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July 26th, 2007

amsterdam oosterpark_5


Off the beaten (tourist) path is Oosterpark, part of the grounds adjoining the Tropenmuseum. This museum and the nearby Artis Zoo are the area’s only tourist attractions, so you will find a quiet setting here. Also, Oosterpark is in a culturally rich neighborhood, and might just be the best park in Amsterdam to meet local Hollanders of all stripes. Its formal garden and lake (whose topography resembles a duck blowing up a balloon, but perhaps that’s only my imagination), make Oosterpark a nice chill-out park.

amsterdam oosterpark_1Oosterpark stages a few festivals and concerts during Amsterdam’s summer season (the Amsterdam Roots Festival is held here every June). You’re likely to find something going on in the park every couple weeks. Yet the park is large enough to find seclusion away from festival crowds, if that’s not what you’re looking for. A broad walkway circles the lake, with spokes branching from it across meadows and through tree groves.

Part of the lake has wide open vistas, where Amsterdam’s architecture thrusts into the sky behind the trees. The Tropenmuseum spire sort of draws you toward it from afar. At the narrow end of the lake the trees grow close to the water, where flowering edgewater plants attract the many varieties of migratory fowl. I particularly like Oosterpark’s photogenic qualities. At sunset, you can capture any number of colorful perspectives across the lake from different paths. In autumn, the changing leaves bring photographers and artists to the park to work on beautiful landscape pieces.

I think an important part of any chill-out park is its paths: are they made for strolling, or will you find yourself bouncing off people like a pinball? Um…Oosterpark has a little of both, parks are, after all used for recreation. Oosterpark has cut-through paths on which you might feel like an ant at a picnic. Otherwise, numerous paths lead away from crowds and into stretches of grassy fields or shady lanes.

Pets are a part of European life, and when you travel to urban destinations you must get used to dodging dogs walking along the streets behind their caregivers. I’ve mostly found European mutts well behaved. Parks are part of this dodge, but mostly the mutts are out in the fields chasing balls. I bring this up regarding Oosterpark because as a diverse park, there are dog-friendly and dog-free zones.

Oosterpark holds many interesting sculptures. Each is metal, mostly abstract pieces that portray different looks depending on the weather or how the sun hits them. One statues honors Albert, a sheepdog famous for helping the Amsterdam Police Department track down more than 200 fugitives. Another statue commemorates Holland’s slave history.

amsterdam oosterpark_3Family Activities in Oosterpark
Wide open lawns and shady trees make Oosterpark a good place for a group gathering. Hey, try doing something you would only think of doing at home: have a picnic in a foreign park! There’s room enough for baseball, soccer, frisbee and football. Think about organizing a pickup game with the locals. You’ll make international friends and memories that overreach all those museums you’ve walked through.

In the hot summer months, a children’s wading pool is open near the Tropenmuseum. And speaking of which, the museum houses an interesting anthropological collection about the cultural world in the tropics.

(read more about Oosterpark’s highlights here)

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