Amsterdam through British eyes

Amsterdam Book Review: `Discover Amsterdam with the Rijksmuseum’ (Part One)

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Over the weekend I decided that I wanted to road test some of the many books I have about Amsterdam, starting with a book containing two walking tours: `Discover Amsterdam with the Rijksmuseum.’ The concept is that you walk around the set routes yourself at your own pace and you can read all about each landmark from the book and learn something about it.

This book contains two walking tours, one to do with money and trade, and the other to do with freedom and tolerance. At the start of the book is a brief history of Amsterdam, and then it is split out into two sections, so we decided to go with the money and trade walk because it was the first one in the book, and for me the most interesting of the two. 

The starting point was at Amsterdam’s Central Station, and it finishes at the Rijksmusem. Along the way we saw buildings including the old stock exchange, the Trippenhuis, and East India House. During this walk I learnt why Central station was so controversial, that when people cite Amsterdam as being the first place to issue a paper share it is not based on fact, and that the Trip company could make a new, and fully armed warship in only six weeks.

At the start of each walk, there is a map which gives you the overall route, and then on every page at the top there is a map to show you that particular section of the walk. I was the one doing the directions with Michiel following me, and even though I know Amsterdam, sometimes it was easy to lose where we were, and where the map was telling us to go, because the image is quite small. I would recommend having a street map with you as well to avoid this happening, or just ask someone if you are lost.

The book has a lot of images, including prints of paintings in the book. My particular favourite was the image of the view of the Gouden Bocht in the Herengracht from the west by Gerrit Adriaensz Berckheyde from 1672, where you can do a direct comparison with what it looked like then, and how it looks now (minus the trees).

In terms of time, it took us a few hours, because we stopped off for a drink and bitterballen at a terrace, and got distracted by other things en route (there was a really great book sale along the Oude Hoogstraat). We made the effort to make sure we had seen everything and I wanted to read everything about the locations when we were at them, instead of reading ahead and then just having a look.

Overall I really enjoyed this walk, even though I thought that the maps on individual pages could be clearer. I loved the route, and I thought the book really captured the history of money and trade in Amsterdam overall. There were some really interesting things to learn about the buildings, and I came away from  the walk much more informed and with some really interesting stories about Amsterdam.

Based on this walk alone, I give it a score of 8 out of a possible 10. The second part will include a review of the second walk, and a score for the book overall.

This book is available at the Rijksmuseum shop for €9.95

Part two of this review will come later in the week when Michiel and I complete the walk entitled `freedom and tolerance’

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