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Friday, November 11, 2011

Netherlands : Canals of Amsterdam Postcard


Amsterdam, capital of the Netherlands, has been called the "Venice of the North" for its more than one hundred kilometres of canals, about 90 islands and 1,500 bridges. The three main canals, Herengracht, Prinsengracht, and Keizersgracht, dug in the 17th century during the Dutch Golden Age, form concentric belts around the city, known as the grachtengordel. Alongside the main canals are 1550 monumental buildings. The 17th-century canal ring area, including the Prinsengracht, Keizersgracht, Herengracht and Jordaan, are put on the UNESCO World Heritage List.


History :
Much of the Amsterdam canal system is the successful outcome of city planning. In the early part of the 17th century, with immigration at a height, a comprehensive plan was put together, calling for four main, concentric half-circles of canals with their ends resting on the IJ bay. Known as the "grachtengordel", three of the canals are mostly for residential development (Herengracht or ‘’Patricians' Canal’’; Keizersgracht or ‘’Emperor's Canal’’; and Prinsengracht or ‘’Prince's Canal’’), and a fourth, outer canal, Singelgracht, for purposes of defense and water management. The plan also envisaged interconnecting canals along radii; a set of parallel canals in the Jordaan quarter (primarily for the transportation of goods, for example, beer); the conversion of an existing, inner perimeter canal (Singel) from a defensive purpose to residential and commercial development; and more than one hundred bridges. The defensive purpose of the Nassau/Stadhouderskade was served by moat and earthen dikes, with gates at transit points but otherwise no masonry superstructures.

Construction proceeded from west to east, across the breadth of the layout, like a gigantic windshield wiper as the historian Geert Mak calls it – not from the center outwards as a popular myth has it. Construction of the north-western sector was started in 1613 and was finished around 1625. After 1664, building in the southern sector was started, although slowly because of an economic depression. The eastern part of the concentric canal plan, covering the area between the Amstel river and the IJ bay, was not implemented for a long time. In the following centuries, the land went mostly for park, the Botanical garden, old age homes, theaters and other public facilities – and for waterways without much plan.[9] Several parts of the city and of the urban area are polders, recognisable by their postfix -meer meaning 'lake', such as Aalsmeer, Bijlmermeer, Haarlemmermeer, and Watergraafsmeer.

Notable canals in the Canal Belt :
Singel (Amsterdam):
SingelSingel encircled the medieval city of Amsterdam. It served as a moat around the city from 1480 until 1585, when Amsterdam expanded beyond Singel. The canal runs from the IJ bay, near Central Station, to the Muntplein square, where it meets the Amstel river. It is now the inner-most canal in Amsterdam's semicircular ring of canals. The canal should not be confused with Singelgracht canal, which became the outer limit of the city during the Dutch Golden Age in the 17th Century.

Herengracht :
HerengrachtHerengracht (Patricians' Canal or Lord's Canal) is the first of the three major canals in the city centre of Amsterdam. The canal is named after the heren regeerders who governed the city in the 16th and 17th century. The most fashionable part is called the Golden Bend, with many double wide mansions, inner gardens and coach houses on Keizersgracht.

Keizersgracht :
Keizersgracht in AmsterdamKeizersgracht (literal English translation: Emperor's Canal) is the second and widest of the three major canals in the city centre of Amsterdam, in between Herengracht and Prinsengracht. It is named after Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor.

Prinsengracht :
PrinsengrachtPrinsengracht (Prince's Canal) is the fourth and the longest of the main canals in Amsterdam. It is named after the Prince of Orange. Most of the canal houses along it were built during the Dutch Golden Age of the United Provinces. The bridges over this canal don't connect with the streets in the Jordaan.

Interesting sights along Prinsengracht include the Noorderkerk (Northern Church), the Noordermarkt (Northern Market), Anne Frank House, the Westerkerk (Western Church, Amsterdam's tallest church) with the Homomonument (Gay Monument), which actually faces Keizersgracht.

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