Thursday, 5 June 2014

From Winkel to Winkel in old Amsterdam.

So, I caught my coach at Brentford at 1245 am Friday (it was late), caught the ferry as the dawn broke over the white cliffs of Dover and got off at 1140 Saturday (Dutch time) at the Centraal Station, Amsterdam.

Whose the tough guy?

Because A-dam was once a port, the station doesn't just have a clock it also has a second clock face to tell the merchants the wind direction.

From there the obvious road to take is the Damrak – but I hate it. It’s lined with tourist shops, sex shops and worst of all; the sound of the Damrak is the sound of trolley cases being wheeled by tourists arriving or leaving.

There are three choices; the Damrak, the Nieuwendijk (boring clothes shops) or (my choice) the Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal which looks like it is stuck in the 1960’s. But it leads me to the 4 great canals and The Jordaan, the old working class quarter which is where I want to go.

You have to understand that Amsterdam is in a state of truce in a war that has lasted 50 years. This road is a major Tramway and it’s modern and ugly. If the City had had its way much of medieval Amsterdam would look like this.

After the war, the city immediately levelled most of the old Jewish quarter, as if they were ashamed of their collaboration with the Nazis.

In the 1960’s, the next big plan was to level the red light district, China Town  and most of the Oude Zijde (Old Side) to make way for a new metro and modern commercial developments. It took a real war to stop it – ‘The Provos’ mobilised street demonstrations, street riots with Molotov Cocktails, bombs and even the occasional gun battle. Their enemies were the police and the city council, led by the same chiefs who had collaborated in the war.

It was serious stuff but in the end the good guys won. Only now is that Metro finally being built and it’s at a deep level which has saved the historic centre. The coffee shops were another concession.

Me, I’m on a quest; I’ve heard that Amsterdam is well known for its cakes – I’m looking for a good patisserie.
To find one I’m going to have to search through lots of Winkels, it’ll be hard work.

A ‘Winkel’ is a shop. So a ‘Snoepwinkel’ (isn’t that a great word?) is a sweet shop. I didn’t find any of those. It's a city full of little winkels.


This is a fabric shop of rainbow colours with it’s proud owner– for people making patchwork quilts.

If you want high ‘fashion’ you would probably head for the ‘Nine little Streets’ but there's fashion all over Amsterdam;


And how about these shoes?

No price tags here – too expensive. I’ve no idea where your feet go but what a sculpture?

Fancy Dior?

Or maybe some vintage sunglasses:

I just couldn’t find a cake shop anywhere.
So I found myself on Prinsengracht and went into The Cheese Museum, which is really a shop with free samples.


I had a few samples (a lot), but if you want cheese, best pop into Albert Heijn behind the royal palace – cheese at supermarket prices.

I took a walk along the canals named after various flowers, an area I really love and then headed for The Kitsch Kitchen which brought Mexican design to Dutch Kitchens.

This is an institution in A-Dam,  hysterically bright colours and daft kitchen utensils. It’s the Lucille Ball of design – Ditzyland. What Amsterdam is to puritan Holland, Kitsch Kitchen is to A-Dam.

In fact, it’s been there 20 years and as you can see they were celebrating in style. It was all no good to me – I needed cake and badly.

Did I find it here?

Great name for a shop, guys but not really me.

Or here?

No, I think 'Knuffels' is a duck shop. No cakes there.

Did I ever find any cake? You’ll have to wait till tomorrow to find out. Meanwhile for better pictures click on any photo.

Neil Harris

(a don’t stop till you drop production)


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