Vondelpark (1865) en Museumplein (1885)

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Daneel Bouden

Amsterdam needed more charm, more allure, more prestige; after all, it was the capital city of the Netherlands. It also needed more green, more nature, but not too wild. In short, Amsterdam needed a proper park. More and more of its well to do citizens left the city and moved to more pleasant places; this had to stop. A businessman called C. P. of Eeghen rose to the occasion, together with a few fellow distinguished gentlemen, he bought a meadow just past Leidseplein. They intended to arrange it into a park. Not all of it as it was a considerably large meadow, part of it was sold off to property developers who build large, expensive houses there, including the PC Hooft straat. (That’s where people with too much money shop)

The park opened up in 1865. It was a hit, a great success, apart from people riding horses) and a part of walking, strolling about with friends and family. The park’s layout was done by the famous Zochers; there were woody areas, lawns, ponds, and winding paths with surprising views on the Amsterdam gentry’s expensive newly built houses. Two years later, the statue of poet Joost of der Vondel was unveiled, and the park given its current name. At first, the wealthy went horse riding there; later on, they would join us to learn to ride bicycles.

The Rijksmuseum
Not far from the park, and about 20 years later, several distinguished buildings arose on the edge of town. They were to be the city’s new museums, you know, like real cities have. The first to arise was “Het Rijksmuseum” (The national museum.) It was to house The Nachtwacht (nightwatch) by Rembrandt. Holland’s most famous painting. The museum was designed by architect P.J.H. Cuypers who also designed the central railway station. Amsterdam was to become “the cultural city” of The Netherlands, and we still are. The Rijksmuseum opened its doors to the public in 1885.

The other museum
Then there arose the need for a building dedicated to sculpture. Thanks to a legacy from the wealthy widow Sophia Augusta Lopez Suasso Het Stedelijk ( the city’s) museum emerged. It was built on Paulus Potter street, given the Rijksmuseum, and opened its doors in 1895. While at first, it held all sorts of undefinable objects, it wasn’t long before this museum got itself some international allure. For one thing, it found itself in possession of a large number of paintings by a guy called Vincent van Gogh.

Museum Square
All these magnificent buildings lay around a large empty area that had no real distinct allocation. It was turned into a skating ring (this still happens today); for the rest of the year, exhibitions were held there; it became known as the shortest highway in The Netherlands. Today it serves as a meeting place for tourists, a picnic area thanks to the supermarket at one of its corners, as a venue for demonstrations, concerts and celebrations. It’s the city’s largest square.

The Park’s do’s and don’ts.
Cycling is allowed in the park, actually in all of Amsterdam’s parks. Dogs are also allowed in the park. Another popular pastime is skating; skates are for rent at the Vondeltuin near the Amstelveenseweg exit. The place also lends itself to birthday parties, barbecues and jam sessions. There are also all sorts of facilities for small children. But not everything is permitted. At every gate, there are large boards present that will explain what you can’t do. Nudity went out a few years ago, no more topless sunbathing; other parks are more open to the practice. After world war Two, the city of Amsterdam bought the place as it was becoming too expensive to maintain for its owners.

Dogs do need to be on a leash.
Moppets, a favourite of Amsterdam youths, are not permitted to enter. The police do not always enforce this bylaw. As boys will be boys, this often leads to confrontations between the young, the old, and the sophisticated looking for peace.

The park has a stage with a few hundred seats around it; summer upcoming artists do their thing there, the shows are free and popular by the city’s young and old.
Over 10 million people yearly visit the park; they come to taste the tolerance this city is known for; hash and pot smoking is also a favourite pastime in the park; I forgot to mention that.

The Vondel Park is window number 29 on the Canon of Amsterdam.