Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Amsterdam

I spent 31 hours in Amsterdam, with my camera out for almost all of it other than the 9 hours that I was sleeping, and took almost 400 pictures.  Here are some of them.

This is not a postcard, though this image shows up on about half the postcards that come out of Amsterdam.

We planned a trip to Amsterdam for the weekend of the 4th of July, as a reunion of many of us who had been in the language course. We’d been 3 weeks removed from each other, so it was not only a good chance to travel, but a good chance to not be alone, and to catch up with friends. 

I was unprepared for how blown away with Amsterdam I was. There’s a typical round of cities that I think the average non-European will take when and if they do a circle through Europe. Included in that: Paris, London, Amsterdam, Prague, Budapest, probably Barcelona, probably somewhere in Italy (Rome?) I wasn’t sure that I wanted to do that, as if I wanted to see those places I could just go to a number of people’s Facebooks and see the city there. Not to say that pictures show the entire story of a city, nor to say that those cities aren’t definitely worth including on your European travel circle. (Look at me, I basically turned into a travel agent in a few sentences.)

We met Saturday morning in Amsterdam, which was only a two-hour train ride from Düsseldorf. I got to the central train station in Amsterdam at 9:15 am. 

This is when you can ignore every idea I had in the second paragraph.

I walked out of the train station, and the first thing you see (other than 9 million backpackers) is row houses. A canal begins right in front of the train station, and from the square in front of the train station, you can see down the canal. It’s a very touristy and busy area, of course, but regardless, the typical row houses are there. 

So many pretty and well-decorated boat houses in the canals. Most of them have roof gardens too, which seemed like a really, really good idea. 
I can’t say how many pictures of the Amsterdam row houses and canals I’ve seen in my life, but I was amazed. I’m not sure I remember being so astounded at something for so long a period, other than when I was in Thailand last year, but that was different because I was prepared to be amazed.



I did some research over Amsterdam the day before I left, and because it’s such a popular and unique city, the information was easy to find and remember. The main canals in Amsterdam are arranged in horseshoe shapes, and there are four main ones, all parallel to each other, that we spent most of our time around.



The houses in Amsterdam are, for the most part, somewhat old. They’re narrow, close together, colorful, and beautiful. I looked at many pictures before I went, searching for the places where Amsterdam would be the most picturesque (I found an entire blog post on that), and noticed that most of the houses had hooks sticking out from the top of the façade.


I googled this, and also found a blog post dedicated just to the topic. Because the houses are so narrow, that means the stairwells are also narrow, making furniture transportation somewhat complicated. Here the hook comes in: they could throw a rope up, and be able to lift the couch, bed, cupboard up and bring it in through the window.



I don’t know how obvious it is in the pictures, but many of the houses lean forward into the street at a slight angle. This was so that when the furniture was being lifted by the rope, it would have a bit more swinging room, decreasing the chances that it would slam back into the building and do any damage.






The buildings also weren’t always built straight up and down. Many of the different façades weren’t parallel to the others, and you could see the space and cracks between the façades. (You can see this a little in this picture below, but even better on the first picture of the post.)





We sat on the side of this canal for a few hours Saturday night, watching the boats go up and down, waving to people, and watching the sunset. We may have taken the same picture over and over, as the sun's reflection kept getting prettier and prettier against the buildings.


The street names, like many places in Europe, are just thrown on the side of buildings. But easy to find, and labelled well, which we appreciated.


I have to say, 31 hours was much too little, and I can't wait to go back to Amsterdam.



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