February and it’s not but fairly spring in Amsterdam. Quickly, the buds within the rose backyard in Vondelpark will begin to blush pink and yellow; the leaves on the bushes surrounding the lake will start to shimmer with silver and inexperienced. Quickly, a minimum of in a standard 12 months, folks will collect once more on the bandstand and the Blauwe Theehuis, the blue teahouse, on this elegant Nineteenth-century park named after the poet Joost van den Vondel, and the diagonal paths that cross the museum quarter between the Rijksmuseum and the Concertgebouw – as soon as a area of small farms and market gardens – will probably be crammed with dialog and bicycles once more.However our focus lies not within the Nineteenth-century metropolis – nor the twentieth century with the Anne Frank Home beside the Westerkerk – however somewhat within the outdated medieval centre of Amsterdam. I needs to be there now, conducting a strolling tour for English and Dutch readers across the canals and ignored alleyways that impressed my newest journey novel, The Metropolis of Tears. I needs to be explaining how, within the bloody aftermath of the St Bartholomew’s Day Bloodbath in Paris in August 1572, my imaginary first household, the Jouberts, flee persecution to town of tears itself, Amsterdam, to construct a brand new life for themselves.Het Houten Huis, the oldest wood home in Amsterdam. {Photograph}: robertharding/AlamyBut after all, I’m not. I’m at my desk in Sussex, the place I’ve been for 11 months, dreaming of color and lightweight. However now greater than ever – after we are all imagining elsewhere – we are able to nonetheless go to different locations within the pages of a e book. In April 2019, I lived at 303 Spuistraat, on a visiting writers’ fellowship awarded by the Dutch Literature Basis, to analysis my e book. Day-after-day, with pocket book and my outdated maps, I got down to uncover the Amsterdam my characters would have found. Historic novelists should be detectives and archaeologists, all the time in search of to seek out the hidden historical past of town beneath our toes. Layer upon layer. So, for a number of weeks, I walked the canals and streets, imprinting the Amsterdam of 1572, 1578, 1584 in my thoughts, stripping out the trendy buildings, outlets and neon lights.And the outdated Amsterdam is in every single place, if one seems laborious sufficient and excessive sufficient. Historical past and dates are printed on the keystones on the buildings, within the names of the streets, the curve of a wall, within the chapels and dykes and waterways, within the tiles on the partitions. Within the days earlier than road numbers, homes have been distinguished by tiles – a stork with a child confirmed the place the midwife lived, a person with sacks of grain was the house of a wealthy service provider, an open e book meant a printer.There are some 62 miles of canals in Amsterdam. The grand canals – together with Prisengracht, Keizersgracht and Herengracht, the place the grandest Seventeenth-century homes stand – have been designated a world heritage website by Unesco in 2010. The fourth grand canal is Singel, which was dug in 1420 as a moat to encompass the medieval metropolis, and it’s right here that our tour begins. In 1538, Cornelis Anthonisz, map maker and artist, painted an astonishing fowl’s-eye-view map of the Sixteenth-century metropolis.Oude Kerk (the ‘outdated church’), the place Rembrandt bought married. {Photograph}: Eugene Sergeev/AlamyFrom Singel, we’ll head east to Spui. As soon as a physique of water forming the southern boundary to town, it’s now the e book quarter and residential to the American E-book Heart and the Athenaeum, with its red-and-white awning. Vacationers flock to have their photographs taken beside the statue, “Het Lieverdje” (the “Little Darling”), a form Dutch Clever Dodger, who stands reverse the oldest brown cafe in Amsterdam, Cafe Hoppe. Courting from 1670, and initially a jenever (gin) distillery, it grew to become celebrated as a gathering place for activists and intellectuals and artists.However look nearer and also you’ll discover one of many hidden jewels of Amsterdam, the Begijnhof. Based in 1346 as a lay non secular sisterhood, it’s now a personal residence for single girls however open to the general public. A ravishing tiled passageway results in elegant gardens and the statue of a Beguine in her distinctive headdress, the falie, stands beside the church. The Begijnhof is the place the Sixteenth-century story of The Metropolis of Tears begins, with an outdated secret and a homicide. After the “Alteration” on 26 Could 1578, when Amsterdam handed from 40 years of Catholic rule into Calvinist arms within the area of 1 lengthy afternoon, the chapel was confiscated and later given to English and Scots Presbyterians, therefore the inscription of 1607 above the door. Many of the homes surrounding the gardens date from the Seventeenth and 18th centuries, however tucked away within the south-west nook is Het Houten Huis, one in all solely two surviving wood homes in Amsterdam, which predates the 1521 ban after devastating fires within the fifteenth century destroyed a lot of outdated Amsterdam.Cornelis Anthonisz’s map of Amsterdam in 1538. {Photograph}: Kate MosseLeaving the Begijnhof by the general public entrance right into a community of slender alleyways, we’ll see the Amsterdam Museum to our left – a superb useful resource for historic analysis and as soon as one of many metropolis’s orphanages. We’re heading in direction of Kalverstraat – now, as within the Sixteenth century, a serious buying road (extra Oxford Road than Knightsbridge!) and a far cry from the elegant impartial outlets of De Negen Straatjes (the 9 Streets) within the central canal ring and Jordaan, simply to the west. Some say the identify Jordaan comes from jardin, the identify Huguenot refugees gave to the inexperienced gardens outdoors town partitions the place they have been allowed to settle. It’s potential.We’re strolling north now in direction of Dam Sq., the place the earliest inhabitants settled from 1125 on the banks of the Amstel. When the river was damned in 1222, and the inhabitants