Amsterdam; Planning Required!

Leaning Homes, Amsterdam

After leaving the parking lot we decide to head out down the narrow streets in search of a hostel. I love Amsterdam‘s old leaning homes, built that way to deal with a few practical issues that existed at the time, namely narrow hallways and flooding.

With a forward leaning house, one could simply attach a hook and pulley system to lift furniture and supplies to the upper levels. When the high water came, as it used to regularly do, home owners could clear belongings from the main floor through the large open windows of the upper floors using the pulley system.

Famous for its 'Double Lean', Amsterdam

With the lean, it made it easier to keep items from hitting the house. Brilliant really, considering the limitations of the time. The hooks are still used currently for ‘moving house’.

Though it is very hard work, often hauling up is the only way to get your belongings to the second and third floor. The narrow, steep staircases just aren’t an option.

As usual, I did not plan accommodation ahead of time and had no idea World Cup Soccer was happening (duh!), so when we started down the list I had written of possible hostels to stay in, we realized very quickly that due to the influx of footie revellers, my fly-by-seat-of-pants planning was not going to suffice.

Enjoying Amsterdam

Booked solid, every one of them.

The last hostel we checked allowed the on-site consumption of Amsterdams favourite combustable. I thought I might die while standing in line.

The unusually sweltering heat and thick fog of smoke combined with zero ventilation and a lack of air-conditioning, was literally bringing me down. I was green and dangerously close to passing out by the time it was our turn at the desk, and the ‘concierge’ knew it.

“Don’t bother looking in another hostel, they are all going to be booked. If you want a hotel, you will be looking at the more expensive ones, as the reasonably priced are also full. It is the same every year at this time.”

He gave us directions to the nearest hotel that still had rooms, and after hearing the price, we decided it just was not in our budget – not in three days budget! And they told us the same thing – bad timing for my no planning style. Hopefully lesson learned, but not likely!

Additional photos in the slideshow.

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You can follow this trip by heading to the ‘8 Country EU Tour‘ section, or you can enjoy many more photos of Amsterdam by heading to the Habitual Runaway on Facebook.


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5 responses to “Amsterdam; Planning Required!

  1. If the houses would be built leaning on purpose, they would all lean the same way (forward). As its clearly not the case, there’s something else at play – geotechnology! The houses are leaning due to soil compaction. The weight of the house slowly (and sometimes not so slowly) compresses the clay and peat underneath, which can be unevenely distributed, so that the house then leans.


    • You are certainly correct that many of the older houses are affected by soil compaction and erosion – for example the last photo I took of the white house leaning forward AND to the right! Many of the homes are braced for exactly the reason you speak of. Very true! However, if you research the history, or make a visit during ‘moving time’ (only permitted at certain times, because it would be mayhem on the streets below with all of the towing action otherwise, LOL!), you will discover that before Mother Nature took her toll, the homes were intentionally built with a forward lean for the purposes I explained above. But yes, ‘double lean’, absolutely!!


      • Another “purpose built” version is that the tilt was designed to allow people to empty their night pots onto the streets without smearing the facade. As a geoscientist I prefer the settling explanation – more work for me.


        • That is a very logical theory, but then my question would be; if the homes in Amsterdam were built leaning to aid in chamberpot chucking, why wasn’t the same design adopted in other parts of the world with the same practices, developed at the same time? Many countries were already doing trade with Amsterdam by the late 1200’s, if that was the design’s purpose, why wasn’t it picked up elsewhere? Scotland for example – where they invented the high heel to avoid the heaving piles of slimy rubbish…

          Having said that, I am not an expert – just a frequent traveller to Holland, told and shown this by proud locals over and over. I remember on my first visit a number of years ago, after meeting a tour guide who blathered a heap of info on me, heading right to a pay internet cafe to check the facts myself… it sounded so crazy to me, being from solid ground Canada. So skepticism understood, and appreciated!


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