09 February 2008

Amsterdam Bijlmer

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I work in Amsterdam Bijlmer. That's pronounced BILE-mer. It's in south eastern Amsterdam, on the far side of the city if you're coming from Haarlem. The Bijlmer was built up in the 1960s with public housing to accommodate Amsterdam's growing immigrant population. Most people who come to Amsterdam only see the beautiful center and every popular Red Light District. It can be hard to believe that there is an entire section of the city built up of apartment blocks. Recently, a local artist has made the Bijlmer the subject of a year-long documentary project. Her blog in Dutch, but the images she creates and records are quite interesting.

If you are from the Netherlands, you probably know about the Bijlmer because of the Bijlmer Ramp or Biljmer disaster. On October 4, 1992, an El-Al cargo jet crashed into one of the apartment buildings, destroying 266 apartments and claiming 43 lives. The official death toll remains contested because of the number of illegal residents living in the apartments. No one will ever know how many of them perished in the crash. The Amsterdam City Archives has a film clip showing the fire, resulting damage, and visits from Queen Beatrix and then Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers.

Today, the Bijlmer is undergoing some changes. They are nearly finished with the new train station. Although its connections to Amsterdam Central are a bit weak at only twice an hour, it is quite a sight. Have a look at some pictures by a train station fan. The train station will make it easier to attend their annual festival, Kwakoe. It's the "biggest multicultural festival in the Netherlands," held every July and August. For now, though, I'm guessing that the reason most people choose to go to the Bijlmer is to attend a concert of Ajax football game at the ArenA.

Me, I'll just keep telling people about my local favorite Surinamese sandwich shop. Nothing like the multicultural center of a city for good food!

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