Kayaking on Amsterdam’s grachts

 Kayaking in Amsterdam

For our one week stay in Holland we chose as our base a small town Wormer, that is situated app. 25 km west from Amsterdam. We would like to rent kayaks at local rental place, it seems easier for us to stay at one place to avoid packing. On our first day in Holland we go biking , the kayak rental is closed because it is Sunday. We did not succeed our plan to make a trip app. 100 km long because of strong wind.  Netherland is a reall paradise for cycling. Most of the roads have a special path for cycling.

 

We are being awaken by rain on Monday. So we decide to go to Amsterdam by train. The train takes you right in the heart of Amsterdam. Except some sightseeing we are looking for a place where we can put kayaks on water. There is a problem with free space in most Holland towns and cities, so if you manage to find an empty parking place in the centre of Amterdam you will pay 3,40 EUR/hour (fall 2006). Even if you park your car it does not mean free access to water. Most banks are pretty high or there are many houseboats standing side by side. We did not want to go across someone’s „garden“ with two touring kayaks. At the end we found a place almost ideal for getting into kayak. It was outside the centre, it would cost us 12 EUR/day. Hopefully we will be able to find this place when we come with our car.

 

On Tuesday the sun is shining from morning. We go to paddle on channels and lake Het Zwet close to where we stay. The rental place is on a shore, so we do not have to carry kayaks far. Be aware the main tourist season ends on September 30, so if you want to rent kayaks it is better to send an email before you come to Holland. We hired just kayaks, because we brought our paddles (we paddle with left kayak paddles and except Norway it sometimes is a problem), spraydecks, PFD’s…We put on PFD’s automatically. It made locals to smile. We learnt that the channels are very shallow, app. 1 m, most of the paddlers don’t even use spraydeck. We decide to wear PDF’s, the strong wind is blowing and it makes you warmer. We paddle most of the day among smaller or bigger islands where cows or sheep are grazing. We can see lots of waterbirds especially gooses and herons, there are several fishtraps.

 

It was raining again on Wednesday. So we go to visit Den Haag.

 

On Thursday morning the sky is overcast. But the locals say that it will be a nice day. The weather in Amsterdam is influenced by the ocean. It is typical that the weather changes quickly and often. We rent kayaks again and drive to Amsterdam. We find our place without problems thanks to GPS. We park in Reigersbergenstraat, the coordinates are: N52° 22’27.85“, E4°51’11.98“.

 

We fight with a parking automat a bit. It is required to put the exact change which we do not have. It took me half of an hour to exchange the banknote. The channel where we put our kayaks on water is pretty wide, once we get into kayaks a huge boat with sand comes and waits till the nearest bridge opens. The channels in Amsterdam are called „gracht“, each has its own name. There is also a river Amstel flowing through Amterdam. You can see lots of houseboats in bigger grachts where people live whole year around. You can rent a houseboat in Holland, for a boat shorter than 15 m you do not need any licence. You paddle around houseboats, look into them (it is not commom to have a window curtains in windows) and think what do they do with their waste and sewage (we heard that just few houseboats have permanent placement and are therefore connected to sewerage), so lots of them release their waste into the water. To prevent the water to smell, the Dutch made a system of barriers in Amsterdam. They can close them to cleanse the grachts.  Except houseboats you will see lots of small motor and sailing boats being parked in grachts.  The traffic on grachts is pretty heavy, you can meet many tourist sightseeing and museum boats and water taxis, especially on Prinzengracht, Kaizersgracht or Singel.

 

There are app. 1200 bridges in Amsterdam, some of them drawbridges. There used to be a special occupation for men – kargadoor – a person who helped carriages to go over a bridge. The best wellknown drawbridge is Magere Brug. You will find it at the end of Kerkstraat. It is a white bridge whose arms are lifted every 20 minutes.  Be aware you can go under some bridges or in tunnels just oneway. We found it interesting that there is light on in a tunnel under a crossroad of Rokin and Vijyelstraat street when we were crossing from Singel to Amstel river. We did not pay lots of attention to a sign of oneway road. The tunnel is not straight so we thought that it is not possible for tourist boat to go there because they are much longer. What a mistake! We met a tourist boat right in the middle, this one was much shorter then the rest we had seen before. The captain acted fast, he reversed and let us go through.  We paddled around 15 km in the centre of Amsterdam. Guys might be interested that there are few grachts in the Red Light district. You will find it between Dam square and Nieuwmark.

 

We did not paddled till the rest of our stay in Holland because it was raining hard. 

 

This is how it is in Holland.

Our tips:

1.        we did not bring our own boats we rented kayaks in Kajak Centrum Arend Bloem – they have wide range of boats, we even have shorter ones for kayaking in Amsterdam. There is a kayak shop side by side to a rental place which you have to visit. With 4000 m2 it is one of the biggest in Europe, with a wide choice of everything you might need for kayaking and canoeing.

 

2.        I do recommend to visit Amsterdam before you go to kayak there to find a place where you put kayaks on water. It is not pleasant to drive with touring kayaks in the centre of the city.

 

3.        We found very useful a map of Amsterdam´s museums we took at tourist office (in Holland look for a sing of VVV). It is for free and the whole centre is there.

 

4.        in case the weather does not allow you to do what you planned I can recommend to visit: navy museum in Amterdam (www.scheepvaartmuseum.nl), aircraft museum in Lelystad (www.aviodrome.nl), Bataviawerf (www.bataviawerf.nl) where you can see replica of old boats, or Madurodam in Den Haag (www.madurodam.nl) where you get a guide in Czech language.