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Life in 16th and 17th Century Amsterdam Holland: Transportation

Transportation in Amsterdam

Cor Snabel

I own an old book with descriptions of all the villages and towns in the Netherlands and all the distances are given in hours walking. That's what people did most, they walked. Within the city, from city to city, even from country to country. They had no choice; they had to walk.

Only in winter they had another form of cheap transportation, skating. Even their early ancestors, the Batavians, knew how to skate, only they used sharpened bones as skates.

But under normal conditions all goods were transported by wheelbarrow and handcart, for transportation of the really heavy materials the companies used workhorses. Within Amsterdam the number of horses was limited and the rich owned most of the horses for their carriages. In 1634 the number of carriages caused traffic jam in the narrow streets, so the City Council had to restrict the use of private carriages. Despite the fine of 50 guilders (a workman had two work 10 weeks for that amount of money) this rule never was very effective, because the members of the City Council refused to give up their own carriages.

The most effective way of transportation for goods and persons was by boat. The network of canals, rivers and streams made it possible to reach every place they wanted and it was much faster. Don't forget, within the center of the city almost all roads had pavement, but in the back streets and outside the city it was sand, dust, mud and hardly any road as we know it. So a ride in a carriage over a bumpy, muddy road was no pleasure trip.

But a voyage on a track boat was a pleasure trip ! The traveler could enjoy the view of the landscape, have a conversation with the skipper, read a book or he could go to sleep in the deckhouse, while the boat was slowly sliding through the water, pulled by one or two horses. Every hour a boat left for any city, the voyage from Amsterdam to Rotterdam for instance lasted 14 hours, but the traveler arrived rested and cheerful. The traveler in the carriage arrived a few hours earlier, but he was exhausted and broken.

But not all track boats were pulled by horses, some inland transportation ships were pulled by men, sometimes with the help of wife and children. Just imagine, in winter, in this flat and windy country.

Dutch Bakers in Amsterdam Holland
Dutch Banishment in Amsterdam Holland
Dutch Begijnhof in Amsterdam Holland
Dutch Book Printers in Amsterdam Holland
Dutch Building (Construction) in Amsterdam Holland
Dutch Charity in Amsterdam Holland
Dutch Children in Amsterdam Holland
Dutch Diseases in Amsterdam Holland
Dutch Education in Amsterdam Holland
Dutch Entertainment in Amsterdam Holland
Dutch Extinct Trades in Amsterdam Holland
Dutch Funerals in Amsterdam Holland
Dutch Guilds in Amsterdam Holland
Dutch Immigrants in Amsterdam Holland
Dutch Marriage in Amsterdam Holland
Dutch Miracles in Amsterdam Holland
Dutch Prostitution in Amsterdam Holland
Dutch Schutterij (Civil Guard in Amsterdam Holland
Dutch Servant Girls in Amsterdam Holland
Dutch Street Life in Amsterdam Holland
Dutch Table Manners in Amsterdam Holland
Dutch Transportation in Amsterdam Holland
Dutch Role of Women in Amsterdam Holland
Dutch Introduction in Amsterdam Holland

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