Tuesday, September 22, 2009

coffeeshops and windmills

Amsterdam. I really had no idea what to expect from it. I mean, what do you do in one of the most liberal cities in the world... with your parents? 

Luckily, a lot. 

sitting by a canal

I think of all the cities we visited, Amsterdam is one of my favorites ( its a close tie with Zurich). The city is built around a series of concentric canals, so most of the streets line the canals. You can get to almost all of them by boat, And there are boats and houseboats parked along the wider canals.

This cafe is right across from the Rembrandt house- built in the 1600s!
 If you look at it from behind, it is tilting. Leaning tower of Pisa tilting.

We took the boat tour, which basically goes around the city by canal, and you can get off/on wherever you please. Amsterdam isn't that huge of a city, so we were able to see almost everything in a day- the Rembrandt museum, Anne Frank house, red light district, boat tour, and we finished off with some delicious Chinese food (I'm not kidding you- It's better than the stuff in L.A.!). So here's Amsterdam in pictures!

If you look closely, the buildings all tilt inwards. 

Amsterdam is built on soft soil, so many of the buildings stand on sand. The buildings are supported by posts that are placed deep into the ground to keep them steady. But of course, they're still tilting since they've all been around since the 17/18th centuries. 

I remember being told what Coffeeshops in Amsterdam really were.

I didn't actually believe it until I saw it. There are so many in Amsterdam, as well as shops selling seeds, plants, and weed lollipops. I also smelled pot on the streets on multiple occasions. 

Buildings along the canal. 

If you look closely, you'll see that the roof gables are different on each house. Until the 18th century, buildings in Amsterdam didn't have numbers- they were identified by the roof gable and embellishments/tile on the house, which referenced the trade of the family that inhabited it. You can still see the the tiles on some of the older buildings. Strange, isn't it? But Amsterdam wasn't very big back then. 

Another fun fact- If you look closely, you'll see that each roof gable has a hook protruding from it (at the center of the point of the roof). All of the houses in Amsterdam have it. Since the houses are so narrow, all the houses use the hooks as a pulley system when moving large items, moving things in through the window instead of up flights of stairs. The system has been in use since the 17th century. 

And last but not least, my favorite part of our trip to Holland: Visiting a windmill!
I never actually understood what these were for and how they functioned, and visiting a windmill definitely enlightened me. I insisted on it the last morning we were there (I convinced my entire family we had to see a windmill. I mean come on, we're in Holland!). I highly recommend it to everyone. I think it was my favorite tour out of all the ones we did on the trip- better than the castle tours in Germany, the Opera House in Paris, lake tour in Zurich, and the Anne Frank House (they were all awesome, believe me, but this one surpassed the original basis of awesomeness). 

We got to climb the sails on the mill! The tour guide made us get on there to take our picture.
 I think this should be our Christmas card photo. It is hilariously beyond cheesy.

Skip this last part if you don't want to read about mills.

How could the explanation and demonstration of the a) round wooden brake system, b) Use of Archimede's screw in transferring water, and c) rotation of sails not be fascinating? (sorry if my description is lacking, I'm doing the best I can without a visual aid)

The mill we visited (molen van sloten, mill of Sloten) is used to transfer water. Amsterdam is below sea level and gets more than enough rain than is good for it, so the function of the mill is to transfer the water out of Amsterdam when the levels get too high. Without it, the airport would be under water. The system of milling hasn't changed for hundreds of years, and windmills are still in use all over Holland.

1)The Archimedes screw at the base of the mill is used to transfer water out of the city. As the screw turns, it churns the water out (one way only) at 60,000 gallons of water/minute (max. speed).

2) The screw is connected to the sail at the top of the windmill (the 4 wings). The sail works exactly like how sails on a boat work and control the speed/braking of the screw at the bottom. 

3)You rotate the direction of the sails depending on which direction the wind is coming from. A wheel, similar to the steering wheel on a ship, is used to control the sails. The sails weigh around 4 tons, and you can turn the wheel like a hamster, walking inside the rungs when the wind is too high. The speed the sails turn determines the speed of the screw pump, therefore controlling the amount of water that is being transferred.

See, isn't it cool??? If you're reading this and you got this far, thanks. I always knew we had something in common.


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