Amsterdam: A Quick Orientation

Amsterdam: A Quick Orientation

Amsterdam, in its physical aspect, is almost entirely a product of the so-called “Golden Age” of the Netherlands-that period in the 17th century when Holland surged to the near-pinnacle of world power, after its victory over Spain in the brutal Eighty Years War. It was during this period that the merchants of Amsterdam-then the dominant element in the city-laid out a pattern of gently-curving, concentric canals that occupy the central section of Amsterdam and constitute the city’s particular glory today. Amsterdam performs an essentially capital city service function for the rest of the Dutch economy.

The canals run in a fairly regular pattern that makes it quite easy to orient yourself. Starting at the Central Station, the first of the canals is the Singel. Then comes the Herengracht (“Gentlemen’s Canal”), then the Keizersgracht (“Emperor’s Canal”), and finally the Prinsengracht (“Prince’s Canal”). Along these canals the merchants of 17th-century Amsterdam then constructed what seem today like endless lines of gilded, patrician mansions and homes. These have, in recent years, been occupied by business firms, but their façades are absolutely untouched-and it is in this most beautiful centuries-old setting that you’ll want to spend most of your time in Amsterdam.

Crossing through this pattern of parallel, concentric canals, like the spokes of a wheel, are avenues, the most important of which is the Damrak, which starts at the Central Station and heads straight to the Dam Square, site of the Royal Palace, the Nieuwe Kerk (New Church), and National Monument. From the Dam Square, this street becomes the Rokin, and veers a bit as it heads to the Mint Square (Muntplein), where the famous old Mint Tower Amsterdam stands, and where the Amstel River begins.

Near the Mint Square is the Rembrandtsplein (Rembrandt’s Square), one of the two major entertainment areas of Amsterdam; a bit further out, and to the west, is the Leidseplein (Leidse Square), the other entertainment section of Amsterdam, and the site of the Stadsschouw-burg (Municipal Theatre). And beyond this central area is a slightly more modern section where you’ll find the two great art museums of Amsterdam-the renowned Rijksmuseum and Stedelijk Museum- as well as the famous home of its much-acclaimed orchestra, the Concertgebouw.

Sidewalk Cafe Sitting in Amsterdam

Sidewalk Cafe Sitting in Amsterdam

This next evening activity (which can also be practiced during the day) is a major occupation in Amsterdam—and a cheap and pleasant one, too. No sidewalk cafe will ever require that you take more than a single cup of coffee, over which you’re then permitted to linger the entire evening as you watch the passing parade in Amsterdam’s two major entertainment squares: the Rembrandtsplein and the Leidseplein.

Of the two, the Rembrandtsplein possesses a bit more activity, and here the cafes, with their sidewalk table areas, are lined almost solidly along two sides of the square. On the Leidseplein, the major outdoor cafes are those operated by the American Hotel and the Cafe Moderne, but the three most exciting ones are the Hoopman Bodega, the Cafe Reynders, and the Cafe Eylders, all three on the Korte Leidsedwarsstraat, just off the Leidseplein, alongside (but across another small square from) the Opera. Of these, the Cafe Reynders is the outstanding student cafe of Amsterdam, heavily patronized by Amsterdam’s version of the beatnik, along with their surprisingly pretty, pony-tailed companions.

Obviously, there’s no minimum, no cover charge, for which you can sit and meet people all evening. The Cafe Eylders is a slightly more polished version of the Reynders, and the Hoopman Bodega is a somewhat more elegant bar, patronized by some fairly elegant older people. During the winter, all three establishments continue full blast, but without the sidewalk tables.

Migration to Netherlands

Migration to Netherlands

Migration has become one of the great challenges worldwide. This is due to the increasing numbers of migrants in all parts in the world, though migration is by no means a new phenomenon. Nevertheless, Castles and Miller (1993) call this era the ‘age of migration’. The challenges posed by migration affect many fields, from politics to education, with different answers found in different countries and under different circumstances.

It will be stressed that integration is one of the key words in the political as well as in the educational discourse in most countries of immigration. Yet, even if integration is a common response in most European and classical countries of immigration, its meaning can still differ since this common approach does not neglect the fact that there are also differences between these countries due to their varying national and cultural developments. There have been periods in world history as well as in European history where mass emigration was part of daily life – generally amongst the poorest social classes of a country. In Europe, the Irish emigration during the great famine is an example as well as emigration from Germany during and after the Industrial Revolution in the nineteenth century.

