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My European Travel Diary (013): The Low Lying Land, Amsterdam

Amsterdam has another name, The Low Lying Land. Water is the most important feature of the city and many things are related to it. 

Perhaps, because there is more water on the great Dutch plane, it seemed that this plane, which we crossed on the way to Amsterdam from Brussels, was wetter, more oily, greener, and there seemed to be more cows on it. This made me think of the Dutch milk in the supermarkets in China. It is said that the Dutch are the tallest people in the world because they drink the most milk, now in our city more and more young parents like their children to drink milk from Holland, and it can be bought in any supermarket. 

When I passed through the suburbs of the city I saw more water, and today, when I flipped through my pictures of Amsterdam, I felt that many of them related to water in some way. 

The city is built on land that was reclaimed from the sea about 400 years ago. The houses are all built together on foundations consisting of thousands of pillars driven through the water into the ground below. Now, because of the effects of the underground water, the pillars are becoming loose, that is why the houses were built against each other and can’t be removed. The city authorities do not allow houses on the banks of the Amsterdam River to be demolished. Many houses aren’t upright, but slanting against others. The yellow, deep red and orange houses, some with wide white shutters and most of which are four stories high form a beautiful view on both sides of the river. 

An interesting feature of these houses is that on top of every one of them is a hook. It is said that the people of Amsterdam use these hooks to lift furniture in or out through the windows of the upper floors. 

Besides the water, the wooden shoes were a wonderful sight. You would find the wooden shoes so much fun, so beautiful, and the technology for making them very developed. I went to a shop specialising in wooden shoes and watched a worker making them. I have never seen so many different patterns, there were classical, modern, red, green, yellow and every kind of design. I think there must have been at least a hundred different kinds. There was no way that I could remember them all, I could only take as many pictures of the shoes as possible. At this point I understood why there are so many postcards in Holland with beautiful pictures of the wooden shoes. 

I got a good view of the banks from a boat on the Amsterdam river. When I recall this experience now, I feel that the banks of the River Seine have more art and historic buildings and the Rhine has ancient castles and a more natural view. The view from the canals of Venice is more romantic for many people, with singing and accordion music, and the joking of the boatmen wearing their blue banded hats. The view from the Amsterdam river combines the classical and the modern atmospheres, combines the modern city with ruralality, you seem to live in a village in the city and it’s also like living in a city in a village. That gives a feeling of being comfortable and of being idyllic. 

As well as being idyllic, I think that Amsterdam is the freest city. It allows drug use and open prostitution. In one famous street on the banks of the river there are many girls in the windows of the buildings along the road waiting in the moonlight for guests. The sex shows also attract so many people that there are long queues waiting to get into the theaters. All this forms a view unique to the city and to Europe. 

I only spent a short time in the city, however it was water and all the things related to water that gave me a wonderful and a deep impression. 


(Written on 24th.,Doc., 2000;Edited on 14th.,Oct.,2004)



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