There are sailors who sing if Jacques Brel is to be believed. There are many other types of people too, but I didn’t get to see any of them as I didn’t go to the port in my brief 72 hours in the city.
One thing I did do though was take a canal tour, a wonderful way to see the city. My first trip to the Dutch capital was a drunken affair with three friends, this time though, older, no wiser but with less alcohol capacity, I was determined to see slightly more than the few streets I’d frequented nearly 30 years previously.
Martin, the captain, was the perfect choice. €18 for 90 minutes around the waterways was excellent value, the pace was just right, his knowledge was good and interjected at just the right tempo, not too much that you cant take it all in but not a silent mute either.
A little gem of information Martin provided was that back in the day, houses in Amsterdam didnt have numbers so the postman’s job wasn’t the easiest. One way to help him was for the houseowner to paint a picture onto the house, which the sender then did his best to replicate.
The canals pervade the whole of the old city and are still a major transportation system.
As all canals they were originally used for transportation of goods, over the centurys that the city has existed they’ve been chopped and changed, blocked up and directions rerouted and yet still seem to be lifeblood of the place. The previous evening we’d walked through the throngs of stag and hen parties, thick suspicious smelling clouds passing all around us with the accompanying boisterous alcohol fuelled behaviour without really noticing the beauty surrounding us.
The price of a permanent berth here is akin to a flat in most European capitals, so its not a cheap way to live but it surely cant be the worst place to be. In winter I’m sure there are downsides and tourists must be a plague in the summer but life on a canal seems to have a pleasant feel to it, a gentle, calm way of life that I think I’d like to try for a while.
As a Breton the Laydee of the House was delighted to see a boat flying this flag. The Gwenn ha Du, the flag of Brittany. The owner was a long way from home and we didnt find out who it was but it warmed her little cockles to see it nonetheless.
If you come to Amsterdam as a youngster (or even a not so youngster) intent on a hedonistic few days then a canal cruise may not be top of your priorities, anyone else though… give it a try, a relaxing and enjoyable way to see parts of the city you’d probably miss otherwise.