This wonderful photo depicts Amsterdam at the turn of the 20th century. It was taken from one of the canals–which one I’m not sure, as I don’t know Amsterdam that well–and shows how commerce was conducted in those days, with cargo being moved directly out of warehouses fronting the canals onto cargo boats. Note the private houses looking down onto the canal, and there’s a church in the center right. The church whose onion-topped tower is visible in the background is, I believe, the Ouderkirke, now famous for being the center of the “Red Light District.”
The European canal-based cities, like Amsterdam and Venice, could exist only in a few specific places where water levels could be counted on to be stable. In the era of climate change this is achievable only by artificial means, and much of the romance of the canal cities is today preserved as cultural heritage rather than as day-to-day life.
This picture is another chromolithograph, of which I’ve featured several in the past few months. I love these photos because they show a tremendous amount of detail in a way that we’re not used to seeing in ancient photographs. Though artificially colorized by hand, the original resolution of the photo is still high enough to convey a lot of interesting details about what Amsterdam was like in 1900.
Just by way of comparison, below is a photograph taken 103 years later, of (I believe) the same church steeple, but from a different angle. This is me and a friend just after Wacken 2003. It’s amazing how much these old cities change–and stay the same. (Note my cool Edguy shirt!)