In European history, there has, however, not only been work migration or migration due to poor economic conditions, but also migration due to political or religious persecution, e.g. the emigration of the Huguenots from France into Prussia. This example also illuminates the pull-and-push effects of migration, since Prussia was very much interested in the migrants because of their craftsmanship. We also find examples of work and settler immigration that were welcomed by the countries of immigration, such as migration into Russia at the time of Empress Catherine the Great. Here, the pull effect is stronger than the push effect. While migration is no new theme to mankind, neither worldwide nor in Europe, we find new developments in the ways in which migration challenges societies today. Migration has become part of the daily life of many, if not most people in Europe since migrants are present in most neighbourhoods or work places.

Migrants and their families have also become a topic in the media – though often with negative connotations. This contributes to the fact that most people are aware of migration, migrants, and especially of the changes in their societies due to migration. These changes are experienced in different – positive and negative – ways. While the richer variety of cuisine is generally well accepted, a shortage in housing, which is thought to be a result of migration, is not. Migration has also become an option for more people in European countries and this holds true especially for the middle classes. This kind of migration is often due to studies or work in another country for a limited time and is therefore not always regarded as migration. Thus, emigration is nowadays less reflected on than immigration. Furthermore, immigration is often discussed critically due to its impact on the labour markets, the socio-economic structure and on the educational system of the receiving country.

Migration to European Countries

Although migration is no new phenomenon in Europe, it has challenged European nation states since the post-war period in many aspects despite differences amongst states as to when it took place, the migration groups themselves and the political reactions to it. This is also applicable to a certain extent to the classical countries of immigration, as, for example, when Australia was in urgent need of new immigrants after the Second World War and the experience of being in danger of foreign occupation. Worldwide, countries of development have experienced immigration as well as emigration due to natural catastrophes and wars of different kinds such as civil wars or wars of liberation. The European development is of special interest as these migration processes fall in the time of the growth of European unity.

Nation states throughout the world are trying to determine whether they will perceive themselves as multicultural and allow immigrants to experience multicultural citizenship (Kymlicka 1995) or continue to embrace an assimilationist ideology. In nation states that embrace Kymlicka’s idea of multicultural citizenship, immigrant and minority groups can retain important aspects of their languages and cultures as well as have full citizenship rights. Nation states in various parts of the world have responded to the citizenship and cultural rights of immigrant and minority groups in significantly different ways.

Since the ethnic revitalization movements of the 1960s and 1970s, many of the national leaders and citizens in the United States, Canada and Australia have viewed these nation states as multicultural democracies (Banks and Lynch 1986). An ideal exists within these nation states that minority groups can maintain important elements of their community cultures and become full citizens of the nation state. However, there is a wide gap between the ideals within these nation states and the experiences of ethnic groups. Ethnic minority groups in the United States, Canada and Australia experience discrimination in both the schools and in the wider society.

Other nation states, such as Japan and Germany, have been reluctant to view themselves as multicultural societies. Citizenship has been closely linked to biological heritage and characteristics in these nation states. Although the biological conception of citizenship in both Japan and Germany has eroded within the last decade, it left a tenacious legacy in both nation states.

Since the 1960s and 1970s, the French have dealt with immigrant groups in ways distinct from the immigrant nations of the United States, Canada and Australia. In France the explicit goal is assimilation (now called integration) and inclusion (Castles 2004). Immigrant groups can become full citizens in France but the price is cultural assimilation. Immigrants are required to surrender their languages and cultures in order to become full citizens.

The academic achievement gap between ethnic minority and majority group students is another salient issue. African-Caribbean, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi students in Britain and Turkish students in Germany are not achieving on a level equal to that of the majority groups in their nation states. There is also a significant achievement gap between African-American students and White students in the United States (Banks and Banks 2004). However, the underachievement of minority students is a complex issue worldwide that defies facile solutions and responses.

Throughout his career the anthropologist John U. Ogbu (Gibson and Ogbu 1991) tried to uncover some of the complex issues related to the differential achievement of ethnic minority groups in various nations. He believed that researchers needed to identify the important difference among ethnic minority groups in order to understand why some were highly successful academically and others were not. His classification of ethnic groups into three types (autonomous, immigrant or voluntary, and castelike or involuntary) provides a useful way to conceptualize differences among ethnic groups. However, it can lead to harmful generalizations about the characteristics of specific groups and divert attention from structural factors that cause minority underachievement. The issue of minority underachievement is undertheorized and requires more complex and nuanced explanations and theories than those that currently exist.

