September 6: Amsterdam

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is the West Tower, the tallest tower in Amsterdam, 85 meters (279 feet). The West Church was purposely built by Protestants in 1620. Rembrandt is buried here. In her diary,  Anne Frank mentions listening to this church’s bells while she was hiding in a storage building across the street.

As I write, the clock tower on the Rijksmuseum near the hotel where we are staying plays Fur Elise to announce 3:45. It plays different songs each time it rings. Luckily it does not chime during the night.

Amsterdam has 165 canals — with a combined length of 100 km (60 mi.) On this morning’s tour of the canals, I learned that 15,000 bikes are fished our of the canal annually, along with 10 cars and 51 dead bodies–mostly men who urinate in the canal, fall in, and cannot get out. Of interest, is that 50% of Amsterdam’s population is under 34 years of age and that 75% of the homes are owned by singles, maybe because they are so narrow.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe tour guides discussed Amsterdam’s architecture several times.Various forms of gables helped distinguish the old narrow buildings, as did various decorations. To the right is an example of a step gable. Other styles include spout, step, neck, bell, and cornice. Some gables include scrolls and ornamentation; others have markings that indicate what was stored in the warehouse, such as coffee, beer, meat, etc.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe red brick portion of  the tower on the left  is part of the old protective wall, Montelbaanstoren. The decorative tower and clocks were added in 1606. Since each of the four clocks did not keep accurate time, which caused the bells to ring indiscriminately–or not at all– the tower became known as “Silly Jack.” The tower now houses Amsterdam’s Department of Sewage and Water Management.

In Amsterdam, taxes are based on the width of the property, not the height. According to “The narrowest house in the world is located at Singel 7. The house is a meter (about 40 inches) wide — barely wider than its front door. But appearances can be deceiving! The Singel-facing side is actually the back of the house, and the front is much wider.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is a masthead from the replica of the 19th century merchant ship, the Amsterdam, now located at the National Maritime Museum in Amsterdam. Each year Amsterdam has a theme to attract tourist. Next year, there will be a Tall Ships Race.

Amsterdam is the second largest port in the Netherlands.  It is located on the bank of a former bay named the IJ and the North Sea Canal.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAReturning from the port, the tour boat took us on a canal where you can see seven bridges. We also traveled up the Gentleman’s canal. Here the wealthy would purchase two land plots and build one home, often with two front doors. The Herengracht is a museum depicting the homes and lifestyle of Amsterdam’s rich.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere are approximately 2500 houseboats on Amsterdam’s canal, some are made of concrete, some are slabs with what looks like a modular building, others are more elaborate. Imagine having a home where tour boats drive by all day and people are constantly peering in your windows.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter the tour, we browsed through the tulip market. Too bad these flowers don’t grow in Sarasota, they are lovely. I would love to plant some of the giant varieties.

We snacked near the market and watched as people strolled by. It seems almost every nationality was represented; Amsterdam is really an international city.



About The Author

Jane V. Blanchard

I am an award-winning author of the "Woman On Her Way" book series, writing about my travel adventures. For more information on the books, please visit I started the "Woman On Her Way" travel blog in 2013 to share my experiences as I explored 13 countries with my husband, traveling by ship, foot, bike, bus, train, and plane. Dennis and I continue to make memories and hope you will enjoy following along.

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