Amsterdam – Part 3
I’m walking back from my graffiti tour and stop at a temporary bridge across the Oudezijds Achterburgwal canal, in front of my hotel. It’s closed to traffic now – dead water. My first time here in the Red Light District it was open, and wonderful. A constant stream of small boats full of happy people passing—waving, drinking, smoking, laughing – Having a time so good it was contagious.
The next year the city started repairing the canal’s century old walls. I remember waking up to a pile driver every morning and pretty much force out of my hotel during the day – because of the noise. They tore out dozens of beautiful trees that had lined the canal, old bridges were destroyed, and sidewalks. All this would be repaired, the city said. A year or two.
The two photos below were taken near the start, seven or eight years ago. This was my 2nd year in Amsterdam.
On my 3rd year’s visit they began driving pilings. They’re big on pilings. Amsterdam is built on ocean sand. You need a lot of pilings if you want things to remain stable.
Very big pilings. They drove a lot of them, eight hours a day. This photo taken from the porch of my hotel. The window in my room looks out on the canal below. Boom . . . Boom . . .Boom, and then a pause, and then again. All day. Not fun to be around. I took some photos and got the hell out of the way.
It’s been an major project, and expensive. The big construction firms doing work here are often from Germany and England – less expensive. Things went well for a year or two, then progress stopped – for years now. Only an ugly barrier remains in the water. Someone’s dared to climb out on it and spray painted their initials. Graffiti.
This is the canal today.
I’ve heard two versions of the reason for work stoppage. The old buildings (most from the 1700s) that line the canal are sitting on pilings – an average of sixteen of them. Some say the canal project has shifted the sand below causing some of the buildings to lean. Costs millions to fix just one piling. Many of these old buildings seem to be leaning, but they were built that way. The floors inside are level. In photo below see hooks sticking out from the tops of buildings. These are used to haul things up to the various floors. Slanted front prevents things from bumping into windows on their way up.
There are no elevators. Fourth floors are a four floor walk up. Stairs get narrower and corkscrew on their way to upper levels. You can see why furniture has to come in through the front windows. Rent goes from a thousand, or twelve hundred a month for these apartments, and they’re hard to get.
Bartender tells me work on the canal has stopped because of lack of funds. Other large projects in Amsterdam have met the same fate. Politics and money. Sad. The ducks and swans seem happy with the situation. Lots of new arrivals on the scene. I take a photo of a feathered family, then notice as I post this, the male has a ring of plastic trash stuck on his beak. I pray that he’s found a way to get it off.
The canal gets totally trashed every night, plastic. The sidewalks as well are littered every morning. Jerks throw cans, bottles, and plastic into the canal, or toss it on the sidewalks. Street cleaners start work at 7 a.m. and things look decent again by ten, when the tourists hit the street.