Amsterdam’s Dancing Houses

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60 x 80 painting in acrylic


Contact me to buy an original painting or a very high quality reproduction on canvas 


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Giethoorn – Dutch Camels, Goat Horns And The Other Venice

Giethoorn is a beautiful village situated in the Dutch province of Overijssel.

With over 180 bridges, this little settlement known as The Small Venice of The Netherlands, is only accessible by boat and attracts more and more tourists every year.

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Short History

The village of Giethoorn is a place full of history, with a fascinating past.

Founded in 1200’s by a group of fugitives from the Mediterranean region, Giethoorn was firstly inhabited by illegals and criminals.

The village got its name from a large number of goat horns found on the grounds after a massive flood, which destroyed the area a few years earlier. The settlers named the little village Geytenhorn, meaning ‘goat horn‘, which in time became Giethoorn, the name currently used nowadays.

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Wooden plank  with the emblem of Giethoorn

Early settlers, including Franciscan monks, took to peat mining and the canals were dug for transportation. Some areas became lakes, many of them not deeper than 1 m. Actually, the small village has currently only one lake naturally formed, also 1 m deep, like the water canals.

Only in 1958 Geithoorn became popular as a tourist destination, after the Dutch filmmaker Bert Haanstra made a comedy, Fanfare, at this location, attracting tourists in large numbers, who named the small village the Venice of Netherlands.

Water Canals and Bridges

As mentioned above, the place is not accessible by car. Inhabitants who own cars, have a special parking lot, where they leave their car, and jump into their boats for the rest of the trip home, or walk, depending on the area where their house is located. With so many water canals, the village is home for over 180 wooden bridges.

With so much water, Giethoorn is the place where even nowadays wooden boats are handmade, without any blueprints, like in the old days. This means every boat is unique, in shape, size and looks. The boats are considered so precious, they are passed from generation to generation.

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Top right – Traditional boat handmade in Giethoorn

During history, with every new island created, every owner was forced to build his own bridge, to connect the property to the rest of the village. Starting off with only a simple wooden board from the shed, not wider than 30 cm, nowadays, the bridges are beautiful structures, over the very busy water canals.

Nowadays, nothing changed from this point of view, so the house owners are still in charge of building and maintaining their own bridges.

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Camel Roofs

Giethoorn is a village with beautifully designed houses. Even if all houses are unique, at a closer look, you will notice one thing most of them have in common, which is that the roofs have an unusual shape.

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Camel Roof

As the area was initially constantly affected by floods, the locals were forced to find a solution for their livestock. Bringing the animals inside was the best one, so the house roofs got a camel hump, in order to create the extra space needed.

Even more interesting, is the placement of the hump, which is towards the back of the house, to preserve the heat in the front of the house, during the cold season.

Even if not many goats live in the village at the present day, we can say the camels never left the area. 🙂

Cooking Houses

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Traditional Cooking House

Having straw roofs can be pretty dangerous, especially when you plan on doing some cooking. Because the locals were extremely afraid of fires, they decided to build the kitchen outside the main house, in a separate smaller house, with regular roof tiles.

Not much bigger than a garden shed from nowadays, the cooking houses are not used anymore, but kept as a reminder of the small village’s beautiful past.

Vacation islands and concerts on water

In the area, you can rent a vacation house, or why not, even your own little island.

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Concert hall on water, floating ice cream store and island for rent

The place also hosts concerts on water, where people drive their boats to a stage in the middle of the lake, and listen to the performance.

The last farmer…

Tourism definitely changes the face of any location on Earth. People have to readjust and accommodate tourists, or simply relocate.

As the place became a major tourist attraction and everything is done by water, not all activities find a spot anymore, in the village’s new lifestyle.

During warm days, over 650 small boats are rented by tourists, not counting the larger tourist boats. As most tourists have no experience sailing, the narrow water canals are constantly very busy and sometimes traffic comes to a full stop, especially when most boats end up on top of each other, instead of passing by each other.

Considering the new traffic flow, farmers couldn’t possibly do their job anymore and had to switch from farming, to tourism, as bringing all the supplies needed, proved to be way too difficult and in some days, even impossible.

