The riches flooding in from overseas funded a massive expansion in Amsterdam during its so-called “Golden Age”.
By 1650, Amsterdam had exploded in both size and ambition. The wealthy merchants built themselves new houses along the canal zone, while the poor people were put as far away as possible in the Jordaan district.
Opposite the Maritime Museum, a line of warehouses spreads out to the east and west, many now a mix of social housing, expensive apartments and business start-ups in the way of so many ports since containers have taken over the shipping trade. A sturdy Seaman’s Hostel stands on the corner, near the entrance to the Entrepot-Dok that stands next to another still-working cast-iron bascule bridge, dated 1906, over the Nieuwe Herengracht. It’s one of many man-made canals that worm their way into the very center of the city and beyond.
“In the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries, the port of Amsterdam was full of sand,” says Peter. “The big ships could not reach the port; they had to anchor two kilometers or more offshore. You had to reload your cargo onto lighters or barges to take it off. The canals allowed merchants to take their cargo directly to their own warehouses anywhere in the city without having to handle it again. In economics, transport is everything.
"The cheaper the transport, the more money you make. From Amsterdam, it can be carried again by barge to places such as Hamburg, Lubeck, Copenhagen or London. We are at the center of a vast trading web.”