Travel Guides: Amsterdam
It is situated on flat ground (4 meters below the sea level) on the Amstel and IJ rivers. A complicated system of dams, pumps and canals provide water to maintain a certain level so that the city and the surrounding areas will not be flooded.
Lake IJsselmeer near Amsterdam was originally a bay of the Atlantic called Zuider Zee; now, a 32-km long dam separates the lake from the ocean and thus Amsterdam has become an inner city. In the old part of the city the canals are expanded as a spider web.
Short history of the city:
1200 – 1585: Amsterdam as a city has never occurred in an official document until the Middle Ages, so it is not known exactly about its existence in prehistory and pre-Roman period. However, there is a legend about the appearance of the town which connects it with the story of two fishermen who were caught by a storm at sea while fishing together with their dog were stranded there and have built a sanctuary in the swampy areas, at the mouth of Zee Zuider (also known as IJ).
The settlement founded by the two fishermen and their families who joined them later, seems to be the origin of Amsterdam. They established a village at the mouth of the Amstel River and also they built a dam to protect their homes from water. Hence was derived the name of the city, Amstelledamme (dam on the Amstel) which later became Amsterdam. In 1275 the town first appears in an official document mentioned in a charter of 27 October 1275, where the Lord of Floris V, Count of Holland, guaranteed the right to tax exemption and free trade for people.
Amstellledamme developed on the shores of Amstel River and even in its early existence, the inhabitants were able to take advantage of the fact that they had water near them and it was a way of living. The favorable geographical position and the hard work they have made, the small village became a great commercial center, an important port with a flourishing trade with the cities of the Baltic and the Mediterranean basin.
In the early seventeenth century, this trade by sea has reached very high, and after the fall of rival port of Antwerp, Amsterdam has become lord of the seas; it represents the beginning of what is known as the Dutch Golden Age. Only a few buildings from the medieval period have survived until today. Throughout the Middle Ages most of the houses were built of wood, vulnerable, as are most easily destroyed. However, a surprising number of Amsterdam houses still have wooden frames.
1585 – 1672: The period between 1585 and 1672, for Amsterdam, was the most prosperous commercially speaking, becoming the world’s main market. During this period there has been a very important development of the city, urban expansions since 1613 and 1663 to determine the characteristic appearance of the city. One of the most important monuments dating from that period is the town hall on Dam Square, the current Royal Palace.
1672 – 1795: 1672 was a disaster for the Netherlands, being contested by England and France simultaneously. The Golden Age was over; however Amsterdam managed to consolidate its prosperity during the period between 1672 and 1795. The city remained an important market and managed to keep its financial center of Europe that was. Given that the Golden Age was primarily a period of launch and prosperity, the new period was characterized as a gold and silver time. The large number of homes built at that time reflects the prosperity of the city. As a result of this most houses situated in the city date from the eighteenth century and not from the seventeenth century.
1795 – 1813: in 1795 the government and the patrician oligarchies was ruined and the old Republic ceased to exist. Soon the French had occupied the country. Between 1795 and 1813 Amsterdam suffered a strong economic recession, a state of stagnation reflected demographic developments. Many houses were empty and some were even destroyed for lack of maintenance. Fortunately some time empire facade and interior have been preserved.
1813 – 1940: the period is characterized by an economic recovery and expansion in 1870. Enrichment resulted in a relatively rapid increase of population. This development was primarily a result of the Industrial Revolution, which entailed a new golden age. The town has grown mainly through the construction of working-class neighborhoods inhabited by poor grades, now obsolete Singelgracht area.
The period between 1920 and 1940 was one of the economic downturn, so it is easier to notice that the so-called “Ring 20-40” is better in comparison with the nineteenth-century cheap lightweight construction. It was also a period of widespread destruction of the historic city; channels had become overcrowded and new discovery is realized in terms of traffic.
In terms of culture, Amsterdam has earned a reputation for tolerance and individualism. For a long time people from different backgrounds and religions living here were welcomed. Many nationalities are represented in the cosmopolitan city, from the Indonesians (whose country was once a Dutch possession) to migrant workers from Morocco and Kurdish refugees in Iran. In the city, art flourishes, more than 40 Dutch museums, hosting artists’ works.
Van Gogh Museum - Most of the work of Vincent van Gogh has never left the Netherlands and 200 paintings and 500 drawings are permanently displayed in the museum that bears his name, designed by Gerrit Reitveld. The paintings are presented in chronological order according to the different creative periods of Van Gogh and homes along the career.