Even so, Giethoorn can proudly say it still has one farmer left, who’s still doing farming, by water, on his own little island, as it has always been done, since the beginning of the settlement.

Living in a place like Giethoorn sounds like a dream, but considering all the intensive tourism in the area, the place is slowly losing its charm for locals. Business vs privacy … Which one wins in the end?


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Sail Amsterdam 2015 – Sea Tradition in the Heart of the City

With the rich Dutch history of sailing and exploring the mysteries of sea, Amsterdam Sail is a nautical event which continues the tradition of bringing the love for sea in the heart of Amsterdam. The successful event attracts thousands of sailing ships, from all around the world, together with 2 millions sail passionate spectators.

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Taking place for the first time in 1975, on the occasion of the 700 anniversary of Amsterdam city, Amsterdam Sail was organized every 5 years, ever since. 2015 is no exception when it comes to keeping the tradition alive.

Becoming the largest public event in the world, with over 2 million people visiting the ships in only a few days, the area is not accessible by car, so the entire vicinity of the event is closed to vehicles, in order to facilitate the access of visitors.

The main attractions are definitely the tall sailing ships, both replicas and heritage ships, which gently make their way to the Ij Lake, located behind Amsterdam Centraal Station. The ships parade is probably the most beautiful sight, as you can see the ships in action, and not only stopped in the harbor.

You can board the ships taking part in the event and visit them. With the large number of curious visitors, the lines are enormous and making it on the ships takes a very long time. However, in the end, it’s worth it! Meeting the crew is obviously the best part, as they can proudly give you more information on the well kept secrets of their amazing ships. I felt honored to have such a unique opportunity!

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Part of the attraction also becomes the traffic on the water canals of Amsterdam, which slowly get packed with smaller boats, full of enthusiastic people, visiting the tall ships by water. Amazingly enough, it works perfectly, and between large ferries, tall ships and small ships, the smaller boats safely make their way to the destination.

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Sail Amsterdam is definitely a beautiful way of celebrating Amsterdam’s anniversary, a wonderful tradition kept alive by the enthusiasm of amazingly passionate people. Looking forward to see the ships return, in 2020 🙂


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Venice – A quick trip to the Queen of the Adriatic

Venezia (also known as City of Water, City of Masks, City of Bridges, The Floating City or City of Canals), situated in North-Eastern Italy, is the world’s only pedestrian city, sited on a group of 117 small islands, separated by 177 water canals and linked by 409 beautiful bridges, which divide Venice into 6 districts, called Sestieri.

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The absence of traffic, makes the city a pleasant experience, while you go back in time, through the narrow streets, between gorgeous last-century buildings.

DSC_5919Since the 1980’s, when the Carnival of Venice was revived, the city has become a major centre of conferences and festivals, attracting visitors from all over the world. The artistic and cultural side, combined with the numerous attractions such as St Mark’s Basilica, the Grand Canal, and the Piazza San Marco, turned the City of Masks into a top tourist destination, in the past decade.

Back in Time – Origins

Former capital city of the Republic of Venice, the name of ‘Venezia’ is derived from the ancient ‘Veneti’, the people who inhabited the region in the 10th century BC.

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It it known that the original population of the City of Water consisted mainly of refugees from Roman cities near Venice, and lagoon fishermen, who were fleeing the Germanic and Hun invasions taking place in the region.

With the construction of ports, the city soon started dominating the Mediterranean Sea and became the most prosperous city in all of Europe, in the 13th century, trading extensively with the Byzantine Empire and the Muslim world. For short periods of time, it was conquered by Napoleon and also became part of the Austria-Hungary.

The Buildings

The buildings of The Floating City are constructed on alder trees wooden piles (known for their water resistance), the foundations rest on plates of limestone placed on top of the piles, while the buildings are made out of brick or stone. The piles sit on a layer sand and mud while the bottom part penetrate a much harder layer of compressed clay, which prevents the wood from degrading, as fast as it does on the top part.

Transportation 

DSC_5908If you expect to drive around the city, you’re going to have a hard time, as besides the main entrance road and railway located in the northern part of the city, transportation within Venice is done in the old fashioned way, by water or on foot.

