2019 Rhine River Cruise travel blog


Dancing buildings

More houseboats

Our cabin aboard Viking Mani

Note forward lean and hook

St Nicholas church and wailing tower

North Amsterdam

Our Viking longship Mani

When we got up, the weather was gray but dry. After another great buffet breakfast, we packed our bags and took them down for transfer to the ship. We checked out and bought tickets for a canal cruise. At which point it started pouring! :-( So we pulled our raincoats out of our suitcases. After a little, it let up, so we walked over to the canal cruise location. Turns out there are many companies doing these canal cruises, so it took a while to find the right place. By the time we boarded it had quit raining.

The 1-hour cruise showed us some different parts of old Amsterdam, mostly along the waterfront and the Herrengracht. Some buildings are called the dancing buildings or drunken buildings because they lean due to failing foundations. They are built on wooden pilings, which seem to be okay as long as they are kept underwater. If exposed to air however (due to fluctuating water levels), they begin to rot. Nowadays, when they are replaced (yes, they can replace the pilings under the buildings), they use steel and concrete.

Most of these buildings are three to 5 stories tall, with a hoisting beam and a hook near the top of the gable, and very (!) narrow. The buildings were originally homes and warehouses where merchants stored their wares in the upper stories of their homes to protect them from high water levels. The buildings are narrow because taxes were based on street-front width. The hoists were necessary because it is impossible to get anything of any size up the steep, narrow stairs. Nowadays, the buildings are still narrow and the stairs are still steep, so these hoists are used to lift furniture in and out through the windows when occupants are moving.

Most of the bridges are quite low and fixed, so the canal cruisers are also low. There are a few draw bridges, however. There are many houseboats. Originally they were a low cost solution to a housing crisis. Now, however, they are connected to water, sewer, and electricity, (and hence not very mobile) and they are subject to taxes based on location (higher in the more central, more desirable locations). Despite the houseboats, Amsterdam still has a housing crisis, somewhat similar to San Francisco and Seattle. 'Old' Amsterdam has become largely residential, and more people would like to live there than the housing will accommodate. So housing is very expensive. But there are few homeless.

Near the waterfront is the St. Nicholas church and "wailing tower," where the wives stood to watch their men go out to sea.

After the cruise, we decided we really didn't want to hike around town with our backpacks, so we found a bar by the waterfront, had a beer, and watched the people. And the bicycles. And the motor scooters. Many people (maybe even most) travel by bicycle in 'Old Amsterdam.' They have child seats and/or boxes for packages and cargo. Just as many people can and do text while driving, they can and do text while riding. There are huge bicycle parking lots and bikes are chained to every railing in town, with big heavy chains. We also had a great view of North Amsterdam, north of the river. One of the towers there has swings on top. You actually swing out past the side of the building. I hear it is a great view. No thanks!

About 2 pm we walked to our ship and boarded. We began unpacking, and then went for another guided walk about town, this time somewhat to the east of where we had been walking. Another day over 10,000 steps (3 in a row so far)! Interestingly our female tour guide was NOT happy with the newly elected mayor of Amsterdam -- who is the first female mayor of the city.

There was an orientation talk before dinner. At dinner we sat with 2 couples from Wisconsin. Who, I think, liked Scott Walker. Larry had the ahi tuna and I had Norwegian salmon. Both were excellent.

Back in the room, I collapsed, while Larry downloaded photos from the day. Hopefully we will have time this afternoon to organize ourselves and our thoughts some more. Or not.

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