The bells, the bells. At the end of 2006 there was a campaign by some bright sparks on the city council - Centrum borough council to be precise - who thought the Westerkerk bells should be silenced at night because tourists and new residents were complaining about the noise. This suggestion was treated with the contempt it deserved.

Amsterdam has, apparently, nine carillons - or sets of church bells. The carillon is a typically Dutch instrument. It was invented in Flanders in the 15th century and soon afterwards was being made everywhere in the Netherlands. A carillon consists of at least 23 bells. The instrument is played with a keyboard, the keys of which are struck with the fist. The larger bells are connected to pedals. Now you know.

Amsterdam has five carillons by master makers, the brothers Hemony: Munt, Ouderkerk, Westerkerk, Zuiderkerk and the Palace on the Dam.

Be warned: they ring according to Dutch time. So at 5.30 am the bells - well the Westerkerk at any rate - rings six times, for 'half an hour to six'.