can go anywhere in Holland, and never be far from a canal. These
waterways are as beautiful as they are practical. Holland canals
serve a number of very important purposes. First they were used to
drain the land so homes and farms could be established where once there
Second they provide
a means of transport for goods from inland regions to the sea. Third
they are homesteads for thousands who live on houseboats. Houseboats
are very trendy and can be seen on most canals in Amsterdam. Some
are available for rent, however they have become very expensive due to
Next, the canals
are used for recreation (boating) and for parades. One of the most
popular canal parades is Amsterdam's Gay Pride parade that attracts more
than 100,000 spectators straining to see nearly naked men cavorting on
gaily decorated floats. A must do if you're in town!
Last, the Dutch
canals act as sewers for many houseboats, getting flushed out at regular
intervals. But for most people they are part of the Dutch landscape
and a beautiful example of human ingenuity and a great conductor of feng
shui (wind & water).
Amsterdam's canals have another bonus, hundreds of bridges! Spanning the centuries as well as the canals, bridges provide a glimpse into Amsterdam's past, and make wonderful observation points for photographing the city or just watching the boats go by. At night many are lit up and make a beautiful circular reflection in the water below.
In many Dutch
cities most of the canals have been filled and something essential has
been lost. Amsterdam is famous for it's canals which ring the city
like ripples on a pond. When the winters are very cold, the canals
freeze and the Dutch take out their ice skates and traverse the canals
just like Hans Brinker. When finished they will stop at a place called
‘Koek en Zopie’ where they'll either drink hot chocolate or eat ‘Snert’
(green pea soup). In fact the famous Elfstedentocht (Eleven Cities' Tour)
in Friesland (far north of Holland) attracts tens of thousands of Dutch
men and women who brave the cold to skate 200 kilometers, starting and
finishing in Leeuwarden. For more info on this event go to this
site. Unfortunately due to global warming, the canals rarely freeze
in Holland anymore!
But don't mistake
a canal for a pool. Especially in the cities. Canals are dirty
and the water might be toxic. Unless you see the Dutch happily swimming
in the water, (wherever) don't even think about it. Barges regularly
clean out debris from the canals in Amsterdam, including shopping carts
and LOTS of bicycles.
Note:Picturesque, practical and perfect for parades and parties, Amsterdam's canals have many uses.
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