Before I move on from Amsterdam, I’d like to tell you a bit about what I learned while there on Oct. 15 & 16th. We took a canal cruise and listened to the tour guide, who gave us lots of interesting information about the history of the city and about many of the buildings, including the different types of gables used in construction. Unfortunately, since it had been raining earlier, the windows were so fogged up we were unable to take any photos from the sightseeing boat.
We learned that Amsterdam has approx. 760,000 people and 49% of them have a foreign background. The country is not, nor was it ever, called “Holland,” but there is a state within the country called North Holland, as well as another called South Holland. The Rhine Canal (which is the canal on which our ship, the Avalon Vista, sailed toward the Rhine River) is the widest sea canal in the world. It is 70 miles long, & the water in it is brackish (a mixture of sea & fresh water).
All the canals (approx. 45 miles of them) in Amsterdam were handmade. Amsterdam is often called the “Venice of the North,” not only because of its many canals (or “grachten”), but because both cities are sinking. The guide said that Amsterdam is sinking about an inch every century. Also, because of the danger of flooding, all Amsterdam’s inhabitants are obliged to take swimming lessons beginning at the age of 5.
There are about 2,500 houseboats lining the canals of Amsterdam. They are permanently moored and are connected to water and utilities. Their owners are charged an annual docking fee. They can be expensive, and no new ones are allowed in the city. The house boats, or “floating houses,” came into being after WWII, when survivors of the war returned home to find that their houses had been looted and/or ruined. They had nowhere else to go, so they moved into the boats that had been abandoned along the canals.
Amsterdam was named after the Amstel River, around which the city was built. Amsterdam’s coat of arms features a shield with three vertical stripes (red, black, & red) and three white X-shaped crosses (St. Andrew’s crosses) running down the center black stripe. The X-shapes stand for Heroic, Steadfast (or Resolute) & Merciful. Here’s a photo of the coat of arms.
In addition to the Vincent Van Gogh Museum, which opened in 1973, Amsterdam is also the home of the largest museum of art and history in The Netherlands, the Rijksmuseum. The Rijksmuseum has a collection of sculpture, engravings, Delftware porcelain, silverware, 17th century doll houses, and of course, paintings. It houses works by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Jan Steen, Frans Hals, Jacob van Ruisdael, and many others.
While in Amsterdam, Bill and I, along with Fox and Lois, decided to take Sam and Dom’s advice and visit the House of Bols, which is the oldest distillery brand in the world (since 1575). We took an interesting tour and, at the end of it, were each allowed to taste a few of their genevers and liqueurs in their mirrored-wall cocktail bar in the basement. It was a fun adventure and a tasty one at that!
Below are more of Bill’s and my photos of Amsterdam.