How wonderful to discover that the lovely guest room overlooking church spires and rooftops across old Amsterdam was actually part of a co-operative community called ANOTEIESBREE. Located within a narrow, terra cotta red, six floor apartment building of maybe thirty or forty apartments altogether, Anoteiesbree is also the name of their street that runs down to the Square.
On the 1st July this year, this little community of thirteen dwellings will gather on the roof terrace to celebrate its twenty-seventh birthday. All singles, two men and eleven women, they typically share a meal as a community about once a month. Some have their own washing machines but most use the washing machines upstairs and the driers too.
The opportunity was created back when community resistance prevented the demolishing of some of these old buildings to make way for a bigger road through this part of town. In the wash-up of that action the Amsterdam Council agreed to build some affordable housing for seniors and Elise Heyligers grabbed the offer and spear-headed the formation of a housing co-operative.
They do have a selection criteria and a seldom-used process. This is a very, very stable community. Notwithstanding their stability they have, over their nearly twenty-seven years, experienced some sticking points with differing attitudes, some budgeting issues and Elise mentioned ‘awareness’ and the ‘need to build knowledge’.
Some members of the community do some lovely things together too, like catching a train out of Amsterdam and taking a walk out into the sand dunes in the hope of hearing the Nightingales sing. Elise keeps very active and busy.
And right over the road was the ‘Record Friend’ Elpees shop, to the left 150 metres was Rembrandt’s house and studio and to the right, the Square on the way to Central Station.
This extraordinary location was a perfect home-base and enabled much easier excursions out to Eindhoven to see meet Peter Bakker at Lismortel Cohousing and to Steigerland to meet Hein de Hann at Vreiburcht Cohousing Community.
And of course, mooching around the cobbled streets of central Amsterdam, along the canals past all the wonderful old buildings, boats, bicycles, with people everywhere enjoying the warmth of the sun as Winter receded and Summer was arriving.
The square in the centre of old Amsterdam hosts a Saturday morning farmers market. There were some people promoting worm farms there. Tourists milling around. A great sense of space – community space.
Elise extended her hospitality to include breakfast in her apartment a couple of times and it was delightful to be able to reciprocate by taking her out one or twice too.
Happy to loan me her bike she also suggested a bike ride out for lunch one day.
So the next Sunday morning, being a sunny Spring day with no wind at all, we cycled out through the streets and along the canals lined with houseboats and houses on barges and boats of all kinds, past locks and bridges that can be raised to let boats in and out.
Old Amsterdam architecture, buildings that lean, window shutters fixed open, baskets and pots of flowers, wisteria and bright geraniums, cafés bustling and waiters carrying trays of coffees to their customers across the cobbled road.
Very soon out of the city, we were following the Amstrel River after which Amsterdam is named, through rural scenes of thatched barns and old farm houses, animals, wide green paddocks lush with grass and “fenced” by small canals. A group of cows all lying down in the sun, a few spotted lambs running around and hassling their mums. Blossoms filling the air with perfume, banks of flowers whether weeds or herbs, they are lovely. Women pick them and carry them in their wicker bicycle baskets. Young men carry bunches of roses – well it is Mothers Day here too. Past some extremely wealthy houses, with extremely expensive cars out the front and, on the riverside, some very nicely appointed barges. Cycling along on top of the dyke, the river level is higher than the surrounding land. This is Holland.
We lunched at the little village of Kerkbrug on the water about 15 km from ‘home’ in the centre of Amsterdam and enjoyed conversation.
Elise spoke about her early life in Indonesia, about the Japanese invasion when she was a little girl and what happened to her family, and what happened to their home and possessions while the Germans were occupying their homeland back in Holland. She is a remarkable woman – eighty-three years young with a lot of extraordinary life experiences and accomplishments and currently writing her third book. Elise led the way home eager to get into the rest of her day.
Amsterdam continued to enthral. The view from the eyrie of Anoteiesbree never paled. Visiting the home and studio of Rembrandt was extraordinary. The flowers, the boats, the locks and old bridges, the water and the reflections, the architecture, the street lamps, the galleries, the sights, the colours, the sound of the street drifting in through the guest-room window.
All way too much for five days and Amsterdam is begging for a longer stay.
Elise has offered her eyrie again and it may be an offer too good to refuse.
Heartfelt thanks in Dutch is pronounced “HEART-a-luck buh-DANKT”
Hartelijk bedankt, Elise.