Another wee little history.
Amsterdam was originally founded as "Aemstelredamme", which meant nothing more or less than " dam in the Amstel". The Amstel was, and still is the river that comes floating from the south as the sum of the rivers the "Drecht" and the "Kromme Mijdrecht"and ends its course in the "IJ", the water right behind the Central Station.
In the olden days, until Cornelius Lely constructed the 32 KM. "Afsluitdijk" in 1927-'32, the IJ had an open connection with the North Sea and so the Amstel estuary was flooded by salt water every six hours or so. Hence the decision of the early settlers to build a Dam to keep their fertile farmlands protected. "Waterdoors" constructed in the Dam would be opened at low tide to let the Amstelwater flow into the IJ, and closed at high tide, to keep the salt water out. As activity grew, and the settlement with it, the primitive dikes that were build in support with the Dam were fortified and turned into roads to transport the goods that the, by now developed, harbour generated. Today we still walk over the "Nieuwendijk" and the "Haarlemmerdijk",The "Zeedijk" and the "Zeeburgerdijk" and of course the "Schellingwouderdijk", but I'd be surprised if you could pronounce that.
|The river Amstel, with the Amstel sluices in the foreground.|
All this activity and industriousness didn't go unnoticed in the rest of the Netherlands, of course, and so in 1275 the Amstelredamme dwellers were granted the right of transport of goods and merchandise throughout the Netherlands, free of toll. The original document states a "damage that was done to the folk of Amstelredamme that has to be made up for, and bought off", but today no-one knows exactly what damage is being referred to. These "city rights" opened up perspective for profit! Transport costs became considerably lower, and the base for developing the trade that has made Amsterdam the city it is today, was laid.
This also meant an increasing risk of invasion by unfriendly people. To protect the young city,an encompassing wall was erected, terminating at the banks of the IJ, thus leaving a defendable supply route in times of dire straits. A canal was dug around the wall in double defence, the"Singel". Around the 17th century, as the city expanded, more horseshoe-shaped canals were handdug around it, crossed by smaller canals, thus making it possible to refresh the (probably smelly) canalwater with fresh Amstelwater, as well as having a means to inexpensively transport goods all over the place. "Herengracht","Keizersgracht" and "Prinsengracht" (yes,that's right, our gracht) are the result of this expansion, and a thick wall around the now called "Stadhouderskade"was built to become the new line of defence. To house the labourers, a whole new housing area was put up on the side of the city. It's name is probably a derivate from the French word for "garden",and we still know it as the "Jordaan" today.
|The Muiderpoort, one of the|
original gates into the city.
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