Going Dutch, Netherlands, August 2023

A conference in Amsterdam has been the impetus for my latest exploration – a few late summer days wandering the old town and its maze of canals. Amsterdam came about as a settlement of seafaring traders in the Middle Ages. On the back of the success of the Dutch East India Trading company new canals were expanded to accommodate wealthy sea merchants who clamoured to build baroque style canal houses. The self-made bourgeoisie adorned their houses with the finest of decor and luxuries as could be found in the old and new world. The narrow, tall houses sandwiched along the canals create a unique Amsterdam architecture with their decorative gables, large shutters. forward-tilting facades and hook/ winch to facilitate loading and unloading of goods stored in the upper levels. The wonky, leaning nature of many of the buildings is another charming relic from the shifting timber stump foundations that were driven into the swampy ground centuries ago.

Strolling the streets was a simple pleasure- pretty houses, leafy trees, ornate iron bridges spanning the canals, boats motoring by and the locals spilling out onto their stairs or footpaths in the afternoon to share a glass or even to have dinner in the mild summer climate.

Of course I had to take to a bicycle to experience Amsterdam like the locals. This feels like the antidote to the Lycra-wearing, ‘graphite frame worth as much as my car’ brigade from back home. Everyone from businessmen to grandmas and parents dropping their kids at school rode the most rattly, clanging bikes with barely a set of gears in sight. Definitely functionality over flair that keeps the city turning on pedal power!

I love the different ideas and lifestyles that I encounter when I travel. It’s a deep dive into history and what makes a culture. And of course new culinary delights – herring and pickle sandwiches, hot waffles and great rounds of Edam cheese. Smakelijk eten!

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