Friday 4 August 2023


If you cast your mind back to the last blog post - or if you can't be bothered thinking back that far, click here - you'll have read that Amsterdam is planning on putting a huge chunk of motorway into a tunnel to free up space around Zuid station.  The knock on effect of this will mean Amstelveenseweg will also no longer squat between some flyovers, which is good, because right now it's a distinctly miserable place to catch a train.

You head up the escalator and emerge on an island platform surrounded by tracks and roads and not much else.  At least at Zuid, there are interchange platforms, and interesting skyscrapers towering above you.  At Amstelveenseweg, it's just you.  The big city is off in the distance.

The track curves north after here, like the motorway passing through a long T-junction made up of crisscrossing lines as one route splits away from the other.  However, the metro breaks up with the A10 at this point; from here on they'll shadow one another, a few blocks apart, rather than being interlinked.  

Henk Sneevlietweg is a delightfully Dutch name for a station; you can imagine it belonging to a jolly, ruddy faced man in a windmill drinking enormous litre jugs of Heineken.  In reality, Henk Sneevliet was a Communist who was executed by the Nazis, which is a bit of a downer. 

Once again, Amsterdam confused me with its lefts and its right.  I came out of the station being certain that I had to go over there and down a path; the path, however, was in the wrong place.  A lot of the metro stations are double ended, with exits either end of the platform, and I'd managed to come out of the wrong end.  I had to resort to my phone to reorient myself, standing on the spot and rotating to get my bearings like a particularly hapless Knightmare contestant, before I deduced where I should have been going and crossed the road.  A bridge took me over a slightly weedy looking canal and into a residential district.

This was clearly an area that had undergone some level of regeneration.  New buildings had been grafted in alongside old ones, but their concrete husks remained, below the surface.  I saw a plaque on the floor, one that looked like it commemorated a murder victim; a quick run through Google Translate revealed it was actually the spot to leave bulky waste for the binmen, and I cursed the loss of a bit of cheap poignancy for the blog.  

At the centre of the estate was a patch of green, busy with children on a weekend, their parents sat off to the side while they played.  Watching them was De Staalman, a gigantic teddy bear with a pillow under his arm by the artist Florentijn Hofman.  It represents the pride of the district and was added as part of the rebuild and is absolutely delightful.

I crossed the green tracks on Plesmanlaan - regular tram tracks with grass planted between them to retain some element of nature - and followed the canal for a little bit to reach my next station.  

The entrance to Heemstedestraat station, from the south, is across that canal, with a footbridge taking you there.  As I approached a young couple dashed across, hand in hand, both looking delightfully dishevelled; they paused at the ticket gates for one final kiss before she went through.  He watched her onto the escalator then turned and walked away, slowly, not quite kicking his heels but damn close, suddenly lost without her.  I wondered how long they'd known each other.  Was this the morning after the night before?

There was a point in about 1996/97 when everything went orange and green.  For some reason, the fashion mavens decided that they were the colours of the season, and that was all shops sold.  I myself went down the lime green route, with a very tight ribbed shirt which I thought made me look very cool and sexy but which in retrospect, wrapped around my skinny student frame, probably made me look like Kermit.  This section of the network was opened in 1997, as the Ringlijn, and the trains on the M50 are the Green Line, while the M51 trains are the Orange Line.  You can guess what colour scheme the stations here went with.

Hmm.  Apparently orange and green weren't the colour choice of the mid 90s internationally.  Though I do like that deep blue and baby pink are just as hideous a clash as orange and green.  Perhaps the tiles for the stations were ordered by someone who was colour blind and they were far too polite to mention it.  

The next station, Amsterdam Lelylaan, is a proper station, with interchange with heavy rail services.  Still, it only came into existence in 1986, when a line from Schiphol to Centraal was built.  This is blatantly obvious from the street, where the canopies are supported by roof struts that were clearly constructed out of Commodore 64s and cocaine and shoulder pads.

It crosses the road beneath at an exact right angle, and there are trams running down the central reservation, giving it a real Cities Skylines interchange feel; there's something about the exactness of that crossover that seems like it came out of a simulation.  (Incidentally, doesn't Cities Skylines 2 look incredible?  I'm currently praying that my venerable old PC will be able to handle it).  

As it's a mainline station as well, Lleylaan has a proper ticket office - because they still do that on the Continent because it makes sense - so I swung outside for the sign selfie.  I also refilled my water bottle while I was there from a free fountain on the street.  

What you can't see, because of careful camera angles, is that I was awash with sweat.  The tension of arriving a day late, the trauma of having to compress my three day plans into two, the general "walking about on a warm day with no protection from the sun" - all of this had contrived to make me a nervous mass of perspiration.  Where my backpack hit my back it wasn't so much damp, more of a lake; I expected to take it off and release a cascade of salty water.  That, incidentally, is why I'm wearing my backpack over both shoulders rather than just one.  Fellow children of the 80s and 90s will know this is deeply uncool, and only a nerd does this, but I had to hide my moist parts somehow and I was abroad so I was pretty sure nobody from my school would see it and take the piss.  Some childhood traumas run deep.

Behind Lelylaan was another dense neighbourhood, Slotervaart, and one that hadn't received the same regeneration efforts as the previous estate.  This one still felt rough, a little dangerous; it has a high immigrant population and there have been riots.  I preferred it.  Perhaps I'm a little chippy, railing against gentrification, a reverse snob, but I like it when an area has a bit of grit in its eye.  It gives it character that can be lost when it's rebuilt, sanding off the hard edges, softening and blurring its charm.

There were barbers and grocers and a Lidl; a school with coloured apparatus springing out of its playground; a bar with the obligatory green Heineken sign.  A bakery with a tempting selection of exotic pastry treats breezed its warm sweet scent onto the pavement.  Balconies were dotted with plants and washing and the occasional bicycle.  A man in a motorised scooter pootled past me, humming to himself.  

I am fully aware that I am a tourist who wandered through this area on a quiet Sunday afternoon.  Dutch people are probably reading this and saying, "but Shcott, that is the Murder district, so called because of all the murders!"  (Yes, Dutch people pronounce "Scott" as "Shcott," and it is one of the few ways I can find my awful name anything approaching tolerable).  Given the choice between living here and those apartments overlooking the canal by the Olympic Stadium, I'd go for the latter.  But there was an air as I walked around that this was an actual community.  A place where people lived.  Life washed over its pavements and its homes and I felt a sense of real happiness being briefly part of it.

Around the station, new buildings were springing up, and a nature park had been laid out by the canal.  Its paths were still gleaming, its bushes and trees still in the development stage.  Postjesweg station slotted in beside it, another viaduct, another train.

1 comment:

John said...

Sweden, on the continent, got rid of all ticket offices and all ticket machines as well. Does that make sense?