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You can never be too thin...

· Amsterdam stairs

It was Wallis Simpson who said "You can never be too rich or too thin." She wasn't the first to think this, though.

In Amsterdam's heyday as a trading power house, land was reclaimed from the sea and the most luxurious houses of the day were built on it. However, even the famously wealthy burghers of the city could be quite careful with their riches. So, when a tax was introduced on the width of houses, they built skinny. Skinny but deep (no taxes on depth) and tall. The problem was, then, that something had to give on the floor space. And it was the stairs.

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So, staying thin – at least in terms of their houses – kept the burghers rich but it also meant that their stairs became the most precarious in Europe. Given the tiny space allotted to them, Amsterdam stairways are as steep as ladders and turn sharply as a spiral staircase. So think spiral ladder, perhaps.


Given this, I was not at all surprised to see an Englishman on the return flight with his leg strapped up and on crutches. Clearly a hapless victim of the stairways of old Amsterdam.