Souvenirs from Netherlands
One of Netherlands' iconic landmarks is its traditional canal house, a unique architectural design shaped around the history of its splendid cities. Among these, Holland's capital, Amsterdam, the 'Venice of the North', is the largest home for canal houses: a magnificent City of elegant bridges, small islands and charming waters. Developed around the main Herengracht, Prinsengracht, and Keizersgracht, the 17th century urban masterpieces of the Dutch Golden Age, the Capital's 100 km of canals create the city's Grachtengordel. This concentric belt of canals displays a unique Dutch architecture with its 1550 buildings in an area listed as an UNESCO World Heritage site. Take a boat or a bicycle along the City's canals and marvel at the colorful elegant houses: a perfect picture taking is just around the corner. And remember to keep a resin fridge magnet souvenir as a beautiful reminder.
An Urban Landscape of Canal Houses
Built on both sides of its many canals, the Holland houses have been created in an attempt to maximize the small living spaces in Netherlands' cities thus most of the Holland houses are no wider than 30-feet with narrow staircases and a slight tilt. Often these houses used their own pulley or windows for lifting heavy or large items. One of their features is the specific lighting: as these buildings shared two walls with the neighboring houses, their large windows had to compensate for the lack of light and to provide extra visibility. At the beginning, the glass was expensive and unpopular so instead the canal houses used shutters or leaded panes which were only opened on sunny summer days. Later on, the windows used a four shutter system which could adjust the light so the rich owners of the houses could enjoy their expensive decorations, china and furniture. It is believed that the great Dutch painting was influenced by the light in the canal houses.
The Dutch Golden Age of Canal Houses
Some of the most sophisticated canal houses are the double wide mansions located in the Golden Bend district from Herengracht, Amsterdam's 'Patricians' Canal' up until the 17th century. Still most typical Dutch Golden Age houses are located in Prinsengracht ('Prince's Canal') and some of them are part of the popular Canal Festival in Amsterdam when the center becomes a large concert hall for national and international musicians in a celebration of Amsterdam's rich heritage. It is believed that some of New York's early buildings are constructed in the same style by the founding Dutchmen. The different types of gables used by the Holland houses are representative for the fashion and the style of a certain period.
Famous Canal Houses in Amsterdam
The Canal Belt, the basic infrastructure system of Amsterdam, has provided an ideal setting for some of its most beautiful houses and monuments now viewed as splendid architectural landmarks of Holland. The canal houses were usually designed for and owned by the rich middle classes such as merchants and traders and a few of these 17th and 18th century old narrow picturesque houses have been transformed into museums. The Museum Geelvinck Hinlopen Huis used to be the residence of East and West India Companies trader Albert Geelvinck and it's now a splendid canal mansion combining Rococo, Romanticist and Classic style elements in a perfect location used for weekly classical concerts. The famous Museum van Loon is housed by the van Loon residence which belonged to the Dutch East India Company founder and features splendid art exhibitions whereas the Museum Willet-Holthuysen is a wonderful art collection donated by the widow of a 19th century art collector to the city of Amsterdam.