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Amsterdam Photo Tour: Look Up at Those Buildings!A typical building in Amsterdam. What's it used for? Well, when it was built, the building was associated with the manufacture of cloth. How can you tell? Look at the drapery on top of the facade.Continue to 2 of 10 below.
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Amsterdam Picture: South Church - ZuiderkerkZuiderkerk, or the South Church, was Amsterdam's first Protestant church. It was built between 1603 and 1614. No longer functioning as a church, the Zuiderkerk houses a permanent exhibit on modern town planning in Amsterdam.
It is rumored that Rembrandt painted "The Night Watch" here, but that's a disputed claim--although Rembrandt lived and worked quite nearby and three of his children are buried in the 17th century church.
From June to September you can climb the church tower on a free guided tour; these leave on the hour, Wednesday through Saturday from 2 to 4pm. Metro: Nieuwmarkt. Tram: 9, 14, or 20 to Waterlooplein.Continue to 3 of 10 below.
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Amsterdam Picture: Two Old WarehousesHere are two of the oldest Warehouses in Amsterdam. In front, the major means of getting around Amsterdam, bicycles. You can rent them at the train station, but beware--lots of tourists get clobbered by other cyclists. "We don't have any problem with passing people on bicycles, we have an extra sense that tells us what to do when we come upon another bicycle in our path. But tourists don't know this--and they cause many crashes," a resident told me.Continue to 4 of 10 below.
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Amsterdam Picture: Entrance to Amsterdam's Leper Colony
Leprosy was probably introduced to Amsterdam by crusaders coming from the Middle east. Look closely and you'll see the rattle on the male figure.
"Every Wednesday they were allowed into town to beg for alms, but they had to wear a large black coat, a big hat with a white ribbon and they had to use the rattle constantly. It wasn't until the end of the 19th century, that this disease was banished from the Netherlands."
Also: "The plague was seen as the justified anger of God against mankind to punish them for their sinful way of life." Seems our beliefs haven't been changed all that much by our increasing knowledge of the world.Continue to 5 of 10 below.
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Amsterdam Picture: A typical scene near the portAmsterdam is quite beautiful any time of year, but these pictures were taken on a brisk day in November, when Amsterdam is rendered perfectly through the lens.Continue to 6 of 10 below.
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Amsterdam Picture: Puccini ChocolatesI know this was supposed to be about Amsterdam architecture. But you need to take a break sometimes. Here's a place: Puccini Chocolates near the new opera house and the new market. (Staalstraat 17, Amsterdam, Nieuwmarke)Continue to 7 of 10 below.
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Amsterdam Picture: The Narrowest House in AmsterdamHere is reported to be the narrowest house in Amsterdam. Why are Amsterdam houses so narrow? Well, sit down a spell with some young gin (jenever) and I'll tell you.
All structures in Amsterdam are built on pilings sunk deep into soft soil. They get added reinforcement by being built adjacent to one another, so each building "leans" on the others in a block. These pilings can be made of wood because the muck they sit in doesn't allow oxygen to to break down the wood. Way back when, people used to put in their own pilings when building a house. Not everyone was good at it, nor did many have the resources to set big pilings very deep. So houses started to lean; then whole blocks started to lean.
So the government finally said "enough" and put in pilings themselves. They taxed residents to recoup the costs. The tax was based on how wide your house was.
So, of course, you built the narrowest, longest, highest house you could.Continue to 8 of 10 below.
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Amsterdam Picture: The Waag, or Old Weighing HouseDe Waag, or old weighing station, was originally a gate in a castle built in 1488, but became a weighing house in 1614. It's now a restaurant where you can get a fine pastry or coffee in the morning or a dinner at night. Dinner late at night is especially seductive because the place is lit by hundreds of candles in chandeliers.
But the exterior of the Waag is also interesting, as we'll see in the next picture.Continue to 9 of 10 below.
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Amsterdam - De Waag and the Bricklayer's GuildThis section of the De Waag was used for some time as the bricklayer's guild hall. To become a master bricklayer, you had to demonstrate your skill--and what better way than to make an intricate window treatment right in the guild hall itself? Here are several nice windows in the Waag.
De Waag also housed the Theatrum Anatomicum, where student surgeons received anatomical lessons. You can see the inscription on the door near the restaurant entrance. Rembrandt painted "The Anatomical Lesson of Prof. Tulip" here in 1632Continue to 10 of 10 below.
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Amsterdam Picture: House Plaques from Old Amsterdam HousesSo how were houses identified in Amsterdam's medieval period? Well, you named them according to your name or profession, and then affixed a plaque with a design that identified that name to your house. Thus, if you couldn't read you needn't worry; you just found a house in the general area called "the crowned six-legged aardvark" or something and looked about half way up on the gable to find the plaque. Many still exist up there.
It wasn't until Napoleon came along that numbers were used to identify houses in Amsterdam.
Here some of the plaques are preserved in an Amsterdam cloister near the Historical Museum. 47 of these plaques are preserved here by bricking them into a wall, and over 650 have been preserved this way in all of Amsterdam. Keep an eye out.