American blogger Abi Sutherland currently lives just North of Amsterdam, and she is slowly getting used to the fact that there are no mountains here:
This is a good spot. The bike path runs between two strips of water, both bright with reflected sky. To my right is a narrow patch of reeds, its leaves beginning to turn purple-brown with autumn. The last light of the day gives them a bit of its orange, a parting gift of warmth and richness. To my left, the fields stretch out for kilometers, flat and treeless. Only the livestock and the woodwork—bridges and little stretches of fence—break the landscape between me and the outlines of the distant trees and towns. Above it all, the sky is full of light.
This is nothing like anything I have ever known. If my love of California came through the front door and my love of Scotland through the side, this sudden, inarticulate love of the Netherlands is the unexpected guest who appears one day in the living room, ringing no bell and answering no invitation. And yet here it is, and it draws me out of the house and away from the cities every bright day. I go out for half-hour rides and come back three hours later, windblown and bright-eyed.
Tags: brooks, landscapes, Noord Holland, North Holland, polders
Amsterdam is 200 years older than is commonly assumed, says historical geographer Chris de Bont. The settlement was originally started in 1000 AC instead of 1200 AC, which is still pretty young. De Bont bases his conclusion on the patterns formed by old brooks. “I found the same patterns elsewhere in the region where farmers lived around the time,” De Bont told print daily Metro, “so it’s logical to assume that farmers also created the patterns in Amsterdam.”
According to Volkskrant, De Bont also claims that parts of the rivers Amstel and Zaan were dug, and that the IJ used to be a big swamp instead of a waterway. De Bont’s assertions are part of his PhD thesis which he gets to defend next Tuesday at Wageningen University.
Illustration: one of the earliest city maps of Amsterdam (1544) by Cornelis Anthonisz. after one of his own paintings. Check the larger version at Wikimedia Commons, it’s pretty detailed and a great demonstration of how little the inner city has changed in 500 years (they built a McDonald’s in the Kalverstraat and that new-fangled ‘palace’ on Dam Square, and that’s about it).
Tags: Amstel, Amsterdam, brooks, dikes, geography, IJ, Wageningen, water, Zaan