Picture this: you’re taking a stroll through the picturesque streets of any given Dutch city, the sun is glistening on the canal water, boats sail past you in a breeze, you marvel at the uniqueness of Dutch architecture…
…and all of a sudden there is a 150 kg washing machine dangling on a robe right above your head!! 😱
No, we’re not evoking some comedic scene from a graphic novel where some unfortunate soul gets crushed by a piano somehow falling from the heavens.
Instead, this is about the everyday scenario of Dutchies trying to figure out how on earth to move large objects — we’re talking sofas, ovens or, well, pianos — through the impossibly narrow doorways, staircases and windows of Dutch canal houses.
The solution? Hoisting hooks!
What is it?
If you’re a keen observer of Dutch architecture, you might have already noticed that at the very top of most buildings, there are old, wooden hoisting hooks.
Why is that? Back in the day, the value of a property was assigned according to width. To save money, as is Dutch custom, many property owners would save space by building narrow but long and high houses as we know them today.
And the hooks? They serve as a means to transport furniture, and more high-up. A simple wheel-and-robe mechanism helps to hoist any desired object into the air.
During the ‘Golden Age‘, when many Dutch cities became wealthy through the trade with colonial goods, the upper stories of canal houses often served as storage units to keep valuable spices or fabrics far from potential flooding.
Why do they do it?
Well, because they have to.
Incredibly narrow and steep stairs just make it virtually impossible to get anything larger than a chair through the front door.
Moving companies also operate with this somewhat medieval technology and some experienced movers will have a robe laying around somewhere at home.
Luckily, technology has somewhat advanced and you see large ramps being propped up against windows to transport objects upstairs. 😬
Not sure you want to test its durability by heaving a hundred-something-kilo fridge or oven into the air for another couple of decades.
Why is it quirky?
Just observing a manoeuvre like that can make your heart sink. It certainly doesn’t look very safe. Or easy. Or even particularly practical. Exhibit A. 👇
To be fair, it does seem very stereotypically Dutch. Just lean back, see what happens and don’t be so dramatic. Or, in other words: doe normaal, man.
Should you join in?
What do you think of this Dutch quirk? Have you experienced it? Tell us in the comments below!
This article was originally published in October 2021, and was fully updated in April 2023 for your reading pleasure.