A view from the bottom up
15.02.2008 - 17.02.2008
Taking a one-hour canal cruise in Amsterdam is worth every one of the 11 euros. Starting from the Central Station landings, these cruises are so popular they’re every half-hour to cater for the crowds. So, I suggest you get there at a time when you are one of the first on for if you prefer to face in the direction you’re going as the seating is arranged facing each and late comers tend to be looking where you have been, or just looking at you!
The boat first heads out into the harbour and sitting low in the water you instantly get a different perspective of this water-based city.
The commentary is in three languages, Dutch, English and I’m not sure what the third is as my interest immediately focussed on the English directive. The information is clear and gives a warning of what is ahead to see and if it’s on the left or right. Initially it seems you have chosen the wrong side as all the points of interest are on the other side, but after a while things seem to even out. Not that you can’t see anything on your ‘other side’, it’s just that it’s through wavering heads vying for the best angle.
The first piece of surprising news is that the water in the harbour is not salty but fresh due to the locks, meaning there is no tidal rise or fall, adding great benefit to shipping. The other startling fact is that of all the canals and waterways, there is only one natural watercourse, the Amstel River, which in the eleventh century was dammed giving rise to the name Amsterdam. All the canals are man-made with digging commencing in 1380. The houses are anchored on pylons sunk 20-30 metres through marsh and into the stable sand basin making viewing the city from the water line a must. Most are wooden, with concrete introduced in recent times, and if kept free from contamination and air, will keep on holding up the tall building for many years to come.
But taking photos from this low vantage point can be a bit of a problem when most points of interest are up there, the houses that line the canals. The roofs of the cruise boats are probably Perspex as they are quite scoured and hinder a clear photograph. The side windows are clearer but you do get reflections from within the boat and depending on the time of day, sun glare.
But apart from this, the views are an insight into the city below the streets, the structure of the waterways and the beauty the city owes to its canals.