Ice skaters enjoying the late afternoon sun on Prinsengracht.
It’s been freezing in Amsterdam — a lot. We haven’t seen this kind of weather in years. It’s been nearly a decade since people were able to skate the canals.
This is a view of Prinsengracht.
While crossing a bridge over the Leidsegracht where it intersects Prinsengracht, Pieter Goemans was inspired to write the song, “Aan de Amsterdamsche Grachten” (To the Canals of Amsterdam). That was in 1949.
Dick Schallies, of the well-known Dutch Metropole Orchestra, wrote a melody for it. Johnny Kraaikamp was the first to sing it, but it wasn’t until 1956 that singer/actor Hans Boskamp cut a record with the song.
Later the song was covered by dozens of artists. The most popular version is by Win Sonneveld.
After Goemans died, in 2000, his ashes were scattered at the intersection of Prinsengracht and Leidsegracht.
The rendition in this video is by Tante Leen, a popular singer from the Jordaan district.
Many a foreigner, while not quite clear on the lyrics, can at least agree with the sentiment of the song:
To the canals of Amsterdam
I have pledged my whole heart
Amsterdam fills my thoughts
As our country’s most beautiful city
All those Amsterdam people
All lights late in the evening on the square
Nobody can wish for anything better
Than to be an Amsterdammer
At house stands at a canal in old Amsterdam
Where as a boy of eight I visited my grandmother
No I see an unfamiliar man in the front room
And that lovely attic has also been turned into an office
Only the trees dream, high above the traffic
And over the water sails a boat, just like back then
In August 2010 Amsterdam’s historic grachtengordel (literally, belt of canals) around the city’s center has been added to UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites.
Originally the canals of Amsterdam had several functions:
they allowed for goods to be delivered from the harbor (and the markets at Dam square and Nieuwmarkt) to storage facilities and stores throughout thecity.
they were used as defence moats
they served to guide the water of the Amstel River through its former delta.
Nowadays its most popular use is recreation.
Taking a canal tour is one of Amsterdam’s top tourist attractions.
Swimming in the canals is discouraged — if not outright prohibited. People do fall in, though. Those who live to tell about it are always taken to a hospital for a tetanus shot.
Note that many of the houseboats lining the canals are not yet hooked up to the city’s sewer system.