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The Netherlands

Amsterdam houseboat

I stayed on a houseboat in Amsterdam for six weeks, May and June of 2000.

I had booked the gig online, and of course I was reasonably skeptical. Then, on top of that, I was running a day late because I had gone to Germany for a night with a couple of American friends who had met me at Gatwick International. I'd tried to call. I arrived the evening of the second day.

But it turned out to be great. Willem, the owner of the boat, had built the thing himself, a nice natural-wooden rectangular structure that he had constructed on top of a flat barge hull. I had a room with enough space for the full-size bed and a table. I had a radio, and a nice large window out onto Nieuwe Prinsengracht.

Prinsengracht is one of the three main concentric canals in Amsterdam. Tip: they're in alphabetical order — Herengracht, Keizersgracht, and outermost, Prinsengracht. Nieuwe Prinsengracht is its "modern" extension, on the Northeastern side of the city — across the river Amstel.

The houseboat floated in a quiet neighborhood amongst 17th-century canal houses and newer office buildings. There was little foot traffic, and just enough boat traffic to gently rock the house every now and then. The only kind of disturbance in the area were the vicious little moorhens protecting their nesting-season territory.

There was one night that a window upstairs across the canal swung open in a storm and broke back against the wall. But beside that and the moorhens, it was nothing but peaceful.

I was paying 45 Guilders per night, which at the time was about $18 US. When the three weeks that I had booked were nearly over, Willem told me that the next scheduled guest had canceled. He suggested that if I wanted to stay for three weeks more, he'd charge me 40 Guilders per night. Very kind, and very Dutch, knowing that it would make me happy to pay a little bit less money.

Days before I had to leave the houseboat — and I didn't have a plan — I found a flat in Osdorp, western metropolitan Amsterdam.