Amsterdam Day 4

It’s overcast today and some cooler. No rain as yet.

Sunday has a decidedly quieter feeling about the old town, as at 9 am, the streets are deserted. We walked over to the Bloemenmarkt area for breakfast, but by the time we arrived, the walkway along the Bloemenmarkt was bustling with shoppers and sightseers. The Bloemenmarkt is a huge display of flowers, plants, bulbs of all types. It’s amazing to see how such beautiful flowers grow from the ugly bulbs that give them life.

Two hours later, we’re headed for lunch at the Pancake Bakery, Dutch style pancakes. It is a single cake, the size of a large dinner plate, but thin like a crepe. My pancakes are apples and Grand Marnier.

From one place to eat to another, as we head for our cheese and wine tasting at Reypenear.

After the tasting event, we make our way down to our canal tour. The captain has a large computer screen with a GPS display of all the canals. Lots of houseboats, which are part of the solution to Amsterdam’s housing problems. Houseboats prices (ca ~300k€) are less than apartments (that have less space). Though some of these abodes leave a lot to be desired in terms of outward appearance, others are quite nice. A lot of the value of the houseboat is in the value of the mooring spot. Yup, you can rent them, and there’s apparently a houseboat hotel and a houseboat B&B. I think I’ll stay dryland.

Viewed from the water, the city comes into a different perspective. You appreciate the architecture of the canal buildings, old, new and repurposed, and life along the water.

You won’t see any skyscrapers in central Amsterdam;aside from churches, 15 stories is probably tops for modern buildings for height. There are some larger new buildings on the outer perimeter of the city, like the Ministry of Justice, modern hotels and apartments. The boat takes us to the outer periphery of the canal system and we see a very modern building called the Eye. Preservation of the canal district as it was originally designed is what made Amsterdam be selected as a world Heritage city.

‘In the 13th century Amsterdam was a small fishing village on the banks of the Amstel River and its mouth on the IJ, an arm of the Zuiderzee inlet. The name comes from the combination of Amstel and Dam, the latter word indicating a dyke or dam built to hold back the sea. This earth levee was also used to carry traffic and was extended by a bridge over the Amstel, made toll-free by a decision of the Count of Holland, Floris V. Amsterdam was proclaimed a city in 1306. ‘

We hear that there is a greater than 1:1 ratio of bikes to people. 900,000 bikes for 850,000 people. The parking for bikes at Centraal Station is typically about 9,000 bicycles; there’s a parking garage for them. And if you are a visitor, there are plenty to choose from to rent. One thing you become acutely aware of as a pedestrian in Amsterdam , is to look for bicycles coming from either direction down the street, or coming up behind you. Motorbikes also use the bike path, but at least with them, you hear them coming.

Driving must be a challenge here. Except for the larger boulevards, most of the streets are one-way (because they are narrow ), and parking along the canal, if it’s parallel, seems a bit hazardous. Most sections have no blocks or rails between the edge of the parking spot and the canal. Between narrow streets, bicycles, pedestrians, and trams, I think a driver has a challenge on their hands.

After noon, things liven up and the crowds return to the streets. I’m surprised to see the big retail stores open on Sunday; in Germany and Austria, these would be closed. As we’re walking down the Prinzengracht (gracht=canal) , we come to the Anne Frank House, which we visited many years (>25) ago. We’re surprised to see they’ve built a modern facade around the house and the line to get in must be several hours long (the museum isn’t really that large); there were several hundred people in line. It’s definitely worth a visit, but you should come early and buy your tickets online (which didn’t exist when we came!).

Tomorrow, we have an early train to London from Amsterdam, through Brussels.

Vaarwel Amsterdam! Mooie stad. Graag tot Zions! (Thanks Google).

Photos on Flickr

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