Reliving history at Fort Nieuw Amsterdam
Fort Nieuw Amsterdam is located at the junction of the Suriname river and the Commewijne river. It was supposed to be a barricade to protect the crops from the river between 1734 to 1747. The materials for construction were supplied by the Netherlands and built by the slaves. It was also a former sugar cane plantation. In the second world war, the Americans along with the Dutch helped defend Suriname from the Germans. The Germans were interested in the supply of aluminum from Suriname.
Suriname maintained the fort and made it an outdoor museum for people to explore and learn about the colonial and slavery period.
HOW TO GET THERE:
Paramaribo to Nieuw Amsterdam: From the center, we took a 10 to 15-minute taxi ride going to Leonsberg ferry port for 25-30 SRD (4 US) and a 10-minute ferry ride to Nieuw Amsterdam for 50 SRD (7 US). 50 SRD is the standard rate for the whole boat, so the more passengers, the cheaper.
From the Nieuw Amsterdam (Commewijne) waterfront, we had a short 5-minute walk going to the fort and passed by several American cannons along the way. It is a lot easier if you have a bicycle to ride around the area. Some tourists would rent a bike in the city and bring it with them on the ferry.
STROLLING ALONG THE FORT
We paid an entrance fee of 12.50 SRD (1.50 US) and were welcomed by a group of nicely arranged cannons, mortars and cannon balls near the gate.
The next attraction in the fort is the kruitkamer or the old powder room. It was used as a storehouse for gun powders, but when the Dutch realized that it was too small for storage, they converted it as an ammunition warehouse.
A collection of memorabilia: old photos of soldiers and veterans along with their stories are kept inside the building.
Just on the left side of the kruitkamer are funeral coaches or hearses from the 19th century. During a funeral, the color of the hearse would depend on the social status of the deceased. Locals said that a black hearse was used by the poor while the white one was for the rich.
There are also large sugar kettles or kappas scattered all over the place. In the plantation period, slaves were forced to cook sugar canes in these big iron pots by constant stirring until it produce sugar.
The trail to the right led to a renovated plantation house. Unfortunately, the building was closed and there’s nothing much to see in there.
We came to a Dutch-designed building that was completed in 1778, it was used as the second gunpowder storehouse. There was an exposition about slavery in the building. What also made this building attractive are the big lily pads floating next to it.
There are canals around the fort that serve as a dwelling place for snakes and crocodiles, so it is best to avoid these areas. Some visitors were advised to wear protected boots before going to the fortress, but for those who were not informed, it is still best to stay away from such spots. Don’t worry, it’s not that bad.
This building was changed into a detention camp in 1872. The Germans that were captured when their ship sank during the World War II and a number of people from the Dutch colonies in India were imprisoned here. In 1967, it became a correctional facility. There are four isolation rooms where prisoners were confined as punishment. It has a wooden plank that served as a bed and one small window. Those who were placed in the isolation room wore only their underwear and were kept there for 7 days with bread and water to eat.
The rooms are now used as multimedia exhibit halls about slavery and plantation houses in Suriname.
Behind the fort are cottages where visitors can relax and have picnics. There is also a small playground for children to enjoy. It is like reliving the past and at the same time enjoying the beauty of the surroundings.
Most of the information provided in the area was written in Dutch, the rest in English. The outdoor museum allows people to look back at one of the most interesting parts of Suriname history. For history buffs, this is a place you should not miss.
GOING BACK TO THE CITY
Nieuw Amsterdam to Paramaribo: We decided to take the bus from the fort with a 10-minute walk to the bus stop. The bus comes every now and then, so you don’t have to wait that long. From Nieuw Amsterdam (Commewijne) to Meerzorg Terminal took about 30 to 45 minutes and we only paid 2.25 SRD per person.
We waited for quite some time at the terminal because the bus needs to be full before it can leave. It took us another 10 to 15-minute bus ride (depending on the traffic) from Meezorg to Paramaribo (downtown) for a 0.85-cent fare. All in all, we spent around 70 SRD (10 US) going to Nieuw Amsterdam and only 3.10 SRD going back. Taking the bus back and forth is a lot cheaper and fun, but it is crowded and will take a long time to get to your destination.
Location: Wilhelminastraat, New Amsterdam, Commewijne, Suriname
Opening time: Weekdays: 09:00am to 5:00pm; Saturday, Sunday and holidays: 10:00am to 6:00pm