Amsterdam, a day of wandering

Guatemala Mission Trips                      Australia New Zealand Cruise March 2010

         John Knox Mission Trips           

       Nicaragua Mission Trip Nov. 2011

London to New York Transatlantic Sept. 2009                         Europe August 2010



    In Schiphol Airport, a representative from the AMA cruise company was waiting with our name on his sign, and he took us to Maureen and Dave, from California, who had arrived just earlier.  We had the whole bus to ourselves as they took us to the Amalyra to drop off our luggage.  They gave us maps of Amsterdam and some basic tips, and we set off wandering.  Carol and I headed toward the Anne Frank house, never got to see it due to the non-moving who-knew-how-long-it-was line, and we were pretty pooped by then, because the map was not accurate or to scale; we still saw a lot, but we missed the red-light district that many others did see.

Amsterdam, the Venice of the North, is really only @ 800 years old.  Many think that the buildings are sinking, but their facades are purposely tilted forward to aid in water drainage. There are @750,000 people and over 1,000,000 bicycles.  We saw a good many of them, and learned quickly to walk in the WHITE section of the sidewalks.

Notice the building is built OVER the older one

How many bridges can you see in the distance?

    The gabled houses on the Canal Ring are Amsterdam's most picture-perfect historic feature. Starting in the 16th century, the tops of these narrow houses were richly ornamented with gables in various styles. This architecture garnish was the result of a tariff system that taxed width along the waterfront. To get the most bang for their gulden, houses were built on long, narrow lots, angled for optimum floor space, and with the slimmest side facing the canal. However, roof points had to be built facing the street full on; to hide the angle of the house, artists were asked to camouflage with decorative gables in the form of steps, vase necks, extended bottle necks, bells, and elegantly framed decorative pictures. Gable styles came and went, so the type of gable reflects how old a house is.

    The Brouwersgracht (brewers' canal) has colorful house fronts harking back to Amsterdam's first economic impulse, which was the right to tax and brew beer from grains traded with medieval Hansestad cities in Northern Europe. Some gables show what different merchant companies had stored—grain, wood, gold, and coffee. Others have symbolic pictorial decorations and many carry the merchant family's shield. The gabled houses on the Keizersgracht (Emperor's canal) are altogether different, as fabulously wealthy 18th-century noblemen decorated their double houses in a grander, sober style reminiscent of palaces of the Holy Roman Empire.

One thing all canal houses have in common is the hook in the gable, oftentimes with a pulley wheel and rope hanging from it. This handy manual elevator system was developed from medieval shipping tactics and helps to avoid moving bulky goods up the precariously steep staircases. Boxes, pianos, couches or whatever are winched up using the rope and pulley, and hauled in through exceptionally wide windows.

Four different gables in a row

right across the street from our boat

And we’re off to the train station, on our way to the Anne Frank House that we chose not to wait in line for.