On the second floor are paintings painted during his stay in southern France, of which the best known is “Sunflower”. There are also exhibited works by Toulouse-Lautrec and Gauguin, Van Gogh’s contemporaries. Exhibitions are changed so that they highlight the most important moments in Van Gogh’s artistic development.
The Rembrandt Memorial House - Rembrandt lived in his house for 20 years until he left, being broke, in 1658. It is good to know that its failure came from the fact that those who commissioned the painting “The Night Watch” were totally dissatisfied with it, which eventually destroyed his career. The house was restored and now hosts over 250 of his etchings and paintings by some of his students.
The State Museum – by far the largest museum in the Netherlands, housed in a monumental neo-Renaissance building designed by PJH Cuypers attracts over one million visitors per year and is regarded as one of the largest museums of paintings and decorative art in Western Europe. It is currently divided into six departments: Painting, printing room, sculpture and decorative arts, Dutch history, Asian art and textiles and costumes.
The first floor is the world’s largest collection of paintings belonging to the Dutch Masters, this finding is “The Night Watch” by Rembrandt. There are also found alongside Rembrandt’s paintings of Frans Hals, Paulus Potter, Jacob van Ruysdael, Jan Steen and Johannes Vermeer. There are presented landscapes, individual portraits, domestic scenes and the Dutch lifestyle showing the Golden Age of Holland.
Modern Art Museum Stedelijk – Stedelijk Museum houses one of the largest collections of modern art in Holland. The exhibition focuses on Picasso approached styles, Dutch painters Karel Appel, Willem de Kooning, Piet Mondriaan and French painters Monet, Cezanne, Matisse, and Renoir. In the museum it can also be seen a collection of the works of Malewich. Other interesting places to visit in Amsterdam would be the Royal Palace at Dam Square, the University, Begijnhof, Oudezijds Voorburgwal street, the Spui street, Leidseplein street and the canals.
Dam Square - is the most popular market in the Netherlands. Fishing village that later became the city of Amsterdam is built exactly around this place in 1270. It is an ideal city center, even though geographically and administratively for many years ceased to be the center. It represented the whole community meeting place during the official ceremonies and important events. In its center lies a monument issue, a white obelisk decorated with allegorical images which was built in 1956 by J. Radeker the victims of the Second World War. The monument contains 12 urns, each containing a handful of soil from the 11 Dutch regions, and the twelfth in Indonesia.
The Royal Palace – Royal Palace, a classic example of Dutch architecture, was designed by Jacob van Campen and built between 1648 and 1655. Built on 13,659 cell needed to create a solid foundation on swampy land, was originally built to replace the former town hall, which was completely destroyed in a fire. Louis Bonaparte, Napoleon’s brother, turned it into a royal palace in 1808, when he became king of the Netherlands, even if he abdicated after only two years.
The appearance of the facade is just what impresses first time the visitor. It has four rows of windows, above which there is a triangular pediment containing sculptures by Artus Quellijn the Younger, an artist from Antwerp. Amsterdam is surrounded by statues of Neptune and other mythical sea creatures, including nymphs and newts that pay homage to wealth and power of the sea. Outside the palace is harmoniously complemented by an octagonal tower and a dome. As it is simple from the outside is so ornate inside, inside what was done, among others, by Ferdinand Bol, a pupil of Rembrandt, and Sijmen Bosboom Gover Flinck, and most of the sculpture was performed by Rombout Verhulst.
The University – The left side of the house are three channels into a spring that is home to old men, Oudemanhuispoort site, which is today the site of the University of Amsterdam. The University was built in 1632. On January 8 1632, Gerardus Johannes Vossius history of the university’s inaugural speech delivered whose goals included the opening of a breach of Calvinism and the defense of freedom.
The university soon attracted the best minds of Dutch culture, the mathematician Hortensius the lawyer and the doctor Cabell Blasiuis Van Leuwen in theology. In 1840 the University was transferred to house the statue of Vossius, its first teacher, was placed on the patio.
Begijnof – is a place of absolute peace and tranquility, an ideal oasis and a refuge from the Kalverstraat’s unexpected. The entrance leads to a kind of vast courtyard in the center of a lawn which is surrounded by numerous small houses. Older women who go for a walk and drink tea in the gardens, flowers everywhere, an incredible calmness and two chapels, one against the other’s form Begijnhof.
