This past weekend was Monumentendag all across the Netherlands, when private buildings and monuments open their doors to show off Dutch history. For free. It’s a big hit here. I was so excited to get the chance to peek into some buildings, especially since these are rarely open to the public.
I love exploring cities. The easiest way to do this is by walking around, craning your neck and trying (not) to get lost, but that only gets you onto the skin of the city. There’s another world inside the buildings, full of great design and architecture, but they are places you don’t often get invited to unless you’ve paid for a concert ticket, work in the office building, or are just special person in general. I’ve done temp jobs in both Portland and San Francisco, and my favorite part about them (ok, the only good part past the paycheck), was seeing the view across the bay from different office buildings. This weekend was like that, minus the work (and the paycheck). We got to peek inside a host of buildings across the city. Some were fascinating, some were kind of interesting, and some were barely worth going inside, but it was fun all around.
The theme of this year was Reuse of Historic Buildings, so everything we saw was a historical building renovated for a new purpose. A warehouse-turned-club, a packing house-turned apartment building, a hotel-turned-prison-turned-hotel, a stock exchange-turned-conference center, and more. Out of 64 open monuments, I made it to 18 and was completely exhausted!
My favorite buildings were both built by Berlage, a Dutch architect working in the 1920s. The modernist, Art Deco styles of these were so gorgeous. The Beurs van Berlage sits on the Damrak, a main artery of the city. And De Burcht, an old Union building, is outside the busier streets, near our apartment. Decorated in fabulous Art Deco, both buildings fairly drip with style, and every room was even prettier than the last.
Another favorite was the Lloyd Hotel, originally built in 1921 to house Eastern European emigrants on their way to South America. They would arrive in Amsterdam by train, walk across the street to the hotel, spend a few nights, and then walk back across the street to their ship. Later it was turned into a prison, and now it’s back to a hotel. Some say it’s haunted.
Maybe the best part about biking around trying to find random buildings is the fact that I’m getting a bit more comfortable finding my way in this canal-ridden city. And after having seen the inside of eighteen whole buildings, maybe I’m slowly moving past the tourist stage and getting under the skin of this city. In a good way.