A Day in the Life of…an Amsterdam Canal

The canals in Amsterdam are living organic waterways. They support many forms of life (fish, eels, ducks, etc.). They are also a dumping ground for humanity. Keeping them clean is an ongoing round-the-clock enterprise. The city does an admirable job, particularly considering the magnitude of the task.

Every year 6,000-10,000 bikes are reclaimed from the canals. The service that does this passes by our house about once per week. A photo set of today’s weekly pass-by is here. Check out the “catch” from one morning !

Some other facts- “Why the canal water is fresh… ”

  • The water in the canals in Amsterdam is cleaned several times a week: during four nights in summer (and when it is hot during seven nights) and two nights in winter. The water is not pumped up from the Amstel, nor from the IJ, but from the IJselmeer, which is relatively clean. At the end of the Zeeburgerdijk (in the east, near the Flevopark), you can find the pumping station. Four times a week (or seven or two times) all sluices around the center of Amsterdam are closed (most of them automatically, but the one at the Oudezijds Kolk still by hand), except for two at the western end of the city center. Then about a third of the total volume of all the water in the canals is pumped from the IJselmeer (through a large culvert under the Amsterdam-Rhine Canal which forms more or less the border between the IJ and the IJselmeer) into the canals, which change now into a kind of river, discharging into the IJ.
  • Amsterdam has approximately 160 canals with a total estimated length of 75.5 KM. How much water ? 5.2 million cubic meters !

Miranda on a bike

Today Caren and I took Miranda for a brief ride around town. Miranda’s thin Chapel Hill blood was not used to the hearty Dutch practice of riding a bike in frigid, often breezy conditions, of course with no hat or gloves. (this truly Dutch approach to cycling takes many weeks to fully derive an appreciation for the feeling of masochistic elation). Nevertheless, she was radiant-

Our first destination was a photo exhibition on the Keizersgracht at the Foam_Fotografimuseum in Amsterdam of the works by the famous photographer, Henri Cartier-Bresson. Info on the exhibition is here.

Then, a meander over the Amstel near Waterlooplein for a view of some canal jachts, back toward our area in “The Nines” for a small shop koffie break and finally, the warmth of our home. Several photos I captured “live” on my bike of her are here.

Museumplein Video (herky-jerky)

Kit, Caren and I went for a chilly bike ride over to the Museumplein. I attempted to hold my tiny camera while riding and alternating one hand into my pocket to keep warm. The huffing and puffing you hear isn’t me that winded, it’s just keeping warm !

It’s very rough, but you do get a sense of riding a bike in Amsterdam… ! It’s quite different riding near our house in the canal district. I’ll attempt a video of that one of these days.
Click here for the video (in .mov format)- this file is approx. 35 MB so ’tis best to download to disk first….