Monday, 28 May 2018

Amsterdam

I have just returned from a week in Amsterdam with my husband and some friends. Having enjoyed a visual feast of museums and art galleries that delivered one delight after another (more of those in future posts), we are left wondering why we have never visited the city before.

While I process what we saw, this post gives my general impressions only of a relaxed and lively city with much to absorb and amuse. First of all, is a large open space behind the Rijksmuseum, full of people from all over the world enjoying warm sunny weather in a friendly and uplifting place.


Then, there were the canals and bridges. We had of course expected them but were surprised to discover after interrogating Google that, with its 100 km of canals and its huge harbour area, Amsterdam is 'the most watery city in the world', more so even than Venice. It has great charm and boasts 1281 bridges of all shapes and sizes.



But the most surprising impression that we have been left with is of bicycles everywhere and, new-commers beware, ridden at great speed and some personal risk on pavements and bike lanes by Amsterdammers of all ages. All around the town, bikes are left in huge heaps, chained to lamposts, bike racks and anything handy. That central image shows a purpose-built mulit-storey bike park near Central Station that holds 9,000 bikes!

Google informs me that there are in fact over 880,000 bikes in Amsterdam - amazing in a city with a population of 851,000 people. This total is four times the total for cars and, apparently, 68% of traffic to and from work or school is by bike. Many bikes (between 12,000 and 15,000 a year) end up in the canals by one means or another and have to be fished out at regular intervals by Waternet, the Dutch Waterways Agency. Bike fishing has been described as one of Amsterdam's unique tourist attractions. All extraordinary and no photo quite does justice to the impressive melée on roads and pavements which results.

The medieval area of the city is quite fascinating.


Every building lining the canals and the streets, though built of the same red brick, is unique in design. Many are very narrow indeed as tax was payable based on the width of the houses' street access. Some lean irregularly owing to the fact that all the houses were built on wooden piles sunk into the mud. Others lean slightly forward as it was thought this made them look bigger than their neighbours. Some are painted and have shutters and all have amazing gables and / or decorated fascades to echo the profession of the original inhabitants. It all makes for a wonderful and eclectic mix of styles which we greatly enjoyed.

The area round our hotel was more recent in age but still fascinating.


Although we didn't have time to venture outside the city on this visit, we spotted a distant windmill on our way to the Maritime Museum. Having gone all the way to Australia two years ago and not seen a single wild kangaroo, this was very satisfying!


We noticed this endearing piece of  quirkiness in a tree beside the canal near the Leidseplein (that's a miniature saw he's holding),


... and this large plastic cow and her calf on the sloping roof of a house boat.


We stayed with our friends in this charming small hotel on a quiet street within walking distance of the Museum Quarter and and were looked after most kindly.


All in all, it was a very pleasant time.


6 comments:

  1. I will never get to Amsterdam so enjoyed this taste of the city, particularly the architecture. I've seen some pics before of the way the buildings are so narrow and crammed together, but some of your photos are darn near claustrophobic! Lovely detail on them though and I smile at the ones with the iconic "bonnets" that I now realize are very similar to some antique highboy styles, probably from the same period. Glad you had such a good time.

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    1. Thanks for your comment, Sheila. It was a fascinating trip. We loved the houses, especially the crooked quirkiness of the very thin ones and their individual details - but certainly wouldn't want to live in one of them. As you said, claustrophobic
      .! They were a real illustration even all those years ago of the effects of taxation on house building. Nothing changes!

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  2. la vision depuis le canal sur les maisons est très belle...

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    1. Nous avons fait deux tours en bateau sur les canals. C'etait un mode de voyager très calm et j'ai eu tout le temps de voir ces batiments extraordinaires et de les photographier de partout.

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  3. Thank you for your pictures - definitely time I returned, it has been too long. xx

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    1. A really relaxed and interesting place and so much more to see - we will definitely be going back.

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