It was founded in 1346 by a group of women who aspired to live in a religious community without coercion imposed by the rigid rules of a monastic life. They have not submitted any oath and behaved like his sisters: all retained their small houses, personal freedom, but have dedicated their lives to the poor and sick. At number 34 is the oldest house in Amsterdam, yet only from wood, after an order of Governors to waive the city to build houses of combustible materials. The house is dating from the fifteenth century.
Oudzijds Voorburgwal Street – The street, together with the channel with the same name, is one of the most beautiful alleys in North Venice, canal, dating from the Middle Ages, reflects the facades of some of the most typical town houses, and the background of St. Nicholas Cathedral. Oude Kerk, the oldest church in Amsterdam, was originally dedicated to St. Nicholas, patron of sailors in Amsterdam. Recent excavations have shown that there was a church in the thirteenth century.
The present Gothic church, Protestant now, was established in 1306. As it is surrounded by small houses belonging to those who were responsible for administering the church Oude Kerk stands piled on top of buildings around it, and this could bring even more imposing figure. The interior, like the rest of it, damaged and rebuilt along the centuries, consists of a nave and two altars; above the nave is a dome that sustains 42 cylindrical columns.
Even if the 38 shrines that once gave even more beauty to the church disappeared inside the church still shows traces of its glorious past. The Renaissance period still keeps three windows in the Lady Chapel: they were designed in 1555 by Pieter Aertszoon and present death of the Virgin of the Annunciation and Adoration of the Shepherds. Many Dutch figures were buried here, including Rembrandt’s wife, Saskia van Uylen painter Carel van Mander, organist Jan Pieterszoon van Rensselaer Kilaen and explorer who was one of the founders of New Amsterdam, the city which later became known as New York.
Spui Street – On Spui, one of the most interesting streets in Amsterdam, is the Maagdenhuis, House of Virgo. It was built in 1787 and was used as a Catholic orphanage. Today it belongs to the University of Amsterdam. In the center of the street is a small statue, Het Lieverdjie, rude boy of Amsterdam, a symbol of the city. Near the statue urchin is one of the most popular bars, The Hoppe, a very busy meeting place both for students and artists.
Leidseplein Street – Until recently in Amsterdam was banned as a means of transport carts, so merchants who had to reach the city center were forced to leave their carts to the edge of a huge market. At the beginning of the road that leads to Leiseplein Leiden is surrounded as other similar markets, buildings used as warehouses, parking lots for and carts, and forges and carpentry workshops.
Central geographical position in Europe and the proximity of Amsterdam Schiphol airport and port is the engine of the local economy. At this contributes also the highly trained workforce and a well developed communications infrastructure. A memorandum presented to highlight the need for expanding the city council in the form of satellite development outside city limits, to bring the city to rising population and rapid economic development.
The memorandum also proposed merger of highway to create a ring outside the city, and besides, expanding the subway lines. Inside the city, focuses on the construction of buildings as dense, both commercially and as residences, and the continuing renewal projects of the city in neighborhoods built after the war. Schiphol is a major airport in the world air traffic. It is a very important factor in the economy of Amsterdam and is ranked fourth in Europe to transport passengers after London, Paris and Frankfurt. In terms of merchandise, it ranks 3rd in Europe. In 200, in the Schiphol airport have been approximately 40 million passengers and just over one million tones of cargo. The airport has 50,000 employees, of which only 10,000 are residents of Amsterdam.
Amsterdam port complex ranks 17th in the world and 5th in Europe, carrying around 60 million tones of cargo annually (but total port capacity is much higher), and having 40,000 employees. It is preferred that many of the goods transported to the port only products to be transported. The port is also known for cruises – in 2000 no less than 102 cruise ships with thousands of passengers were landed at the port of Amsterdam. Also about 500 vessels on the rivers landed in port.
By the seventeenth century, Dutch merchant ships sailing the North Sea reached broad arms of Zuidersee site. Permanent alluvial made difficult this golf sailing, even risking a crash. In 1818 a cure was found: the Dutch built a Canal. But not long after the channel was finished, it has proved to be insufficient for the requirements of Amsterdam. Thus, a direct channel between the port and the North Sea was built. The work on the channel that is 18 feet long, began in 1872 and was completed after four years, at that time was one of the largest ever conducted on the water works.
Amsterdam was once again ready to compete with Rotterdam quay and has reopened for commercial traffic. Port of Amsterdam and its channel to the sea are in fact two massive protected tidal pools. The whole area was separated from the sea port and the total length of the keys that are built on an artificial island, reaching up to 40 kilometers.11