At Home in Amsterdam

May 16, 2016

"I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” ~Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz”I felt a bit like Dorothy when I flew into Amsterdam last month, on a plane, not a tornado!

“I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”  ~Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz”

Photo Courtesy of Sweet Peas Design

I felt a bit like Dorothy when I flew into Amsterdam last month, on a plane, not a tornado! I had a feeling I wasn’t in Chicago anymore, particularly when I saw the unusual architecture of the row houses, which are as typical of the city as canal boats and bicycles. They’re tall – three to five stories high - and skinny, they lean forward over the street, almost as if they are about to fall over and they all seem to have a heavy beam jutting out from their gables!

Photo Courtesy of Sweet Peas Design

Let me explain. The homes are tall and thin because the property taxes are based on width, not square meters. But because they are skinny they have tight narrow staircases and that makes it impossible to move furniture and other large items upstairs. Instead, the Dutch haul those heavy items up the exterior of the house to the proper floor using a massive hook-and-pulley system attached to a sturdy beam attached to the gable. The windows have to be removed at the appropriate level so the items can be loaded in, and of course the house needs to lean forward to avoid the possibility of items bashing into the front of the house on the way up!

 

Photo Courtesy of YouTube.com

Decorative gables are another characteristic feature of traditional Dutch homes. There are several  main styles that date back as far as four centuries, but the wealthiest people had the most intricate and personalized the toppers.

Stair step gables were popular between 1600 to 1665.

Photo Courtesy of Sweet Peas Design

Tall, thin neck gables were common from 1640 to 1840.

Photo Courtesy of Sweet Peas Design

Bell gables were in style from the late 17th century.

Photo Courtesy of Sweet Peas Design

Don’t you wonder who lives behind these lovely facades?

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