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Friday, August 8, 2008

Cafe Life

On Thursday evening August 7th we met up with our friend Petra (seated second from the left). Petra had suggested that we meet at an outdoor cafe along the Keizersgracht.

The center of Amsterdam is relatively small, but I found it a nice coincidence that the cafe was practically in front of the grachten house I had lived in for the month of December 1984. The Walem Cafe (seen below in a 1984 postcard but still in operation) is at address 449 Keizersgracht. I lived on the top floor of the eighth grachten house down to the left. Number 433.

(Keizersgracht 447, 449, 451)

Here is a photo taken by Joseph of the view across from our cafe on the Keizersgracht.

A swan swam up to our table begging for some appelgebak.

This 1984 postcard shows the buildings
where the Keizersgracht intersects with the Leidsegracht.

Just to the right of our cafe at number 455 is the newer "Metz" building. Four canal houses were demolished in 1891 for this newer structure with a unique tower. The round glass-enclosed penthouse on the roof was added in 1933 and designed by the renowned Dutch architect Gerrit Rietveld.

You can go up to the roof and get a nice view of the city from the Metz cafe.

Another favorite cafe that we revisited after many years was De IJsbreker (the Icebreaker) at Weesperzijde 23 along the Amstel river. This photo below was how it looked in 1920, but from the outside it looks very much the same today.

De IJsbreker was home to a small concert hall dedicated to contemporary music performance. It has an adjoining cafe where the public, performers, and composers could mingle before, after, and during concerts to consume large amounts of koffie verkeerd ("wrong" coffee) served in green cups with gold trim and strong Duvel Bier from Belgium.

It also was connected to an independent new music-friendly radio station the Concertzender. Willemien volunteered for them in the early '80s.

Today De IJsbreker cafe exists, and the coffee and appelgebak is as good as ever, but the vibrant new music scene has moved to the new and classy Muziekgebouw near the Central Station.

The "Brown Cafes" in Amsterdam are called so because of the nicotine-stained walls, but with the new smoking ban that just went in effect this summer, we found all public spaces to be smoke-free.

This photo is of the Hoopman Irish Pub (a brown cafe) in the Leidseplein.

And yes, at the age of 16 Joseph can legally order his own beer or glass of wine.

Even for those who live in Amsterdam their entire lives, it is unlikely that they could visit all of the cafes in the city. But it would be fun to try.