The History Of Amsterdam

A City Shaped By Water

Amsterdam combines history with it's seventeenth-century buildings and modern urban flair like maybe no other city in the world. Famous for it's tolerance, this compact bicycle kingdom is called "cosmopolitan village" by Amsterdammers. You can walk and bike almost everywhere.  A former trade empire, which was always home to the creative and also unwanted. Now, one of the most diverse cities in the world. But how could a city which started off as a sinking village rise as one of the most beautiful and free cities in the world?

The Beginning: It's all in that dam name

Around 800 years ago our former Amsterdammers, a small fishing community, had the (crazy!!!) idea to settle at the edge of the Amstel river where you can find the "Dam Square" today. Why crazy? Well, back then this was not even land but more a swamp. But hey, the river gave them fish to eat and water to drink. So it wasn't that bad they figured. 

However, they needed to manage the water because their houses have been flooded regulary. In order to manage the water they build a Dam into the river Amstel and tadaaa there it was the name of the young fishing village Amsterdam (Amstel + Dam). To be total correct it was first called "Aemstelredamme" but we figured that this was too long and we changed it to Amsterdam. 

13th, 14th and 15th century or a Miracle, Beer, Herring And The Art of Not Giving A Fuck

13th century: The Miracle & city expansion

It is 1345, March 15th, a sick man is ready to leave the world and a priest comes to send him of to his final journey and gives him Christs wafer. The same night, the sick man vomits and the wafer comes out as a whole. A nurse burns his vomit and sees that the wafer won't burn. "Wow" she thinks, "that's a miracle". And she is not the only one, thousands of firm believers come to Amsterdam in order to see the vomit free wafer. The city expands. 

14th and 15th: First international trade & city expansion

Farming on a swamp was not possible so we worked with what we had; Water, lots of it! We figured that we can not only eat fish out of it and drink it, no we can also travel on it. Smart right? So we did. Our first international trade we did with Hamburg in 1323 by importing beer. Everybody young and old was drinking beer in Amsterdam for hundreds of years. How can you not love this city? In addition to that we learned in the 14th century how to preserve herring. Our salty, fatty and very rich national fish. So we fed it to our sailors. They on the other hand travelled to the Baltic countries and we exchanged cloth and salt for grain and timber. 

By doing that we pretty much ignored the former very powerful Hanseatic League, a group of succesful German trading cities. You can imagine that they were not particulary happy, but hey, that's business, no hard feelings. 

Amsterdam became famous for a pretty good place to earn money. Also compared to other cities we didn't have a distinction between nobility and serfs, there was hardly any taxation and a society of individualism grew. The modern idea of Amsterdam - free, open progressive - was born.