Day Five was planned as an off day, and truth be told, I slept till almost 7:30. But the light was fantastic, and despite the morning drizzle, it seemed easy enough to attend a few festivals around town. There was to be a concert in Vondelpark, and the Over Het IJ festival at NDSM, hosted at the old shipyards in Noord, beckoned.
Vondelpark in July is as nice a place as you could hope to spend a Sunday afternoon. Blond children frolic in the sunshine, as loving parents shepherd them around in bicycles with ”kid-go” carriers on the front. Dog owners teach their pets to fetch sticks (twice in one meadow; perhaps there is a preponderance of misplaced sticks in Amsterdam?). Single men photograph flower gardens, and the beer at the pop festival was going for less than 3 euros. Fifty-one different flavors! What a country.
The pop act was very lively; a groove between Katrina and the Waves and Roxette. The band was rocking steady; children were feeling it. The band must have rich love interests or a major record advance; a full DW drum set on stage, and the lead guitarist had half a dozen world-class acoustic instruments to choose from in a rack behind her. Clearly a group with its priorities straight.
I walked back to the hotel to pick up the scooter (now rested for a few days and therefore harder to start), and off to find the ferry from Houthavens to NDSM. In Houthavens, parents were collecting or offloading kids from the local university, which made for interesting traffic to watch in the new developments. The downtown there is a mix in contrasts with old and new. Coffee shops stand in concert with cafes, illustrating in part, that this is a college neighborhood. Shoppers frequent the big multi-color development on the water, alternating floors of windows and a unique exterior paint palate.
I gave up on finding the local ferry stop and wandered over to the main ferry terminal, a short scoot past the new wedge building and the Good Hotel (with a hard to read sign). Electing to give the NDSM ferry a miss (45 minute wait). Back-roading from the main terminal in Noord to NDSM shouldn’t be that hard. Just follow the water.
NDSM is a relatively new development of re-use mixed space based on the Amsterdam shipyards and Netherlands Ship Building Company buildings. On the site where dozens of famous ships and supertankers slid off-ramp in the twentieth century, events such as Over het IJ Festival, Valtifest and NDSM Vrijhaven are hosted today, alongside monumental art in public space. The large ship building crane still stands, as do the docks and shipyard ”hardware” but have been repurposed as designated art spaces for students and other young-at-heart Amsterdammers (people can bungee jump off the crane).
After having had a mediocre lunch at Noorderlicht previously, I opted for dinner at de IJ-Kantine Restaurant Amsterdam. There I enjoyed a Palm ale and watched the videos on the conversion of NDSM from a shipyard in the 1920s to the mixed use, diverse space it is today.
Soon it was time to earn my keep and take some pictures of the Over Het IJ festival. The website billed it as the place where an “[A]nnual theatre festival brings a summery blend of inspirational theatre, DJs and fabulous food to Amsterdam Noord each year.” The boots on ground experience didn’t disappoint, and the people watching was wonderful, from the dressy 20-something likely-employees of MTV with their fancy bicycles to the local residents who seemed more authentic in their jeans and paint splattered jumpers.
Part of the Over Het IJ Festival programming (poetry, improv, scripted theatre, dance, with names like Wurm, Propaganda, etc.) takes place inside shipping containers. The experience was ”alt-art-tastic.”
Rain started to fall on NDSM, my belly was full of local snacks, and my camera full of interesting pictures of theater performances and sponsor booth activity. It was time to take the ferry back to Centrum.
Among my shipmates was an army of plus-6 feet tall blondes, who were able to navigate the slippery deck of the ferry and rain-soaked bike lanes in their corky 4-inch heels and summer dresses without missing a single text! Remarkable. - Matt Peyton