My friend Chris and I agreed, on a later trip, that Amsterdam is the most beautiful city we've seen. Chris has traveled fairly well in Europe and Asia. Me, well, I've seen Amsterdam, Seville, Dublin, and cities in the west of the U.S.

Seville has beautiful elements, as does San Francisco. But Amsterdam—I've realized more fully on each of the two times I've returned since living there—is almost entirely beautiful. The repeating effect of so many beautiful houses, canals, boats and houseboats is really affective, when you're in the mood for it.

It's strange how you wouldn't think of that if you lived there. At least, I didn't. It doesn't feel beautiful sometimes—though I am learning to enjoy it more.

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The canal houses, a defining factor of Amsterdam, follow a form. Narrow fronts, brick construction, and tall, with large windows.

The large windows, indeed, serve a purpose besides the normal. These are the path of ingress and egress for household furnishings.

The typical Amsterdam house is constructed with a thick beam that protrudes from the top of the gable, above a small attic window in the gable, and affixed with a large iron hook. On the day of any furniture moving, the householder attaches a large pulley to the hook.

The job requires at least three people. At least one person draws on the rope, which lifts the load. Another person, also on the ground, mans a rope that attaches to the load and holds it steady on the way up, keeping it from swaying and guiding it toward the chosen upstairs window. In the window, which opens wide, another person receives the load and brings it inward.

Many Amsterdam houses tilt forward a slight degree. Some canal houses are just plain crooked, through the subsidence of their foundation over centuries. Many downtown residences date from the "Golden Age" of Dutch society,


The Dutch Golden Age
1st 3/4 of 17th c.
trade, science, and art military power
riches; and during this time a great number of merchants rich built houses in an expanding Amsterdam.

a cask of peppercorn from the Dutch East Indies could provide a man with enough wealth to live out his life in relative comfort.

this forward-leaning is often a matter of design — designed for just this sort of furniture-moving.

(the form exists in other Dutch cities as well, naturally; but seems to be most prevalent in Amsterdam.)