A Brief History of Amstelpark in Amsterdam
What is Amstelpark?
Amstelpark is a Verdant park in Amsterdam that was created in 1972 and features delightful plants, art, sculpture and a traditional Dutch windmill.
Though Vondelpark may be the most well-known park in Amsterdam, there are many other parks and pockets of greenery dotted around the city. If the weed-smoking tourists and amateur rollerbladers in Vondelpark aren’t quite your style, wander round Amstelpark, which is rather more popular with locals and young families.
Though formally called a park, Amstelpark is closer in design to a garden. Its original function was as the location of the Floriade of 1972 – an international horticultural exhibition that takes place in the Netherlands every ten years. Since then, the park has retained that flower-show spirit, even installing a train that winds its way through the manicured greenery, ensuring that visitors get to see the rose garden, the Rhododendron Valley and the Riekermolen. This is a traditional Dutch windmill, dating back to 1636 and situated beside the famous Amstel River. Between 12 and 5 p.m. on summer weekends, you can watch the windmill spin for the ultimate Nederlands experience. In commemoration of Rembrandt’s love for sketching the landscape surrounding the Amstel River, you can also find a statue of him near the windmill.
The tulip season in the Netherlands runs from about mid-March to mid-May, and if you’re here in those months it’s also a great time to check out Amstelpark’s rhododendron display. These profusely flowering shrubs form a lush, colourful thicket under the trees and the park boasts a staggering 139 species of them. ‘Iets achter de rhododendrons gooien’ (or ‘to throw something behind the rhododendrons’) is a lesser-known Dutch saying, meaning to get rid of something quietly or hide it away. In 1971, a Dutch cabaret performer made a joke that Queen Juliana once quietly threw away presents from admirers ‘behind the rhododendrons’ at the Soestdijk Palace, and so the phrase was born.
If you’re looking for a moment of quiet contemplation, the park also offers a Japanese garden in commemoration of the special relationship between Japan and the Netherlands. Here you can find arrangements of stone, gravel and bonsai trees symbolising humankind’s entwined relationship with nature. The garden also overlooks a large pond, maximising the impression of stillness and reflection. If you prefer cloister gardens, you can find a Belgian monastery garden a little further east from the Japanese one. Behind a stylised gate, box is trimmed into stocky cylinders surrounded by a square of plane trees.
For the art-lovers, Amstelpark also offers two galleries and a collection of bold sculptures. Het Glazen Huis (or The Glass House) exhibits pieces that combine technology, art and nature, often prompting questions about and possible solutions to the impending climate crisis. The Orangerie acts as a greenhouse for tropical plants for most of the year, but during the warmer months houses sculptures and paintings.
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