Monday, September 29, 2008

Capital City

This weekend some aliens ambassadors were here for the Galactic Senate session. As part of our duty, a clone trooper detachment was deployed for their protection. The following is a brief report of the ambassadors tour across Capital City...
On of the main features of Capital City (a.k.a. Amsterdam) is the neuralgic point of Dam Square, just at the end of the main street heading from Centraal Station. A Royal Palace presides the square, which is flanked by the Nieuwe Kerk on the right. The spot is usually crowed with tourist as several street performers use to be here. They wear different outfits and just stay there, on top of a small pedestal, like statues, so that the people can make pictures with them. Of course some money is expected to be offer in advance.
Just behind the Royal Palace it is possible to find an incredible departament store, the Magna Plaza
This place is the former main post office of the city and was built between 1895-1899. 
Today is one of the nicest shopping facilities of the city. Inside of the building there are several mechanical stairs which allow a nice view of the walls and columns which conform the interior. The capitals or ornamental heads of the column represent people from different countries from all around the world since the neighbour Belgium to the exotic Brazil.

But the main feature of the city are the canals. Starting form Centraal Station, the canals build a semi-circular net which connects and covers the city. They total more than 100km and are cross by more than 1500 bridges. On sunny days, the local population and the tourists take the canals. A good amount of locals are able to drive a boat and own one or known someone who does. Therefore it is not strange to see bunches of people just passing by on a boat, with some friends, maybe some (loud) music, drinks and food.
Another possibility is to rent a boat and participate on the river party. The people use to wave their hands and greet the pedestrian on their festive trip across the city and are frequently taken in pictures by the wondered tourists. 

A very nice option is to make a canal cruise with one of the several companies which offer this service. Some of them are located direct in front of Centraal Station, other on the street which connect it with Dam Square. 
The price is more or less the same and the tour takes around one hour. So, it is not worth to wait more than 15 min for a tour to start but just go to one of the other companies and check if their tour starts earlier.

The boat will navigate the main canals and pass close to several of the main landmarks of the city. Herengracht (Gentelman's channel) is one of the more beautiful ones as the houses along its side were the property of the more powerful and rich families of the city on the Dutch Golden Century. Today those houses are owned by banks, advocates and insurance companies.
Also the official residence of the city mayor is on this street.

The ground in Amsterdam is not solid enough for supporting buildings and the houses were usually edified on wooden poles. The stability of the foundation was not always the optimal and for this reason a lot of houses are not able to keep the vertical and have to bend onto the surrounding ones, laying on them. The effect is quite weird.
Not part of the cruise on the canals, but for sure the main point of tourism of the city is the (in)famous Red Light District. Very different during daylight hours than at night, the place is always crowed with people walking around. The major part of the tourist just pass by, look to the sex shops, scape from the door-keepers of the numerous live sex shows and watch the few girls who are inside the windows. At night or at least after it gets dark, the presence of police is quite obvious as well as the recurrent approach of people offering all kind of drugs to the visitor. Once I even saw a guy being guided out of the district hand-shelled by a younger one, who was not wearing any police uniform but civil clothes. No idea about the possible offense or the outcome....
The lack of space to build houses in Amsterdam is an endemic problem since decades. For this reason some people just made their houses not along the canals but on the canals, on boat-houses. They are anchored on the sides of the canals and in several degrees of wellness / decadence.  Some of them are registered as houses by the local government of the city and enjoy legal status, which also allows them to have access to running water, electricity, telephone and gas lines. Obviously there are also an undetermined amount of illegal boat-houses, which obviously lack those services.
Amsterdam is also a very important harbor since centuries, for sure not so huge as the one form Rotterdam, but still big enough for the Artemis to dock in. The feeling passing close to it on the much smaller tourist canal cruiser was like watching an Imperial Destroyer from the Millennium Falcon, just amazing. 
Last part of the trip is the NEMO and the replica of a Dutch ship of the Dutch West Indian Company (yes, the same from Pirates of the Caribbean). Btw, some of the characters of the movies are to see inside of Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum.

1 comment:

La Tremolina... said...

And you even had some sun! Unbelievable.

Btw, did you know there's an exhibition on Star Wars in one of the Madrid museums now? It shows some real costumes and weapons from the film, among other things. I think it'll be here for a couple of months so I presume you'll have time to come and see... :)