AMSTERDAM! May 2008

We had a wonderful week in Amsterdam as we began our recent northern European trip. The city’s carefree ambience beckons one to wander at one’s own pace and is easy in that everyone seems to speak English flawlessly and is quite friendly.

A couple bits of trivia: As you look at the photos above, you are probably asking, why are those buildings so narrow? It’s because property was taxed on frontage. What about the gables (the facades at roof level) on top of the buildings? These help to hide the steep pitch of the roof from public view and at one time also helped to identify the house. Different gable styles reflect different time periods in Dutch history and architecture.

We visited the very moving Anne Frank House where the family hid for two years and where Anne wrote her diary. We also greatly enjoyed the Van Gogh Museum, a canal cruise, strolling in Vondelpark, the Red Light District, the peaceful 14th century Begijnhof, Rembrandt’s House, the Botanical Gardens, and walking in many neighborhoods including the Jordaan. We loved the day we spent bicycle riding the waterlands north of Amsterdam, a day full of adventure, tranquility, pastoral scenes, quaint villages, and friendly people. We traveled by train to Delft one day and appreciated all the blue and white pottery, and the market square filled with bands, cafes, and lively activity.

Portland, Oregon is trying to implement safe bicycle transit and Amsterdam has it mastered. There are lanes everywhere, often on the sidewalks, marked clearly with lines or even raised cement “dams,” and dedicated traffic lights at bikers’ eye levels. It works extremely well, so Portland doesn’t reallly need to reinvent the “bicycle wheel,” so to speak; just study our friends in Amsterdam.

 

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