Even before I’ve met my husband, seeing Amsterdam is already on my bucket list. I love how different this city is and how unique the architecture you’ll see once you walked through the narrow cobbled-streets of Amsterdam. Oh yes, the bikes are another thing ! The first time I’ve visited Amsterdam and looked from the plane’s window, I was totally surprised by how different the landscape compared to the “brown, desert scapes” I saw when I first I came to Kuwait. Holland is flat as Kuwait, but at least with green landscapes.
Yes, The Netherlands is a flat country same as Kuwait, no mountains or valleys. Literally, about 27% of the country lies below sea level and tracing back the history, very prone to flooding.This fascinating country of my Dutch man falls into three natural topography, the dunes, the lowlands or “polders” , and the higher eastern section of the country. But Holland is not only world renowned by bicycles, colors, thru Van Gogh and Rembrandt, or from its Tulips spectacle, but also with its capital landmark ; the remarkable Gable, and leaning houses along the canals of Amsterdam.
“A leaning standpoint “, this is my first impression when I saw how crooked and odd the houses looked in a row. Some houses appear not to be standing straight, some really are!
When I explored Amsterdam and walked along the canals,even with a toddler in a tow, I really noticed that some of the houses are tilted, and wondered why. Maybe they just follow the previous pattern of houses. I know that it’s not only me, most of the tourists observed this. It was hard taking a decent photo if you follow an aligned perspective.Amsterdam houses are leaning forward, they tilt to one side and some look like they might fall over. The vibes in this beautiful city is really wonderful, very diverse and totally laid-back. I could spent hours and hours walking on the small alleys, admiring the quaint cafe and shops, and the details of the houses. Everything is just so pretty!
Amsterdam has more than one hundred kilometers of canals and its charming Canal District holds the city’s hidden gems; elegant canal-side mansions. From research, I’ve learned that the cost of living in Amsterdam is high, let alone renting an apartment along the canals. Amsterdam is known for its luxurious canal houses and it’s famous for the series of canals that encircle and crisscross each other throughout the city. From 17th century, locals built their houses along the canals which also served as their business offices, the basement and attics are used to store goods to be sold.
The architecture of these houses is very unique and particular and the intricate style shows the talent the carpenters had when building them many years ago. The 17th-century canal ring area was placed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2010.
These Canal houses are known for being slim, high and having interiors that run deep. Due to the danger of flooding, the front door was usually built higher up and only reachable via stairs. The floor of the main story was a few steps above street level for this same reason. One of the things that stands out in Amsterdam are the big windows and charming gabled façades, many houses that seemed tiny from the outside opened up into beautiful spaces within.
It is these very gables that are an exclusive Amsterdam design! When looking up at these majestic houses, you can see that many of the gables are adorned with a hook. Although it may look like a decoration, the hook is there to enable tenants to pull large, bulky objects up and into a window at the top floor. Canal houses were built slightly leaning forward so that the gable was further out into the street, in order to make it easier to haul everything in via the hook and window. A special beam or pulley installation would be located in the attic to hoist up valuable goods. You can see this method being used today as the pulleys are still used for moving furniture in and out of houses.
Also,many old Amsterdam houses are leaving forward towards to the street. This leaning is not an accident. Amsterdam houses were built leaning forward intentionally! In Dutch this is called ‘op de vlucht bouwen’. Amsterdam was a typical ‘staple port’. This is a place where merchants make money by trading all kinds of goods that enter into the city, usually by boat. And speaking of boats, there are so many boat houses in the canals, most were privately owned and adding to the “charm” of the rings of canals flowing all throughout the city.
The thing about Dutch houses is that the large open windows don’t have any curtains, which guarantees zero privacy. The sheer size of them and complete lack of drapes illustrates the openness of Dutch society and how its people show that they have nothing to hide. Having one’s possessions out in the open for everyone to see isn’t very common, with many closing their curtains at night for privacy or security reasons. This idea of transparency is a key social element and shows how comfortable they are with being completely open.
Throughout the centuries, the phased expansions of the city of Amsterdam were thoroughly planned. The plots of land along the 3 main 17th century canals (Herengracht, Keizersgracht, Prinsengracht) were initially quite small. Each plot was 5 to 7 meters in width. Probably they chose to divide the land this way because that way, a maximum amount of houses has an entrance on the waterfront, the most important means of transportation in the late 16th century.
Amsterdam houses might seem narrow, but they are quite deep. In the back there is a large garden hidden from view and often the rich had a carriage house in the back.If you want to experience a chance of “Dutch’s Gezelligheid”, take a peek of their lifestyle the next time you roam around and walk through the small alleys. Amsterdam sure thing is a busy city and literally never sleeps, but you can’t afford to miss the beauty that this city holds!
Have you visited Amsterdam? What do you like from your travels?