© 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.