Across the IJ

The satellite map on the tiny screens on our plane’s screen didn’t show the river IJ. Our house faces it. In less than 4 months we’ve come from not knowing about the very existance of this large body of flowing water to loving it. While returning from work, I had seen blue GVB ferries cross the IJ and spew people on foot, people on bicycles and motorbikes and even people in tiny electric cars, near the north exit of Centraal station. I knew I had to get on one.

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Me and my wife did some research online and on an idle weekend, boarded the ferry with the longest route. We kept looking for a place to swipe in our transport cards and didn’t find any. Once on the ferry, we tried to locate someone from whom we could buy the tickets. We eventually realized that the ferries are free - and for a good reason too - the longest ride lasts just 10-15 minutes.

Our first ferry ride was to NDSM Werf. While we knew that nothing that would interest tourists exists there, we found the reality starker than what we had expected. There were a few large (decidedly ugly) office buildings and this being a weekend they were all eerily quiet. The geek in me did get a little carried away looking at this map…

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…but we found no sprawling shops selling any of these things.

We also ran into these houses made entirely out of shipping containers and wondered what it must be like to live in one:

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We’d like to think ourselves as minimalists, but this is pushing it a bit too far even by our standards.

If you want a longer and faster ride in the water, you can take a ride to IJ Muiden in Connexion’s (the other public transport company here) Flying Fast Ferry. Unlike the GVB ferries it’s not free and costs about € 8.25 for a day return trip. The 60-80 Km/h ride takes about 40 minutes. Right next to the ferry’s docking station is a bus stop from where you can catch a Connexion bus to the beach. Unfortunately, we were there on a day when the strong winds kept blasting sand into our eyes and made it impossible for us to reach the beach. Having traveled this far, we weren’t to give up so easily. A few meters away from the beach, we ran into lake Kennemermeer. The tiny lake with its tiny waves looked like a miniature sea:

Nearby, at a mooring spot, hundreds of sailboats and yatchs were parked. They shook and creaked in the strong wind.

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The tattered flag of a certain casino, ironically called Fair Play, fluttered violently in the wind - as if warning people of the ills of gambling.

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Our next ferry trip - again in the free GVB Ferry - lasted barely 5 minutes and got us to IJplien. A short walk from here is the Noordwall (north wall?) - a low wall where you can sit with your feet dangling a few feet above the water and watch ducks, ships and other interesting thing pass you by. It’s very windy here on most days and the combination of wind and large ships works up waves that make quite some racket when they hit this wall. Not a bad use of your time on a warm, sunny, Sunday.

August 30, 2011