An Amsterdam love affair

On a recent vacation I fell in love.  I fell in love with the city of Amsterdam.  Its incredible architecture and the laid back dutch lifestyle both relaxed and inspired me–allowing me to take in all of the details which make the city so magical. The town is quaint and peaceful, filled with bustling bikes, winding canals, and romantic candlelit restaurant windows.  The resident’s bright, cheery homes reflected their warm personalities, and I left the Netherlands enamored and wanting to learn more.  Each home is uniquely designed, many of which lean slightly, adding to their quirky charm.  When viewing the houses all lined up, you begin to see the color palette of the city–consisting of deep emeralds, navys and red tones, balanced with bright whites and grays.

The city is well known for it’s tall, skinny canal houses with ornately crowned gables which reflect their grandeur.  Due to space restrictions in the 16th century, when the city was rapidly growing, a policy of taxing homes based on the width of their facades was enforced.  One of the most narrow houses to date is less than six feet wide!  Many homes have retail on the ground level with residences above.  They were originally built this way to prevent flooding from the canals.  Being the savvy spenders that they are, the dutch refused to waste precious space and money on generous staircases.  Most of them are just wide enough to fit one person, and appear to shoot straight up.  With such narrow staircases, you can imagine moving homes is rather difficult.  For this reason, most buildings have a beam that protrudes from their gables, called hijsbalks.  This beam holds a large hook where rope, a pulley, and manpower are all that’s needed for a successful move.  As glass was cheaper than stone when the buildings were built, the facades have large removable windows, allowing furniture to be hoisted straight through them.  This difficulty in moving large furniture would force you to think twice about how much you really needed!

When wandering down the canals, you rarely see curtains drawn in the windows.  While it may be to let in as much light as possible during the frequently cloudy days, it allegedly dates back to reformed Christianity, to show that honest citizens have nothing to hide.  The openness of the dutch people allows you to peek inside their homes to get a sense of their lifestyle.  I often spotted families gathered at their dining table, considered the workhorse of the dutch home and utilized for working, dining, and chatting with friends.  Many homes have wood floors and white painted walls to maximize natural light and maintain their common neutral palette.  A breadbox can be found resting on the kitchen counter, as they eat a fair amount of bread each day–some families consuming 3 loaves per week!  A typical breakfast consists of sliced bread with an assortment of toppings ranging from meat and cheese, to fruit, to chocolate hazelnut spread with sprinkles–yum!

People in the Netherlands are very house-proud, and opt to invite friends and family over for dinner instead of dining out.  They value their relationships and the coziness of their homes, and use the word gezellig (pronounced heh-SELL-ick) to describe this feeling.  There is no literal translation for the word, but to the dutch it means warmth and charm, spending time with loved ones, or general togetherness.  This got me thinking about what I would consider gezellig in my own home.  It could be snuggling on the sofa with a blanket, my husband and our pup, or lighting more candles to make our home feel more warm and intimate, or even inviting neighbors over to share dinner and a bottle of wine.  Whatever it might be, I resolve to create more gezellig moments in my home this year.  This beautiful dutch word is just one more reason to fall in love with the city of Amsterdam.