After coming out of the the Bloemenmarkt, we roamed around aimlessly looking at beautiful houses along the canal. Like most of the European cities, with the help of accurate maps, Amsterdam is easy to navigate.
The houses in the Netherlands have unique architecture and it is best exemplified in canal houses of Amsterdam. Most of the Amsterdam has streets lined with these houses that are tightly packed together. Land was always precious in the Netherlands and so people squeezed themselves into every possible space and the streets are lined-up with compactly packed houses.
When these canals were dug and the town planning was taking place, then council prescribed the size of each building plot; the frontage was set at thirty feet and the depth two hundred feet. The government imposed house tax according to the width of houses and everyone, even the wealthiest merchants, had to comply with a set of strict and detailed planning regulations. Hefty property taxes and expensive canal facing front forced size-zero buildings.
Most of these houses have steep and narrow stairs to maximize space efficiency. It is not possible to carry furniture up on these stairs and so Amsterdammers were forced to use pulley to pull furnitures to the top and from there it went in through exceptionally wide removable windows. Many of these houses protrude or lean outside to make it easier to get furniture over the building.
On several canal houses little mirrors can be seen that were used by the owners to see who is knocking on the door without coming down.
Amsterdam is built on millions of wooden pilings. The city is founded upon unstable mud that sits on the stable sand. In the middle ages only wood was used in the foundation as it survives for a long time if kept wet and away from the air. This choice made these houses prone to devastating fires. After world war II, there was a shift from wooden foundations to the foundations in concrete. A smart shift driven by the technology! Earlier many trees were cut to meet the demand. In-fact the Royal Palace of Netherlands stands on a foundation that has around thirteen thousand wooden pilings. The foundation is usually done sixty feet deep through the first layer of sand, however, the biggest buildings of Amsterdam have even upto one hundred twenty feet deep foundations.
The houses in Amsterdam were built on narrow deep plots, and the only way to make them distinctive was to create a decorative and distinctive gable. Gable is the front upper part of a house. The canal houses that are built during the earlier stages of excavation of canal typically had step gable façade, the architecture of renaissance period. Fifty years later houses were built with neck gable that looked like neck with a collar, and bell gables that looked like bell. For wider houses there was cornice gable that just went straight across. In eighteenth century, some of these older gables were replaced by classic front piece attic with balustrade.
|House with balustrade gable can be seen in the picture|
It is already evening, the beautiful part of the day. We are lost in the Amsterdam’s labyrinth of winding cobble stoned back-streets and broad serene canals. The whole atmosphere around is laid back. The restaurants are getting dressed as people are expected to arrive soon. The lights inside the canal houses are getting lit. The setting sun’s crimson rays are scattered all over the canal water. Several patches of dark clouds are trying to overshadow the setting sun on the azure blue canvas. Its shadow is reflected in the canal waters below. A picture perfect scene – soothing and relaxing! I try to capture what my eye is witnessing, but in vain. I feel handicapped, though I know that even if my camera would have captured the scene to my heartfelt desires, it would not have captured the fragrance of romantic poetry of the surroundings.
A perfect day! We are returning to the hotel satisfied and contended with our tryst with this beautiful city. Rachit is happy that he traveled in trams to his heart’s desire. Jaishree is happy to enjoy the beautiful city in the company of cheerful Rachit and exploring city in her preferred way of travel, walking around aimlessly discovering the hidden gems. And when both of them are so happy, do I need to say anything about me 🙂