We have finally reached Amsterdam. We have six days to explore this eclectic Dutch city. Our ship docked at the port early on Wednesday, April 19. We had an early morning cruise of the canals which was really very beautiful and interesting. I was totally disoriented, but enjoyed seeing all the different buildings and learning some history of the city.
This area has always had access to the sea and been a center for trade and commerce. In the 1200’s there was a fishing village on the Amstel River. The fishermen built a dam on this river and that gave the name to the future city – Amstel-damme. The Amstel flows into the Ij (pronounced Eye) River (now created into the Ijsselmeer), which in turn entered the Zuiderzee, an inlet from the North Sea. So, this gave Amsterdam ready access to shipping from all over the world. Its history is fraught with many ups and downs, periods of vast wealth and stagnation. The Dutch East India Company (VOC) was founded here and that was the golden age (1600 – 1650) when many of the beautiful gabled town houses were built along the canals. In 1795 Napoleon conquered Holland and set up his brother as ruler. The Netherlands gained their independence in 1813.
The Dutch seem to love to create dikes and canals, and this city is a beautiful example of how that was done. They made the Amstel into a canal and the dike became Damrak, a busy wide street that goes from the Central Railroad Station (built over where the Amstel enters the Ij) to Dam Square (the site of the original dam) and further south. Concentric canals were created encircling south of the railroad station and crossing Damrak. There are 4 major ones that do this. Then there are many smaller canals going between these. It is all very confusing, but beautiful.
After our canal cruise we were given a quick tour of the Rijksmuseum before returning to the ship for our last day on board. The people of Holland are getting ready to celebrate Kings Day next week, plus it is spring break for many students, so the city is extremely crowded. We could hardly see the paintings at the museum which was very disappointing. But we will carry on!