Amsterdam: City of Boats and Bikes

We flew from Edinburgh to Amsterdam because it was less expensive than the train and only took an hour.  From now until almost the end of our trip, the official language will no longer be English.  We’ll see how we do!  The busy city of Amsterdam is an interesting place to walk.  If you’re in the streets, you have to watch for bicycles coming from every direction.  The bikes, not the cars or pedestrians, have the right of way, and boy, do they act like it!  At one point, Bill was walking down the sidewalk after a harrowing trip across the street,  and the bikes, frustrated with the cars taking up the entire road, began riding onto the sidewalk, ringing their bells to warn the pedestrians to leap out of the way. It’s definitely dangerous to be “just” a pedestrian in Amsterdam!

We took a cruise down the three main canals in Amsterdam:  Herengracht, Prinsengracht, and Keizergracht.  The canals were dug in the 1600s in concentric circles around a city of trade built on marshland next to the Rhine River.  All of the buildings had to be built on stilts so they wouldn’t flood, and the farther away from the center part of town, the “higher class” the inhabitants.  Needless to say, we saw the museums of marijuana and prostitution (yes, there are really museums — and active business — for both) set in their respective neighborhoods near Herengracht, very close to the Amsterdam Centraal train station, while the houses of the wealthy were near the Keizergracht, in more of the “outskirts” of town.  In case you’re wondering:  No, we did not choose to experience either of the above mentioned museums OR businesses.

What part of the architecture shows the “higher class?” First, the height of the buildings.  The more floors, the better.  Taxes are paid on the width of the building, not the length, so houses in any neighborhood are narrow in the front but as tall and deep as possible.  If they couldn’t afford to make a house any taller, they would make the doors super tall and the windows on each floor smaller than the floor below.  That way, someone looking at their house from below would get the illusion that they were seeing the top windows from so much farther away.  Genius!  We noticed there was kind of a “Dr. Seuss” look to some of the buildings in Amsterdam.  We couldn’t quite put a finger on why they looked a little different than tall buildings in Denver.  Then we discovered that this look is real:  The buildings are tilting more and more because they were built on foundation stilts of concrete that are now sinking and wood that is now rotting.  The Dutch value symmetry so much that the residents, lacking a better solution, will even build false fronts between buildings so the tilt isn’t as obvious.

We only saw a fraction of the over a hundred kilometers of canals, 90 islands, and 1,500 bridges in the city that first night, and then we collapsed in our bed at Il Fiore Hotel and fell into a deep slumber, in spite of the joyful sounds of a nearby tavern in a city that never sleeps.

Bill’s Lodging Review:

In Amsterdam, we stayed in Hotel Il Fiore.  It was a short distance from the train station and on a side street one block from one of the many canals. This was a nice location.  It was easy to walk around Amsterdam.  Restaurants, bakeries, and grocery stores were all very close.  The room was nice, and the staff was nicer.  The reception clerk walked us all the way up to the room, showed us how everything worked, and assured us that the bottles of water left there were complimentary.  He also gave us a map, marked it for what we wanted to see, and gave us recommendations.  At night, the few people at the restaurant across the street where unusually loud, but I guess we were tired enough to fall asleep anyway.  The room was small but adequant for the two of us.  We would definitely choose it for our Amsterdam housing again!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: