Today is Chestnut Sunday! For a relatively short time in the Victorian age, it would be a tradition for families to go to the parks and luxuriate among the horse chestnuts on the sunday before Ascension Day. And yes, luxuriate is the right word here. No tree has bigger leaves, bulkier, sweeter-smelling blooms, or a prouder stance than the horse chestnut. It’s a tree that decorates beautifully while being, like many other luxurious items, almost useless.
Every part of the horse chestnut is toxic- it is, after all, only vaguely related to the actual Castanea sativa- but its large seeds encased in beautiful pods are beautiful, shiny baubles of the richest, reddest brown. More than just beatiful, they’re the playpieces for a game of conkers; a popular game in England where you hit two “conkers” (think: conquerors) on strings together- the one that cracks is the losing piece.
The horse chestnut also played an important part in the two World Wars: the British government made a call to collect as many conkers as one could, and would pay for one to turn them in. Conkers contain acetone, a necessary ingredient for a number of weapons. But it also brought a modicum of peace: the horse chestnut in the garden of Keizersgracht 188 in the centre of Amsterdam was one of the only things Anne Frank could see from the attic window in the secret annex where she hid from persecution. She describes the tree often in her diary, and it seemed to give her some comfort. This tree may well be a luxury, but far from an unnecessary one. Go see one near you today and feel free to luxuriate.
A view from the Keizersgracht in Amsterdam. In the background you can see the Astoria office building. It’s a Jugendstil office building built in 1904-1905. The building, located at the intersection of the Keizersgracht and Leliegracht, also served as the international headquarters of Greenpeace for 15 years
Jan Veth - Keizersgracht 327, Amsterdam-View from the studio - 1924
Jan Pieter Veth (18 May 1864 Dordrecht - 1 July 1925 Amsterdam), was a Dutch painter, poet, art critic and university lecturer. He is especially noted as a portrait painter. Amongst his sitters were Max Liebermann, Lambertus Zijl, Frank van der Goes, Antoon Derkinderen and other contemporaries including various fellow painters.
If someone comes to Amsterdam what are good places to stay and things to do/ see and eat? If you can sometimes make a post. Thanks!
✿ places to stay…
there are countless hotels scattered all over amsterdam but my recommendation would not be to stay in the city centre, it’s mostly really expensive and the hotels are usually very small. i’d recommend you to stay in the surrounding neighbourhoods in west (either de baarsjes, oud-west, oud-zuid, overtoom or even nieuw-west) the hotels are actually really close to the city centre and with all the trams it’s easily accessible too. also west is my favorite area :-)
here are some examples of nice places to stay:
de baarsjes area: hotel alp and hotel larende
oud-west/oud-zuid/overtoom area: hotel atlas, hotel conscious (hotels around vondelpark are usually nice, hotel de filosoof used to be my favorite but they’ve closed that down and are now making a pillows hotel out of it)
there’s also this new thing called cityhub, i don’t know if it’s a nice place to stay (certainly not if you’re claustrophobic) but it looks funny though :-)
✿ places to eat…
there really are a lot of places to eat, ranging from affordable to a tad expensive. my current favorite place is probably in the jordaan (vegetarian/vegan), it’s called hummus bistro d&a and their food is amazing and their interior is so cozy and beautiful as well. there’s a tiny indonesian restaurant hidden behind the nieuwe kerk which is just lovely as well and another indonesian restaurant called kantjil & de tijger is really good too. there are also a lot of nice little restaurants in de baarsjes area, specifically speaking de clerqstraat extending into the admiraal de ruyterweg; some nice places there are fier, cantinetta wine & pasta, barspek and speijkervet. there’s also de hallen in west which used to be a tram depot but they turned it all upside down and now there’s a hotel there, an artfilm cinema, vintage shops, a library but also a big indoor food hall; there’s a great variety of (freshly cooked) food and it’s all very nice and very affordable too
museum van loon (shitty staff and they also scammed me but the rooms are pretty)
places to shop:
the nicest districts when it comes to cute stores are the nine streets and the jordaan, i’d really recommend you to stroll around there. there are also some nice stores in magna plaza, such as “things i like things i love”, “sissy boy” and “gekaapt”
jordaan district: every saturday there’s a vintage/organic market at noordermarkt
jordaan district: every monday there’s a fabric market in the westerstraat and at the end it loops into a vintage/book market at noordermarkt
jordaan district: haarlemmerstraat and the extended haarlemmerdijk
the 9 streets (hartenstraat): there’s a lovely shop called exota which sells their own brand called king louie and it’s really cute
the 9 streets (wolvenstraat): definitely try to visit laura dols, it’s gorgeous
near dam square (sint jansstraat): les petites puces is an adorable vintage shop where you can also drink tea and eat yummy cake
near westerkerk (rozengracht): kitsch kitchen is one of my favorite stores, it’s just amazing
other nice things to see/do:
hofjes, like het begijnhof
strolling around the vondelpark
strolling around all the canals (esp prinsengracht, herengracht & keizersgracht)
the flower market
waterlooplein or albert cuyp market
hire some bikes…. if you dare…. (i’d say only if you know how to properly ride one, otherwise it’s… well it could be messy)
westergasfabriek / westerpark
well that’s all i can think of for now, i hope i could be of help! :-)