles and replacing them with electric taxis and a fleet of publicly owned, free-to-use bicycles. Rejected at the time as unwork-able, the plan proved to be simply ahead of its time, and has since been a source of inspiration for bike-sharing schemes worldwide. Officially, the Provo movement ended in 1967 but its legacy has been profound and long lasting. Various Provo policies lived way beyond the movements short lifespan including the squatting of empty build-ings, which flourished all over Amsterdam until 2010, when it was outlawed.By the end of the 1960s, the Amsterdam authorities had begun to tolerate prosti-tution, and the red lights of the sex trade, reflected in the waters of some of the oldest stretches of canals in the city, had become something of a tourist attraction. In 1973, a first coffeeshop appeared on the Vijzelgracht (Mellow Yellow), buying and selling cannabis within the legally tolerated limits. According to historian Russell Shorto, the decades from the 1950s through the 1990s can be regarded as a new golden age, when the city threw off the remaining influences of the Church and other conservative structures and transformed itself into the 20th-century version of a liberal capital or, as Shorto puts it: a laboratory for new ideas, from gay rights to gay marriage, from free love to free bicycles.

    The epicentre of European counterculture: The liberal legacy.

  • a laboratory for new ideas, from gay rights to gay marriage, from free love to free


  • Today, there are some 400 kilometres of designated bicycle paths crisscrossing the city

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    amsterdam, then & now

    In case anyone hadnt noticed, in Amster-dam the humble bike is the default mode of transport for the butcher, the stock-broker and even the supermodel. Ridden by royalty and riffraff alike, the bicycle is Amsterdams great social leveller, with more than 50 per cent of all inner-city jour-neys happening on two wheels. You may be able to glance at an A