We’ve left Brugge and made our way by train to Amsterdam! This is another city treasure built on millions of wooden pilings, that have held up for hundreds of years! The Royal Palace sits on 13,000 pilings, still solid after 350 years! The wood pilings hold up the buildings as long as it stays wet and is not exposed to air! Since WWII all new buildings have concrete pilings driven 60 feet deep through the first layer of sand, through more mud, and then a second layer of sand. Today’s biggest buildings sit on a foundation that goes down to 120 feet deep! So now that we know we won’t be sinking any time soon, let’s explore this beautiful city of canals, lined with trees and gabled townhouses.
The Icons of Holland: Windmills, wooden shoes and tulips.
The word “Netherlands” means lowland. In medieval times, the inhabitants of the lowland along the Amstel River built a system of dikes to protect their land from flooding. Amsterdam sits like a fan spread out with four surrounding canal rings. There are more canals in Amsterdam than Venice! The icon Dutch windmills were built to to harness energy to lift the water up out of enclosed areas and divert it into the canals and drain the land. They grew hardy plants that removed the salt from the soil, slowly turning mushy marshes into fertile farmland. Later the windmills were used to turn stone wheels to grind their grain.
Why do the dutch wear wooden shoes (Klompen)? Wooden shoes allowed farmers to walk across soggy fields and were easy to find if they came off in high water, because they float!
In the 1630’s Holland was gripped with “tulip mania.” Tulips were native to Turkey, (tulip comes from the turkish word for turban.) The Holy Roman Emperor’s ambassador to Constantinople first sent bulbs westward in the mid-1500’s. The harsh soil conditions of Holland turned out to be ideal for growing tulips. Financial speculators invested wildly in these rare plants, growing and selling exotic varieties. You could buy a house with just three tulip bulbs! Later, during WWII when the people of Amsterdam were starving, they dug up and ate tulip bulbs. Dutch people are known to be among the world’s most handsome people— tall, healthy and with very good posture. Like a tulip! Tulip anyone? Now let’s explore Amsterdam! It’s another great city to get to know on foot!
There are 765,000 people in Amsterdam and just as many bikes! Everyone rides a bike here. Be very careful, look in all directions when crossing a lane!
The buildings do shift a little, all leaning on each other!
If you are very persistent and really must have a car, how about these? Such contrast!
Or maybe this is your ride?
For our stay in Amsterdam we loved the Maes B&B. We had a bedroom, living room, and a fantastic bathroom! Very close to everything and located in one of the gabled townhouses, it was a delight to see what one of these buildings looks like on the inside! Every morning we were treated to a hearty, home made, cooked breakfast, with the staff meeting our every need. It was a great stay in Amsterdam! Check it out here, Maes B&B.