How low are the low lands?

Pretty low.
About half the country is more than a metre above sea level, mostly that in the east and south of the country. Most of the rest is below sea level, including where I live.

The government puts a lot of work into managing the water across the country, given that it’s a coastal country and laced with rivers this is a challenge.

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There is a whole government department devoted to managing water, they do a lot of pretty interesting innovation, including the huge movable surge barriers in Rotterdam – bigger than the Eiffel tower and they float.But where is “sea level” measured from?

Sea level for Amsterdam, in fact for the Netherlands and much of Northern Europe is measured from the “Normaal Amsterdamse Peil”, or the Amsterdam Ordinance Datum. This is shown in the City Council office by Waterlooplein.


The level of the NAP was estabished in 1684, and based on the average high tide of the IJ between September 1683 and September 1684, and represented a high-water mark. It was then marked on stones on the locks around Amsterdam by order of the Mayor, Mr Hudde. There is only one of these stones remaining in situ, it’s on the Eenhoorsluis, on the corner of Korte Prinsengracht and Haarlemmerdijk.


Even Schiphol is below sea level. This mural is at the city council office on Waterlooplein.



Amsterdam Gay Pride

0308gayTomorrow is the gay pride parade through the canals of Amsterdam, it’s start from roughly where this photo was taken (Eenhoornsluis).

The route was marked with rainbow banners a week ago, and events started earlier this week. One of my favourite events is the Drag Queen Olympics, happening tonight at the Homo-monument. It includes the hilarious handbag toss.

But the pinnacle of the week is the Parade tomorrow when 80 boats will go through the Prinsengracht to the Amstel, then along the Oudeschans. The full route is on the site.

The parade is hugely popular with gays and straights; it’s always a great spectacle with music, dancing, feather boas and masses of body glitter. There are usually also at least a couple of boats with a more political message – reminding us that not all countries are as fair and open about homosexuality as the Netherlands.

I’m living in the city of cool!

OK, they’re talking about Holland for the first 1.27, but most of the images are from Amsterdam.

Besides “I’m living in the northern province of cool” doesn’t have the same catchiness as a title.

Dredge Report

I posted an image of the dredge at work on Brouwersgracht a few days ago – now I’m going one better and adding a video.

Gay Pride Parade

Today was Amsterdam’s gay pride parade – which takes place on boats along the Prinsengracht. It’s always a great show, and crowds turn out to watch. I couldn’t stay long today, but I managed to get a few photos (and completely soaked).

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Dredge on Brouwersgracht

One of the problems of living on canals is that eventually dirt and rubbish accumulates at the bottom, and needs to be removed. Currently there’s a dredger working on Brouwersgracht.

The blue woonboot (houseboat) you can see has been moved out of it’s normal spot while the dredger works behind it. Tough luck if they people forgot their wallets when they left in the morning.

When I cam back in the evening the houseboat was back in its place and the dredger had moved on.

It’s summer

It’s not that easy to tell from the weather we’re experiencing but officially it’s summer. That means it’s time for summer boat parties.
Canal boat in Amsterdam
Even the rain doesn’t put off Dutch boating parties, these guys are hiding under a bridge until the shower passes.
canal boat in the rain

Skating on Amsterdam’s Canals

I loved walking around the iced-over canals, it was the first time in all the years I’ve lived here that we could do that. Unfortunately I don’t own skates, and anyway the last time I skated was decades ago.

Now that the ice has melted… I found this wonderful video that gives you the feeling of skating on the ice – it really was joyous.

Party on Ice

I went for a walk on the ice last night, and saw a group having a party. There were a lot of people skating or walking, kids with toboggans, and dogs. Really a great atmosphere.

Almost worth suffering the cold weather.

Cleaning the Canals

Stuff gets dumped in Amsterdam’s canals, so there is a great vehicle used to clear out canals on a regular basis. It’s a sort of floating bulldozer, which scoops up whatever is on the bottom of the canal.


Once the water has drained out the rubbish is dumped in a barge, it was mostly bits of metal and twisted old bikes.