Some History
These old canals in the heart of the city date back to the fourteenth century. Taken literally, their names mean The Front Defence-canal on the Old Side and the Back Defence-canal on the Old Side. Amsterdam has an Old side and a New side, east and west of the Amstel. These terms do not refer to their history, however, for the New side is just as old als the Old side. Amsterdam had originally been one parish, with one church, but in the fifteenth century Amsterdam was divided into two parishes, and for the new parish a New Church was built near the Dam. From then on the parish on the east side was known as the Old Side. The old canals are better known as 'Walletjes', or better still as the Red Light District. This has been the centre of prostitution from the very beginning of the city's history. It's a peculiar testimony of the remarkable pragmatic attitude towards vice that has prevailed in Amsterdam through the ages.
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