Sunday, April 30, 2017

Impressions of Amsterdam

     I wrote a few impressions about Amsterdam before we left, so I will send these now.

     In addition to the cold & wind (which I was unprepared for), I had trouble dealing with the drug culture. Our hostess in Enkuizen had told us that she was a social worker and spent most of her time dealing with drug addicts – not marijuana but hard drugs. So, I really wonder what the cause and effect is. I can’t say everyone does it because there are tons of people in the street doing everyday activities, but there seem to be “coffee houses” (places to use marijuana) on every block, plus other stores selling products related to various drugs. I just do not find that very interesting or pleasant to walk past.
     However, I do love the canals.
Many of the canals have houseboats docked along both sides. People started living in them in the 60’s when housing was scarce and now they have become a fixture and quite expensive. The city provides all the utilities for them. They actually don’t look that comfortable, but I think it would be a fun place to live.

     I also love the architecture.

There are older (the east side) and newer (west side) versions of the four or five story town houses (row houses) built from when the city was in its golden period in the 1600’s, Many of them have statues or some kind of sign depicting the original owner. They are quite narrow because originally people were taxed on the width of the house. They also may have been taxed on the number of windows, so many have shutters which can be closed to hide the windows. Because the interior stairs were quite narrow and steep, almost all have some kind of pulley mechanism at the top to raise items up to the top floors. This was often because merchandise was stored in the attic if the owner was a merchant. Now it is used to get furniture up to the top floors! So, some homes were built leaning forward a little to facilitate this activity. Others may be leaning to one side. That is because all the original homes were built on wooden pilings pounded through the mud and sand to harder ground. Most of the time the pilings have stood up, but some have deteriorated. The tops of the homes are mostly false fronts of many shapes and decorations. This hides the steep roofs of the buildings.
     Historically Amsterdam has been a place of refuge for many people and accepting of all cultures and life styles. That leads to a great diversity in restaurants, shops, and the look of people walking in the streets. We noticed a lot of young men dressed in black, and a lot of tall people! I guess people watching was one of our pass times as we did have to rest a lot.
    We came home on Tuesday, April 25. Other than the airline losing our luggage, it was an uneventful trip! And it is always nice to be home after a wonderful vacation.

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