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Amsterdam’s Canals: A Biophilic Feature?

March 27, 2014
Amsterdam, (c) MMD 2014

Amsterdam, (c) MMD 2014

We had never been to Amsterdam before, so were very happy to be able to spend almost a week there over spring break. I’ve never heard anyone say a bad word against the city, and it’s one of those places that I knew I was going to like before I even got there. And indeed, I totally fell for the place. How could you not, between the canals, those crazy rooflines zig-zagging all over the place, and its people?

It’s a great walk-around city, and since this is my preferred way to see a new place we had a blast. I loved, loved, loved all of the canals — they provided an amazing sense of place and added to the open feeling of the city. The canals are great example of biophilic features — things that bring (and allow for) non-human nature into the built environment. And the canals really do seem to be a central part of life in the city. Although many of the boats on the canals these days are tour boats (yes, we did take a tour — see below for pictures from our sunset cruise), occasionally you see a local boat ferrying someone around from point A to point B. And the city’s famous houseboats are also alive and well. The Houseboat Museum had a neat video showing some of the canals in winter, complete with Amsterdammers flying by on ice skates.

And there is life in these canals. The Chiuki Street Photography blog posted pictures of fingerling bream in one of the canals a couple of years ago, and the official tourism site “I Amsterdam” says that northern pike reside in the city as well. There are also several places that run fishing expeditions in and around Amsterdam (the canals, of course, extend far beyond the oldest part of the city).

There is another part of Amsterdam fishing life that’s although worth noting: “Fishing in the Amsterdam Canals” seems to often refer to fishing bicycles and other debris out of the water! Apparently thieves sometimes dump stolen bikes into the canals once they’re done with them. An AP story from 2011 quoted Arie de Beer, with Waternet (the Amsterdam Water Authority) as saying that they fish 12,000 – 15,000 bikes a year out of the canals.

Amsterdam, (c) MMD, 2014

Amsterdam, (c) MMD, 2014

Amsterdam, (c) MMD, 2014

Amsterdam, (c) MMD, 2014

Amsterdam, (c) MMD, 2014

Amsterdam, (c) MMD, 2014

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