was rising, the contraction of those two phrases gave this upstart fishing settlement its identify: Amsterdam.The view from 303 Spuistraat the place Kate Mosse labored on her novel The Metropolis of Tears, trying east in direction of Singel. {Photograph}: Kate MosseIn the Sixteenth century, the large, open sq. was generally known as Plaats. Right here is Nieuwe Kerk, in-built 1645, and the Seventeenth-century Koninklijk Palace, which changed the older Stadhuis, in addition to the well-known Grand Lodge Krasnapolsky and the obelisk commemorating the Dutch ladies and men who died in the course of the second world struggle. It’s in Plaats, underneath the stone colonnades of the outdated city corridor, that my imaginary characters stand witness to historical past in the course of the Alteration.Subsequent, we’ll go to Oudezijds Voorburgwal and the oldest quarter of town, De Wallen, which right this moment incorporates the red-light district. At road degree are the working premises of window prostitutes and intercourse outlets and museums, just a few espresso outlets and loads of bars (although there are plans in 2021 to maneuver this oldest occupation out of town centre). However in case you lookup, you’ll see the historical past of the buildings: Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-century keystones, rows of tall homes with their distinctive gables – bell gables, plus spout, neck, clock and step gables. The homes – many with winches – tilt barely ahead, as if bowing to at least one one other from throughout the canal. There are pink shutters in every single place and the colors of the Amsterdam flag, pink, white and black, are painted on partitions and alleyways.That is the place the Oude Kerk (the Previous Church) is to be discovered. Often called Sint-Nicolaas within the Sixteenth century (earlier than the Nineteenth-century Basilica was constructed overlooking the harbour and earlier than the New Church grew to become extra enticing to Calvinist wives), it stands on the location of a Thirteenth-century chapel, although many of the constructing dates from the 14th century. Sint Nicolaas is the patron saint of Amsterdam itself and of seafarers. The Seventeenth-century tower comprises a 47-bell carillon, which echoes out over the water each quarter of an hour, competing with the shrieking of the gulls following the herring fleets. Rembrandt was married right here, going by means of the well-known pink door into the vestry with its inscription: “Marry in Haste, repent at Leisure”.One of many ‘stinking wealthy’ tombstones within the Oude Kerk. {Photograph}: Kate MosseThe Oude Kerk was looted within the 1566 “Iconoclasm” – when Calvinists destroyed icons, glass, treasures, the altar and statues – so could be very plain inside. However in case you look down, you will notice engraved tombstones. This, joyously, is alleged to be the place the phrase “stinking wealthy” comes from. In a metropolis constructed on water, with few cemeteries inside the metropolis partitions, the richest folks paid to be buried beneath the nave. When the temperatures rose, so did the stink of decomposing our bodies…We’re persevering with north in direction of the harbour into Zeedijk, a slender road on the high of the city, as soon as a part of the Thirteenth-century fortifications. The opposite surviving wood home is at No 1. Now a preferred bar, In ‘t Aepjen (actually, “within the monkeys”) was a sailors’ boarding home within the 1550s. Its identify is alleged to come back from the customized of bartering unique animals in lieu of hire. Once more, it’s potential… Dwelling now to Chinatown, Zeedijk nonetheless has, on a standard Saturday night time, the swaggering really feel of the harbour quarter.Rembrandt was married right here, going by means of the well-known pink door with its inscription: Marry in Haste, repent at LeisureAt the jap finish is Nieuwmarkt, the primary market sq. for the reason that fifteenth century. It’s right here the Jouberts will settle, within the shadow of the hated Gray Friars monastery. Destroyed in the course of the Alteration, the monastery is on Bloedstraat, whose identify is alleged to derivve from the truth that there was a torture chamber – a “blood chamber” – inside the monastery partitions.One in every of Amsterdam’s oldest surviving buildings, Schreierstoren, the Tower of Tears, is manner as much as the left on the harbour. It’s right here that wives and daughters and lovers waved goodbye to males settling sail within the service of the Dutch East India Firm. A plaque on the wall commemorates the departure of Henry Hudson to the New World in 1609.However Nieuwmarkt is dominated by one other defensive tower, De Waag tower. In-built 1488, and beforehand generally known as Sint Antoniespoort, it was as soon as the primary gate into Amsterdam from the east. It’s now a restaurant, however was used as a weigh home within the Seventeenth century and within the time of The Metropolis of Tears was dwelling to varied guilds – together with the painters, the masons and the surgeons. It was these final who, in 1632, commissioned Rembrandt’s celebrated The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicolaas Tulp.Slipping into Oudezijds Achterburgwal, previous the Hash Marihuana & Hemp Museum and thru the diamond quarter, leaping throughout the tram strains on Rokin, we’re heading for the Munttoren on the Amstel, as soon as town’s royal mint. From there, it’s a stone’s throw to Singel. We’re almost again to the place we began.It’s nonetheless February and I’m nonetheless in Sussex. However in my thoughts’s eye, it’s April once more. There will probably be a riot of tulips within the Bloemenmarkt, the floating flower market. The bells of the Lutheran church will probably be ringing. And, for some time a minimum of, on the finish of our strolling afternoon, I believe I can see the lights underneath the arches over the canals approaching, bridge by bridge, as nightfall falls over Amsterdam.• The Metropolis of Tears by Kate Mosse is revealed by Mantle (£20). To purchase a duplicate for £17.40, see guardianbookshop.com. For details about upcoming guided excursions of Amsterdam see tripsmiths.com