If you’re visiting Amsterdam right now — or at least any time before September 6, 2015 — you’ll have a fantastic opportunity to bring home some unique, panoramis photos of the city.
But in order to do so you will have to ascend a challenging set of stairs to a temporary terrace on top of the Old Church in the Red Light District.
It’s quite a climb, but you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views across the entire city.
The platform is an art installation.
Officially titled, “The Garden Which is Nearest to God,” the project is the work of Japanese artist Taturo Atzu (formerly known as Tatzu Nishi, Tatsuro Bashin, Tazro Niscino, and TatzuOozu).
He specializes in ‘art’ that allows people to access areas normally closed to the public — in this case to one of the largest roof surfaces in Europe, which graces the oldest building in Amsterdam.
Needless to say, Atzu’s projects are controversial.
Defacing a beautiful, 800-year old building like the Oude Kerk with construction scaffolding and a rather minimalist (dare I say ugly? yes!) observation platform isn’t my idea of art either.
In fact, this is the kind of surrealistic art I dislike with a passion.
But there I was, on a beautiful summer day. I had just discovered that my favorite chocolate supplier, Puccini Bomboni, had closed its shop in a lean-to at the Old Church.1
Looking up at the church, I could see the ugly terrace, and on a whim I decided to go and take a look.
The scaffolding stairs are at the corner closest to the bridge across the Oudezijds voorbugwal canal, but the tickets — at €10 per person — must be bought at the entrance to the church, about 30 meters further.
“Do you know where to start climbing?” the lady at the register asked while handing me my ticket.
“Sure,” I said, “At the bottom.”
By the way, I lived and worked in this neighborhood for five years back in the Seventies — at a Christian Youth Hostel, by the way.
At that time, the Red Light District was still very much controlled by all manner of small- and big time crooks. Police did not really have a grip on the situation.
There were lots of fights, and a lot of crime — not to mention the fact that the area was overrun by drug dealers and junkies.
The project is controversial for reasons I won’t go into right now.
But I will mention this: compared to the mid-Seventies, this famous/infamous district currently looks and ‘feels’ more like Disneyland than like the ‘seedy’ area some travel writers like to describe.
How to get to Oude Kerk (Old Church)
This map show walking routes to Oude Kerk from Central Station, Dam Square or Nieuwmarkt.
Looking for something to do before or after your visit to the Oude Kerk? Check out nearby Nieuwmarkt!
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