Amsterdam, Sophiaplein (De Munt)

It took me a year or two to figure out where this tower is located. As it happens, I live a ten-minute walk from here and pass by several times a week. Yet the scene is so changed in the past century that I did not recognize it. (During the intervening years, the name was changed from "Sophiaplein" to "Muntplein," which did nothing to help me in my quest.)

At the time of this photograph, the entire street was open to pedestrians. Today, this is one of the busiest parts of the city - the Kalverstraat, the famous pedestrian shopping street, begins just above the prominent lamp post. The rest of the area has been given over to cars, and pedestrians have no little difficulty navigating through the area. There is enough traffic here that it is not an attractive place to linger.

The trees on the left side of the photograph have mostly been cut down, and the wharves now sport permanently-moored barges upon which flower sellers have established their bulb-and-wooden-tulip businesses. These barges have been built in a rather un-Dutch, slipshod fashion. Oddly, the curiously unfinished clock faces are still the same today. The tower includes a large, loud, high-pitched carillon that plays more often than one might like.

So far as I am aware, the tower is never open to visitors. The entire area is much less attractive than it was when the photograph was taken. In short, none of the changes are improvements. And this is Amsterdam, which has capitalized for years on the civic beauty of which it is justly proud. Blame a lot of it on the cars.


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