One of many interesting aspects of Amsterdam that we noticed upon arriving were the colorful houseboats lining the canals – there are about 2,400 of these semi-seafaring gems docked along the walls of the city.
We were overjoyed to have the opportunity to stay on one of them during our visit.
Our hostess, the affable Myra, explained that boats have been used to ferry goods throughout the canals since Amsterdam’s conception, but it wasn’t until the 1960s and 70s that utilizing boats exclusively for a residence really caught on.
“It was a bit freer back then, more of a hippy culture. People just brought their boats into the city and lived, sometimes communally, on them – often simply bathing in the canals. These days, the city has gotten involved and it is more regulated.”
This regulation means a limit to the amount of boats in the canals, and the houseboats are charged by the meter for docking space.
The upside is that for these fees, Amsterdam houseboat owners have access to city water and sewage – and a place to have mail delivered.
As the lifestyle became trendy, money followed, and soon the “WaterYuppies” moved in, though Myra takes issue with the nickname.
“Most of the people living on the houseboats still appreciate the freer, more bohemian lifestyle. Many of my friends are artist and entrepreneurs – and enjoy working on their vessels themselves. There is quite a bit of work to do on a daily basis when living on a steel ship.”
This is evident in the way Myra lives herself.
She resides in the front part of her 28-meter, circa 1910 historic tjalk (a cargo ship traditionally used on the canals) while renting out the aft as a bed and breakfast.
Since purchasing her tjalk, she has renovated and beautifully redesigned the entire interior herself.
Sitting out on our private aft deck, we had breathtaking views of Amsterdam. Flanked on one side by the Opera House…
…and on the other the famous Skinny Bridge, named — not for its present width — but for the original bridge built in 1691 by two sisters who lived on opposite sides of the river.
Wanting to visit each other, but not having the means to build a proper bridge, it was said to be too skinny for people to pass one another while crossing.
And lit up at night, it’s one of the most romantic spots in the world.
David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com