Amsterdam Canal Boat Tour – European River Cruise
After a pleasant evening’s rest, we experienced our first breakfast on board. By the time we got to breakfast, many of the early risers had already finished. Waking up at 6.30 a.m. on holidays is a bizzare concept for us. After breakfast, we left by coach to the canal boat mooring. There were some 150 passengers on board so several coaches were available. The canal mooring was not too far away and along the way, the most amazing sight for us was the number of bicycles. We went past this multi-storied bicycle station and there were thousands of bikes parked side-by-side. We were told that there are 14 million bikes in the Netherlands to a population of 7 million. Each year some 70,000 bikes are stolen and many end up in the canals. As such, the canals are dredged for dumped bikes every two years.The canals in Amsterdam are called grachten. The boat ride was very pleasant, especially as we had nice warm weather. The keen photographers, and there were many, had a field day snapping away.
Amsterdam is noted as a city of “well mannered” architects as its charms lie in intimate and fine details rather than grand or stunning effects. Certainly you’ll see lots of waterside mansions and heritage preserved buildings with elegant facades and ornate gables; most of the best ones are now the expensive offices of commercial organisations. You can pick out the houses of the rich by the size of the steps on the front of their building and their fancy gables. Maybe a game of ‘spot the gable or facade’ for the architecture buffs? Look out for a pair of houses known as the “twin brothers”. These are matching neck-gabled houses, believed to be two of the prettiest houses on the grand canal. See if you can also spot the spout gable, Rennaisance style, bell gable, shell motif, etc.
If you notice a certain regularity in the sizes of building facades, this was due to planning laws in the 15th century. Due to instability of the topsoil, town planning required that facades be built of lightweight brick or sandstone, with large windows to reduce the weight. As is common in the European cities in the past, taxes were also levied according to the width of the frontage and canal houses were often long and narrow. Keep a lookout for Anne Frank’s home near the Westerkirche . For those who were interested, Anne Frank’s Diary is one of the movies shown on the MS Poetry that day.