The very famous luxurious gondola, decorated with velvet seats and Persian rugs, is mostly used nowadays by tourists or ceremonies. At the front of each gondola we find a large piece of metal called ‘ferro,’ (iron), which consists of six bars pointing forward representing the Sestieri of the city, and one that points backward representing the Giudecca (an island in the Venetian Lagoon, in northern Italy).

You can also use the vaporetti (water buses) and water taxis to get around the city.

My first choice was walking, in order to see as much as possible of the gorgeous city, and I must say, it was a very interesting experience. I got lost while moving down the narrow streets, following the arrows pointing to a certain location, when the arrows suddenly stopped appearing. As the city is not that big, and you can reach the other end, in a few hours, I managed to find my way around, eventually reaching Piata Di San Marco.

The funniest part was to end up a dead end street, and by this I don’t mean the traditional dead end street, we’re all used to, when you are surrounded by walls, but you reach a street which ends in a water canal, or in the sea. Quite a fascinating experience!

DSC_5948Also, I might have a reputation of having food taken away from me by different birds, on different occasions, but I never had this happen to me, to such an extent, ever before. You can’t really buy street food (especially if that food is called pizza), and eat peacefully on the street, unless you want to get attacked by pigeons. Yes, it really happens, and I couldn’t even tell them off, as they were so adorable 🙂 Sharing is caring, I suppose?!

The downside of Venice, in the warmer season, is the number of tourists, which increases every year, while the city becomes overcrowded, turning into a walking museum, as the narrow streets are jammed and impossible to walk on, without bumping into someone, or waiting in line to move forward.

All in all, Venezia offers a unique experience, and it’s a city definitely worth visiting.


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Amsterdam – The Venice of the North

Starting as a small fishing village in the 12th century, Amsterdam became a very important port, during the 17th century, and it is even in the current days, one of the top financial centres in Europe. The city, situated 2 meters below sea level, was originally named Amstelredamm, being built as a dam of the river Amstel. At its lowest point, Amsterdam is situated 6.7 meters below sea level.

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Why Venice of the North?

It’s simple. Amsterdam is the home of more than one hundred kilometers of canals, which divide the city into 90 islands, connected by more than 1,200 bridges (more bridges than Venice has). This gives tourists the almost unique opportunity of visiting the city by water and also by land. Pretty neat I would say, especially when both experiences give you a totally different feel of the vibe Amsterdam has. 

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The most famous bridge in Amsterdam- The Skinny Bridge

The Water Canals 

Beautiful to see, since the early 14th century, and click pictures of, but the locals will tell you the canals are there for much more than the pretty sight.

What better way to describe them, than: city planning at its best?

The concentric half-circle canals were used for transportation, defense, and of course, water management, being built gradually, as the city grew larger and larger. During the Dutch Golden Age, the canals were used as open sewers, so the smell of success was to experience only from behind the windows. Fortunately, the smell improved in time, and the water is cleaner than ever.

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The most popular canals in Amsterdam are: Herengracht (The Canal of the Lords),  Keizersgracht (The Emperor’s Canal), and Prinsengracht (The Prince’s Canal), best being seen from a boat.

Amsterdam looks spectacular from the water so, I definitely recommend a canal cruise, but keep in mind that the city transforms completely when it’s dark. Just to make sure I don’t miss a thing, I took both trips. Well worth it! 🙂

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This place is called ‘Seven Bridges’ because it is the point from where you can see seven bridges of Amsterdam

The Buildings 

From all the cities I’ve been to, Amsterdam has the richest and most beautiful architecture, by far. Most buildings were constructed into the 16th, 17th and 18th century, and even in the present day, are still in great condition and used by locals. DSC_2423

At a closer look, you will notice some buildings are tilted, and are called the Dancing Houses. This is because many homes are converted warehouses built with a slight tilt to prevent the goods from damaging the building’s facade on the way up or down (dutch homes have very narrow stairs, so the only way to carry massive goods is on the outside of the house – that’s why the hoisting beams with a hook).

