Amsterdam’s booming Eastern Harbor

Amsterdam
Amsterdam is a beautiful city famous for its narrow canal houses that during its golden age served as both homes and warehouses for merchant families waiting for their ship to come in. The historic heart of Amsterdam is an architectural treasure, and the Dutch didn’t stop building innovative spaces in the modern times. One of Amsterdam’s newest expansions is the Eastern Harbor Area.

A century ago this area served freighters and steamers, but with the larger ships of the modern age, that industry has shifted to the Western Harbor. Now many of the old buildings have been converted into homes and apartments and new ones have cropped up, designed by leading Dutch architects.

The area isn’t far from Amsterdam’s Centraal Station and is best seen by bike. I rented a bike from Mac Bike, conveniently located in the station, and set out on a typically overcast Dutch autumn day with a city guide. While it was helpful to have a guide along, Mac Bike has a good map/brochure of the area if you want to go solo.

I love seeing Amsterdam by bike, and the Eastern Harbor Area and Amsterdam’s Eastern Districts are much more open than the historic center. They offer sweeping views of the harbor and the bike lanes are free of drug tourists, who have a bad habit of shuffling zombie-like in the middle of bike lanes in the city center.

%Gallery-139393%The first landmarks you see heading east from Centraal Station are the Maritime Museum’s traditional 17th century facade and the decidedly ship-like modern building for NEMO, Amsterdam’s science center pictured above. This mix of old and new continues as you go eastwards.

Several old warehouses have been converted into apartments, and a hotel that once took emigrants to the New World now serves tourists and business travelers. I found the modern buildings to be more interesting since they’re so unlike what you usually see in Amsterdam. City planners hired different architects to build different buildings on the same street so that you get a wide variety of style within the same view.

Stylized modern bridges take you from one island to the next and offer views down various canals where homeowners dock their boats. Fountains and little parks offer open areas. All in all it was a fun ride and something to consider if you like architecture or just want a healthy two or three hours away from the city center. Try to pick a better day than I did, though!

Don’t miss the rest of my series: Lowdown on the Low Countries.

Coming up next: Amsterdam’s Maritime Museum!

This trip was partially funded by Amsterdam’s Tourism and Congress Bureau and Cool Capitals. All opinions, however, are my own.

Oxford’s Ashmolean museum improving its world-class Egyptian galleries

Oxford, Egypt, Ashmolean
The famous Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology in Oxford, England, reopened in 2009 after a £61 million ($101 million) makeover. The redesigned space is more open and airy, with more natural light and windows between exhibitions. Floorspace was doubled in size and the exhibits were made more informative and user firendly. A museum worker explained to me that part of the plan was to make it so you can always see your way out. This is to combat museum fatique. Personally I’m a museum junkie and I don’t get museum fatigue, but it sounds like a good idea.

Despite three years of work and the high price tag, the Ashmolean’s famous Egyptian galleries got left behind. There was no money to redo them at the time but after collecting another £5 million ($8.3), the galleries are now shut and going through a major overhaul. The four old Egyptian galleries were crowded and poorly lit, and will now be redesigned along the lines of the rest of the musuem. They’ll also expand into a fifth gallery to give the collection more room.

The Ashmolean Museum has been collecting Egyptian artifacts since 1683, when it was founded as the oldest public museum in the world. Its displays tell the story of one of the world’s greatest civilizations from its prehistoric beginnings until it became part of the Greek and Roman empires. Its collection of predynatic artifacts is the best outside of Egypt and show how Egypt developed into a superpower.

The Egyptian galleries will reopen in November 2011 and Gadling plans to be there to cover it.

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