Global migration has increased the number of languages within the nation states and schools in Europe as it has within the United States, Canada, Australia and Japan. One of the most significant issues discussed in this book is the increasing language diversity in European nation states and how schools in various nations are responding to it. Constructing a thoughtful and equitable national language policy related to the languages of immigrant and ethnic groups is a complex and divisive issue in European nation states as it is in other nations throughout the world.

Source: Migration, Education and Change.

The Trolleys of Amsterdam

The Trolleys of Amsterdam

In traversing this area, be sure to make use of the fabulous trolleys of Amsterdam, which race through the town at surprisingly short intervals, and cost very little to use.

The Amsterdam streetcars are modern vehicles, each consisting of two connected cars which you enter at the back. They are virtually soundless in their operation, and comfortable to ride. No one buys single fares and neither should you: request, instead, that the ticket taker in the trolley give you a card entitling you to four rides. Every time you board a tram, your ticket will be stamped-until four rides have been used.

Another money-saving feature of the Amsterdam trolley system? Any ticket can be used twice within 45 minutes for no extra charge! Every ticket issued, or every stamp on a 4-fare ticket, bears the hour of its issuance; if you’re-board the trolley, or transfer to another trolley, within 45 minutes, you’re permitted to travel free!

Every tram bears a number which indicates the route it follows. There are, in all, 14 such routes (and therefore 14 numbers), 11 of which travel to and from the Centraal Station.

Trams #1 and 2 start at the Centraal Station, go down the Nieuwe Zijds Voorburgwal over to the Spui, then turn down the Leidsestraat and travel the entire distance of that street to the Leidseplein; they cross the Leidseplein, but then take different routes: tram #1 goes down the Overtoom, while tram #2 heads to the Rijksmuseum, and then turns down P.C. Hooftstraat into the Willemsparkweg, goes along that street to Koninginneweg, and then proceeds the entire length of that street. Both trams also make the same trips in the opposite direction. To summarize their key stops: take either tram #1 or #2 to go to the Leidseplein; take tram #2 to go to the Rijksmuseum; take either tram to go to the Centraal Station.

Trams #16, 24 and 25 also start at the Centraal Station, but travel down the Damrak and the Rokin to the addressStreetMint Square. At this point, they then go straight down the entire length of the Vijzelstraat, cross the Singelgracht, and then take different routes. Tram #16 goes past the Van Moppes diamond factory, then over near the KLM bus terminal in the Museumplein, and then down the entire length of De Lairessestraat.

Tram #24 heads in the direction of, and near, the Hilton Hotel, than turns into Beethovenstraat, and afterwards goes along Stadionweg. Tram #25 heads down Ferdinand Bolstraat into Churchill Laan, and then down that lovely residential street. All three trams, of course, make the same trips in the opposite direction. Key points to remember: to get near the KLM Bus Terminal, take tram #16; to get from the KLM terminal to the inner and old city, take tram #16; to get to and from the Hilton Hotel, take tram #24.

Trams #4, 5, and 9 also start at the Centraal Station, and go down the length of the Damrak and Rokin into the addressStreetMint Square. At this point, all three turn down the Reguliers Breestraat into the Rembrandtsplein, but then take different routes: tram #4 turns down the Utrechtsestraat to the Frederiksplein; trams #5 and 9 head across the Amstel River past the Waterlooplein.

Then tram #9 heads in the direction of the Artis Zoo, while tram #5 turns down Weesperstraat towards its eventual destination: the Amstel Railroad Station (which is not to be confused with the Centraal Station). All trolleys make the same trips in the other direction. To sum up the highlights: take trams #4, 5 or 9 to reach the Rembrandtsplein; take tram #4 for the Frederiksplein; take tram #9 for the Artis Zoo; take tram #5 for the Amstel Station.

Finally, trams #13, 14 and 17 start at the Centraal Station, travel along the N.Z. Voorburgwaal until they pass the Raaduis-straat, turn into the Raadhuisstraat, ride past the Westerkerk (West Church), near which the Anne Frank house is located, and then continue on the Rozengracht out into the modern Western sector of the city. Then they make the return trip. Point to remember: to reach the Anne Frank house from the Centraal Station, take trams #13, 14 or 17.

With these routes in mind, you can now find a room for your stay, in some of the most delightful lodgings that Europe offers.