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All buildings are supported by 15 to 20 meter long wood poles, fixed into the soil. A typical house has 10 wooden poles, but the Centraal Station is supported by around 9,000 poles! You visit a city built entirely on poles. Impressive, or what?

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Amsterdam’s Centraal Station

The Houseboats 

Amsterdam is the home of over 2,500 houseboats, varying from small, simple structures to converted commercial vessels, or custom built multi-level houses. The houses are not motorized, but fixed, built either on a floating pontoon made of concrete or on an old metal ship (woonschip).

The houseboats used to provide a cheap accommodation, after the second world war, when there was a housing shortage. Nowadays they are nothing but cheap, and are connected to the city sewage system, electricity and gas. Some are permanently inhabited by locals, while others are rented to the tourists.

The Flower Market

Amsterdam’s flower market is the only floating flower market in the world, the flower stalls being located on the houseboats. Here you can buy the famous dutch tulips, narcissus and other flowers and garden decorations.

If you like flowers, this is definitely the place for you!

The triple X

DSC_198If you walk around Amsterdam, you will definitely see it everywhere. It’s important to know that the XXX on the city’s coat of arms does not stand for pornography (sorry to disappoint 🙂 ), but they represent the crosses of Saint Andrew, a fisherman who was martyred on an X-shaped cross, in the 1st century. It is said they also represent the three kisses Dutch people give on the cheeks, when they great each other.

The Bicycles – local favorite transportation 

Amsterdam, as most cities in Netherlands, is not very car friendly, so the most popular transportation is … the bicycle! It’s estimated that the city is home of more bicycles than people (over 881,000 bicycles for under 800,000 people). Most dutch people have more than one bicycle, using each one, depending on the weather conditions, destination and number of passengers (mommy bicycles have up to 2-3 child seats).

Around 25,000 bicycles end up in Amsterdam’s canals each year, and around 100,000 get stolen. The locals claim pretty much every bicycle on the streets was stolen at least once!

The Cheese Stores

When you think about Netherlands a few things pop into your mind: tulips, windmills and … cheese! Cheese making industry extends all the way back to the time of Julius Caesar, so Dutch people really know their cheese. No trip to Amsterdam should be complete without a visit to a local Cheese Store.

DSC_2024Being a cheese fanatic ever since I can remember, I was very much looking forward to this. Before my first contact with Netherlands, I was sure I knew how cheese looks, smells and taste like, but this country looked up the term of ‘cheese’ in my dictionary, highlighted it, then ripped the whole page out, and rewrote Every Single Little Detail.

The variety goes from Gouda to Edam to Boerenkaas to Herb cheese to any other type you can think of. Plenty from which to choose, but for me, it was the hardest decision I had to make, in a cheese store 🙂

Other Landmarks

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Munt Tower – Munttoren

The Munt Tower (Munttoren), built in 1619-1620, is a southern tower of Amsterdam, located where the Amstel river and the Singel canal meet. It was originally part of the main gates of the city’s medieval wall. The name of the tower comes from the purpose of the building, in the 17th century, which was to mint coins.

The Royal Palace

The Royal Palace

The Dam Square is the center and heart of the city, home of the impressive Royal Palace, built in 1648, on 13,659 wooden poles. In the 17th Century it was used as the City Hall. Later it became the royal palace of King Louis Napoleon.

Nieuwe Kerk

Nieuwe Kerk

Nieuwe Kerk located in the Dam Square, next to the Royal Palace, is a 15th century church, currently used as an exhibition space. It was built after the Old Church became too small for the population of the city. The Dutch royal investiture ceremonies and weddings take place in this location. Inside it you will find a museum store and a burial space for the national naval heroes.

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Rijksmuseum

Rijksmuseum is the Dutch national museum, containing around 8,000 art objects, from as early as the 1200’s, and is, for me, one of the most beautiful and impressive buildings in Amsterdam. Located in the Museum Square, the building is close to the Van Gogh Museum and the Stedelijk Museum. Also, the famous I Amsterdam letters are located in the same spot.

From all the cities I’ve been to so far, Amsterdam is still my favorite, and is always a pleasure to go back. The unique architecture combined with the water canals and the history, takes it all the way to the number one city in my book.