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Behind the railway lines, in a place that tourists to the city scarcely visit, there is a very special spot in Amsterdam; Prince’s Island.
Together with another two islands, this place brings back memories of the city’s seafaring past and offers an almost fictitious landscape with its sleeping shipyards and old distilleries, for which time stopped many years ago.
This zone was part of the development plan of the city’s first phase of expansion in 1612. Since these western islands lay outside the circuit of the great canals, which was occupied by the bourgeoisie and populated by noble residences, these western islands lacked any aesthetic interest whatsoever for the city.
The main objective in building this western port was to accommodate shipyards, forges, wood stores or tar distilleries. Something of the dirty, grey, scrap laden landscape of the time can still be discerned in this zone, which has the appeal of decadent industrial areas.
There is a beautiful legend from Prince’s Island that tells of the miracle houses. The story goes that in them, Jetske Klaes, who had suffered paralysis in his legs for over ten years, received a visit from an angel on this island and was cured. However, do not try too hard to find the houses in which the miracle occurred because a need for new warehouses proved more important than faith and they were demolished in 1733 to construct the new stores.
This zone has still managed to escape demolition, although it is rather depressed because of disuse. In recent times, however, some artists has established studios, social centres and lofts in the industrial buildings that are still standing.
As for the rest, the empty warehouses seem to be waiting for cargo that will never arrive. Tar does not stain the quayside any more and the shipyard workers no longer work against the clock. The old industrial zone is now truly ancient. In fact, time has stopped and Prince’s Island has no crown, even though it still maintains the grey, nostalgic majesty of yesteryear.
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