I'm embarrassed to say that until recently I had never seen a real silver gelatin print, mainly because I haven't been into photography very long. Several months ago I went to the art museum and saw an Ansel Adams print they had (Still Life with Egg Slicer, San Francisco). I had seen it online a million times, but it was breathtaking to see in person. It looked like the print had a third dimension to it (almost holographic). It was almost as if each element in the still life appeared to be "inside" the paper at a slightly different depth. There is obviously no dramatic depth of field in the still life, so how did he get the effect of relative depth in print? Was is a contact print from a large format camera? Is it the extremely sharp detail causing this? Is it something the average darkroom enthusiast can achieve with practice?
That image specifically is a large format image - depending on the print size you saw, it may have been a contact print. Contact printing will get you the best sharpness and contrast that a negative can produce, but as Maximus noted, that's not the be-all end-all of photography. There are camera skills and darkroom skills required to know how your tools interact with your materials to produce the best possible result. And sometimes, the best possible result for the image in question is NOT something super sharp with 3-D-esque depth-of-field properties.