Amsterdam: A Canal Boat Trip

Amsterdam: A Canal Boat Trip

The very first thing to do in Amsterdam? Why, that’s to take a ride along the canals and into the harbor of Amsterdam, in one of the many glass-sided canal boats that operate throughout the year in Amsterdam. No better way exists to see all the essential features of the city, and to see them in only an hour and a quarter of time.

The boats pass alongside the facades of old patrician homes on the Herengracht and other canals; they go by the bawdy Zeedijk district, and point out the famous 15th Century Weepers’ Tower (“Schreier-storen”), where the tearful wives of Dutch sailors used to wave goodbye to their men; they show you the picturesque “Skinny Bridge” (Magere Brug) on the Amstel, and the furniture hooks on top of the canal houses; they pass dozens of other important sites; and finally, they sail out into the vast harbor of Amsterdam, past freighters from exotic lands, and past drydocks where gigantic ships have been lifted from the waters for cleaning and repairs. Throughout, the pretty-and-witty girl guides (or the learned male guides) keep up a running commentary on the attractions you pass along the way.

The departure docks of the several companies that run these tours can be spotted by a sign reading “Rondvaart” (round-trip), which you’ll see displayed at several waterside locations in town. All offer departures throughout the day, generally at half-hour intervals; all run essentially the same tour; and all of the following companies can be counted on for an excellent hour-and-a-quarter ride: Bergmann, whose boats leave from the bottom tip of the Damrak, just opposite the Centraal Station, and which offers departures almost every ten minutes in summer.

Reederij Plas, also on the Damrak, a bit further up from the Station; P. Kooij, on the Rokin, near the Spui, and just a block away from the Mint Tower (here they take snapshots of you as you enter the boat, and have the finished photos ready for your inspection—and possible purchase—at the end of the 114-hour trip); Reederij Boekel, 380 Nassaukade, near the Centraal Hotel (a one-minute walk across the bridge from the Leidseplein, and two short blocks up); several other similar companies. In the summer, beginning around June 15, the “rondvaart” companies run nighttime canal tours as well, so that you can see the city’s 17th Century canal houses in their illuminated state—one of the great sights of Europe.

Afternoon Snacks in Amsterdam

Afternoon Snacks in Amsterdam

Around four hours after lunch, you’ll be ready for the favorite afternoon snack of the Amsterdammers—a raw herring, eaten with a toothpick, from the counter of an open-air stand! While other European cities specialize in hot sausage stands, scattered around town, Amsterdam offers herring stands instead—and after eating your first raw Dutch herring, covered with chopped onions, you’ll understand why. I don’t care how many other species of herring you’ve had—marinated, creamed, pickled, salted—there’s nothing so good as a raw Dutch herring at the famous open air herring stands of Amsterdam.

There are, quite literally, at least a score of herring stands in the central part of Amsterdam, never far from where you may be (ask a resident to point one out). If you’re lucky, you’ll arrive at the stand while a true Dutchman is imbibing the succulent fish. Notice how he grabs it daintily by the tail, holds it high above his mouth, and then devours from the bottom up. For you, the owner of the stand will cut the skinned and gutted fish into four pieces, give you a wooden pick with which to pick the pieces up, and a bowl of diced onions into which to dip the fish.

The best time for herring is in late April and May, when the first catch of “nieuwe haring” comes in. The quality remains high throughout the end of September, but begins to disappear as the winter months set in. Whatever your normal attitude is towards herring, don’t miss an opportunity to taste the Dutch variety—it’s incomparable, a major surprise of amazing Amsterdam.

The Home of Anne Frank in Amsterdam

The Home of Anne Frank in Amsterdam

“In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart. If I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again.” -From The Diary of Anne Frank

Those words were written in Amsterdam by a 14-year-old girl who had just spent two years hiding in the secret annex of a building at 263 Prinsengracht. With her were her parents, an older sister, two family friends-the Van Daans-and their teen-age son, Peter and a dentist named Dussel. On August 4, 1944, the Gestapo broke into their secret hiding place, and sent the entire group, along with other Dutch Jews, to extermination camps at Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen. Only Otto Frank, Anne’s father, survived. When he returned to Amsterdam after the war, he found a diary that Anne had maintained throughout the two years of the family’s concealment.

It is one of the classic volumes of literature produced in this century, and it has made a shrine out of the building at 263 Prinsengracht (around the corner from the West Church-the “Westerkerk”), to which thousands of tourists now pay visits of tribute each year. None of us should ever pass through Amsterdam without making a similar pilgrimage-both to recall the terrible events of World War II, and also to gain inspiration from Anne’s immortal and unflagging spirit.