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Amsterdam Articles > Secrets of Amsterdam - Chapter 2

Secrets of Amsterdam - Chapter 2

Amsterdam - 750,000 inhabitants, is the capital of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, which, apart from the Netherlands itself, comprises the Netherlands Antilles and the Island of Aruba. Monarchs are traditionally inaugurated in the Nieuwe Kerk church next to the Royal Palace on Dam Square, which is considered the heart of the nation. For centuries, life in the Netherlands has been inspired by Amsterdam, a place where people from virtually every country and culture feel at home.

Since the Netherlands became an hereditary monarchy in 1813, the three kings and three queens of the House of Orange-Nassau who have succeeded to the throne have all been invested in Amsterdam. However, the reigning head of state, Queen Beatrix, was the first monarch to marry here as well, when she married Claus von Amsberg on 10 March 1966, in the Westerkerk church. Her eldest son, Willem-Alexander, Prince of Orange, will follow in her footsteps.

The name Amsterdam derives from the dam on the Amstel River on which the city was built. The name (Amstelledamme/Amstelredamme) is first recorded in 1275. In the gazetteer the name of Amsterdam also appears in Georgia, Idaho and Ohio, in South Africa, at Spitsbergen and among the islands in the Indian Ocean. New York was originally a Dutch establishment known as New Amsterdam, with a 'walstraat' (Wall Street) and a 'bouwerij' (Bowery), and quarters bearing the names of related places, such as Haarlem (Harlem) and Breukelen (Brooklyn). Even the name 'Yankee' originates in the Dutch names Jan and Kees.

The city Amsterdam is built on a four-metre-thick layer of peat, with a substratum of sand and clay to around 11 metres below N.A.P. (Amsterdam Ordnance Datum).All buildings are constructed on piling-foundations made from tree-trunks or concrete.

Just a century ago, Amsterdam Noord - the borough north of the IJ - comprised little more than farmland behind old Zuiderzee dykes. The construction of the North Holland Canal (1824) and the North Sea Canal (1870) at first attracted maritime industries, mainly ship-builders. The first houses were built in 1914, followed by garden suburbs. For the next 20 years it seemed as if Amsterdam was going to expand in a northerly direction, but from the 1920s onwards a preference grew for the polders to the south and south-west of the city, where large new suburbs are today.The main reason for this was initially the unbridgeable water - without punt ferries the North was inaccessible. Since then, however, the suburb north of the IJ has grown into a mixed collection of neighbourhoods with 83,000 inhabitants, easily reachable by tunnels and bridges.

Mayor of Amsterdam is the head of the police of Amsterdam-Amstelland, a regional police force in which Amsterdam collaborates with the Municipalities of Amstelveen, Aals-meer, Diemen, Ouder-Amstel and Uithoorn. The area covers 357 square kilometres and has 875,000 inhabitants.

Article written by Ines Van Den Born, Ines'Gloves.