A bright Saturday afternoon and it seems the whole of Amsterdam is out socialising. Sitting at canal-side cafes or on boats. And on bikes, bikes and more bikes.
As part of our eating tour, our guide Rudolph took us on some interesting byways, several times ducking down narrow alleys behind the houses into communal squares where the children play, vegetables are grown, and where water was once pumped. Where apartments do have balconies they are often very tiny but maximum use is gained from them.
Many of the houses had plaques depicting the occupation of the inhabitant, a relic from the times when literacy was not high. You can probably guess most of them. I was particularly intrigued with a former pork butcher’s shop labelled Vette Varken (Fat Pig). It is now a Halal butchery called the Fat Calf. Dutch law forbids the removal of these historic plaques so the butchery has to exist, somewhat uneasily one imagines, with the original animal hanging over it.
I remain fascinated by the way the buildings lean and by their individual facades and rooflines. Also, note the relaxed attitude towards health and safety, seen here with the cafe tables right on the canal edge, often with little or no barrier in place. I wonder whether you would hear an increasing number of splashes as the evenings wear on… Notice also that every building has a protruding beam at the top with a hook on it. It’s the only way to hoist up items of furniture as the internal stairs are all very narrow. This is a result of being taxed on the width of one’s house, as the Amsterdamers are not noted for parting with their money unnecessarily.