People believe that the name Amstel originates from Aeme-stelle, which is an old Dutch word for “area with a lot of water”. The word Aeme-stelle is also an old Fries (from Friesland in the North of Holland) word, which means “two water flows that come together”. The old Fries word could also be the true meaning because south of Uithoorn the water streams of the Drecht and the Kromme Mijdrecht come together. The area near the Amstel River has been named Amstelland for many years.
They strongly suspect that at the south of the Amstel there was another river flowing before the 12th century. Because of the shrinking peat, the depth of Amstelland was lowered which is why the flow of the Amstel was redirected to the East.
The small river named Waver located South of a little village named Nes aan de Amstel, flows into the Amstel. Because it was extremely dry in 2003 and the Green heart area had a water shortage, and the first time in History they made a temporary decision to switch the water flow in the opposite direction.
Uithoorn in Dutch means outer corner. The corner is located between the Zijdelmeer Lake and the Amstel River. In the 10th century, Uithoorn and the surroundings were one big peat swamp. In the 12th and 13th century many little villages such as Kudelstaart, Vrouwenakker, Uithoorn and de Hoef were built, and today we can tour those villages from the canals.
In the 16th and 17th century, peat was a very important material to create fuel. At that time, they dug out all the peat and it was used mainly as fuel to help progress Amsterdam. The lasting effects of the dug out peat changed the Netherlands geography, such as wider lakes and canals.
Rondehoep is a region located to the west of where the Waver River streams into the Amstel. The Rondehoep is 1,266 acres large, of which 900 of that total is a protected meadow with plenty of nature. The remaining space is part of a town called Ouderkerk on the Amstel. In the middle of that area there is a meadow of 165 acres and since July 2006 it is a protected breeding area for birds.
In this area, there is a 17 km dike, which is fully accessible by bikes and cars. Along this dike, you will see some beautiful meadows and more waterways. One of the most popular attractions of the Rondehoep is going on a bike ride because of the nature, scenery and peaceful surroundings. The area in Rondehoep was voted one of the top seven most beautiful areas of the Netherlands.
Nes aan de Amstel
This little town is located further down stream from the Amstel, which also belongs to part of the bigger city called Amstelveen. This little town was developed between Bovenkerkerpolerdijk (this is a dike which is the road from Amsterdam to Uithoorn) and Amsteldijk.
On some of the provided tours you can pass by one of the oldest Catholic Churches called Sint-Urbanuskerk that was built in 1631 and designed by world-renowned architect, Joseph Cuypers.
The first people that settled in the city of Amstelveen made a village near the Ouderkerk Church around the year 1000. There was too much distance between this neighborhood and the other larger ones, so they built the Chapel in their own town, which began the new settlement called “Newer-Amstel”. In a lot of areas in the Netherlands, peat is very prevalent including Newer-Amstel.
From the new settlement up until WWI (world war I), the main source of money and heating for many settlements was the digging of peat. They would constantly dig peat, which consequentially would lower the level of the land. This is why there are many regions that have more uneven surfaces than others.
At the beginning of the 18th century all of the bodies of water were pumped dry with windmills except one, which was the Amstelveense “Pool”. At the edge of this lake, they built a town hall in the year 1886.
Ouderkerk on the Amstel
It’s assumed people started living in the surrounding of Ouderkerk on the Amstel in the 10th or 11th century. Ouderkerk is the oldest settlement in the surroundings. Around the year 1275, in the mouth of the Amstel a dam was built which is how they decided to name the city of Amster-dam. Amsterdam was rapidly growing due to the canals that were being built and the trading that occurred, so it became the capital city of this area.
The history of Amsterdam also starts around the year 1000. At that time the swamps in that area were dug out from Utrecht all the way to Amsterdam. In that area there were many farmer communities who were digging out the peat. There were many little streams that already existed that were protected by dikes. These dikes served as stopping points for the farmers to continue digging out the peat.
In the 13th century many dikes were made along the south sea and the Ij region. At that time, the dam was built in the mouth of the Amstel, which is how Amster-dam was founded. This was the base for the trading in Amsterdam that became a very powerful trading city. The harbor where the trading began was called Damrak, which is no longer a harbor. The water on the opposite side of the dam became Rokin, which still exists and is comprised of shopping areas and restaurants.
At the beginning of the 20th century, they found pieces of the historical dam between the National Monument and the building of the Bijenkorf. The original buildings that began at the mouth of the Amstel began construction on both sides, at the Nieuwendijk and Warmoesstraat. The Warmoesstraat was the high class, expensive street in Amsterdam. Because Amsterdam was in a swamp area, they dug the canals, which was then used to raise the city above the level of the swamp. In turn, this also led to the redirection of the water-drainage into the Amstel and away from recreating a swamp in the capital city. This is the why the beautiful canals in the city of Amsterdam exist today.
Every new canal was dug out parallel to the Damrak, which is why Amsterdam has the semi-circle shape. At the end of the 15th century, they made several new rings around the city called Singel, Kloveniersburgwal en Gelderse Kade. Later in the 15th century, Amsterdam had expanded to the most integral trade city in of all of Holland.