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There and Back Again 3: Ships!

The Netherlands is founded upon shipping and trade, so there are some very creative vessels to be seen around Amsterdam. Admire this extraordinarily modern and luxe houseboat on a canal, for instance. There are no windows on the other side, near the street. All the picture windows you see here are six inches above the water line! Potted plants on the roof keep passersby from peering into the skylights, and a boat is tucked to one side in case the residents want to go anywhere in town. There must be parking regulations on the canals, but it mostly seems to be first come first served.


This houseboat is even better. You see the fencing? the cat sitting on the box behind? This is a canal boat shelter for homeless cats! The felines live on board, sustained by donations from animal lovers across Europe, until they are adopted into a forever home. If I lived in Amsterdam I would acquire all my cats here.

Here’s a sailing ship that we toured at the National Maritime Museum. It’s a replica of one of the merchant ships that made Amsterdam a world power. Admire how Poseidon is clutching his bath towel. And his affectionate sea horse has finny hooves!

Finally, a real historical treasure. This fantastic ship was dug out of the a bank of the Rhine River south of Amsterdam. The Museum Hoge Woerd, in the western suburbs of Utrecht, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because it’s the site of the northernmost fortress of the Roman Empire. Nothing is left of the old castellum, which was constructed as the last redoubt, civilization holding off the barbarians. But we took a high-tech virtual tour of it with the aid of virtual-reality goggles — I absolutely love the contrast between 21st century tech and ancient history! And the museum houses this, the most completely preserved Roman river vessel in northern Europe. It was discovered with all of its equipment, the tools and supplies and so forth — probably it sank in bad weather at a treacherous river bend, where it was preserved in the ooze until enterprising archaeologists dug it out. You can see how it resembles the canal houseboats, flatbottomed, long and narrow. These ships were built far upstream, where heavy Germanic forests provided ample wood, and sailed downstream with cargoes of grain and timber to sell. Even the ship was broken up and sold for its wood — the crew would walk home.

But we saw more museums than this! Next post!


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