Our blog - Amsterdam 2006

We went to Amsterdam over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. It was a little chilly as you can imagine "up North" in November, but it was still nice enough to explore the city on foot.

Most people know about Amsterdam because of Anne Frank, and the house that she and her family hid in is now a museum in Amsterdam. We took the museum tour, although we don't have any pictures to put here of it. It was quite interesting to walk through and see the different rooms, including her room where the pictures she put on the wall were still there.

Of course, Amsterdam is known for its' canals. There are many canals criss-crossing through the city. Remember that most of Amsterdam is actually under sea level, so in many cases, the ground that has been built on has been "reclaimed" by building dams and canals, and pumping water out of the area that is to be reclaimed. This is a typical canal. You can see the boats on the canals and these are houses that people live in. As you go around, you see two different types: those that are actually boats which have been turned into a house (the first one on the left) and those that look just square, which is a house specifically built to be on the canal (the next one down).

Now we'll get into pictures of the canal houses themselves. The houses in and around the canals fall into a couple of categories: those that are thin and tall, and those that are very grand, which were the homes of the rich merchants. This picture shows the first kind; the tall and thin houses. An interesting characteristic of these houses is the gable, and you can see that they are in many cases quite decorated and different.

This is one of the more grand houses, which was the house of a wealthy merchant in the 17th century. We toured a house that is now a museum to see the interior. It had a courtyard out behind along with the carriage house. This one, we decided to photograph because of the heads. If you look at door-level, you can see ladies heads go across the front of the house. It also has a very elaborate facade and gable.

Yet another gable, this one with Poseidon riding on a fish on either side of the top. Another thing to look at is the furniture hook. Between the two fish is a round window, and above it you can see the hook. Amsterdam houses are very thin and tall, and the staircase is just large enough for a single person and winds up through the house. There is NO way you are getting furniture and boxes moved in through the stairs. Every house will have a hook mechanism like this built into the gable. When you move in, they hoist the belongings up to a window on the right floor using this hook.

This is the Royal Palace in Amsterdam (Het Koninklijk Paleis te Amsterdam) at Dam square, which is the broadest square in the old section of the town. The building was finished in 1655 and it was built on marshy soil, so there are 13,659 pilings sunk into the marsh to hold the building.

About 10 miles out of town is the town of Zaanse Schans, which contains a small village of working windmills and restored wooden houses dating from the 17th and 18th centuries. There are a few little craft huts where you can see people making various things, like cheese, bread, and clogs.

This is a picture of some of the windmills that are there. These are working windmills which do various tasks. Initially, windmills were used to pump water out so that the ground could be used for other things, since it is so wet. They also were used for things such as grinding wheat and pigments to make colors. One of the things that we heard (that I didn't know before) was that the top of the windmill moves, so that the windmill paddles can be directed the correct way depending on the wind direction.

Here is the clog maker, making a set of wooden shoes. They said that most people still have a set of wooden shoes, which they really only wear outside in the mud. They slip them on, go out into the mud (yard or garden) and then when they come back, they leave the muddy wooden shoes outside and slip out of them. They also show some "special" clogs that are used for things such as weddings, which were very elaborately carved. He went through the different steps that someone would use to create the wooden shoes. The guy was quite a linguist. Our tour had both English and Spanish, so he would do his talk in both languages. In addition, there was another tour bus there with their own Japanese translator. A few times here and there, the guy would throw in a phrase or two in Japanese (or I assume Japanese, since the other tour would laugh!).

Our hotel was near the flower market and this is one of the stores in that market. Note the number of tulips for sale (and the price ... 50 tulips for 10 euros!!!).