That Friday, four girls packed themselves into a two-door compact Seat (FYI: I’m not being redundant, Seat is a European brand of car). Five hours later we arrived in the Dam. Opting to do our Dutch weekend on a budget, we rolled into Zeeburg Campsite and quickly pitched our tents (no pun intended…but it has been a while).
Top reason why Amsterdam rocks: tolerance. This means being able to smoke dope and have sex with prostitutes…in the street. No shame here.
So this was my official visit to the Netherlands, 3 years later, 3 nights, 3 gal friends. The city is an anomaly. It is exactly what you have heard about. However, it wasn’t the pot that blew my mind, but the sex industry. The coffee shops instantly became secondary once I affixed my eyes on the Paris-Hilton-lookalike whore posing seductively in a glowing window. Allow me to elaborate.
Sex. Before visiting Amsterdam I always figured that a ‘red light district’ (RLD) was the general reference to the city block where prostitutes solicit their services. Usually, before I visit a city I usually make a point to read up on it and make a vague game plan for sightseeing. Had I been ‘typical Jenn’ I would not have had the totally shocked (and later, mesmerized) look on my face as I wandered about Amsterdam’s notorious RLD. To say I was shocked would be an understatement. Please note that I’m using ‘shocked’ not in the sense that I was offended, but in awe.
Late on Saturday evening we trammed into the city centre and high tailed it for the district. The RLD is composed of two parallel canals/streets that stretch roughly 4-5 blocks. The entire strip glows red from neon red fluorescent tube lights that line the apartment windows. Each window is inhabited by a ‘lady,’ sporting some form of lingerie or lace leotard, cat suit, naughty outfit; pick your flavor. Some dance, some pose seductively, some lean out of the window and beckon in the odd passerby who lingers a moment too long. Others sit smoking a fag and flash their lady bits. I must say, that most of the women who snag the busy Saturday night slots are beautiful. Hot. Model Gorgeous. These girls were such babes that it was hard not to envy their impeccable looks, tiny wastes and toned legs (the latter no doubt being a benefit of their employment!) My favorite girls could have been doubles for Paris (as mentioned before) and Elisha Cuthbert. They were fascinating to watch –which is what all of the tourists blatantly do. Hoards of people (read: tourists) fill the streets, gawking at the spectacle that is the Amsterdam sex industry. Then, as if it was all a Heineken fueled bender in which the beer goggles were subsequently removed, the next morning all of the Paris’ and Elishas are replaced by nasty, nasty prostitutes. If you can, arrange to visit the RLD on a Thursday-Saturday night.
While we toured the district, a million questions raced through my head: ‘How much per hour? Or is it per act? Or? How long? How many times can one person seriously ‘work’ in one night? Who owns these apartments? Are they rented? How much is ‘rent’? Is this really profitable? How did these women end up here? Are they on drugs? Is the industry regulated –do the women regularly get tested? These women are taxpayers?! Wow, that woman is a drrrrragon…she can not possibly make that much money, or? How can someone be enthusiastic about having sex with THAT GUY?” Many of these questions were answered here at a later date: [http://www.red-light-district-amsterdam.com/red-light-amsterdam-girls.html] Note: this is an actual recount of the blogger’s experience in the RLD. It’s slightly explicit, but such is the entire ‘tourist attraction.’ Enjoy! For those less interested in having sex with a prostitute, you’re able to browse various sex shops, watch a peep show, tour the official sex museum, suck back a brew in one of the many canal-side pubs or take in a live sex show. Live Sex Show. Life sex, on stage. Thirty Euro.
This entire experience blew my mind. I literally, could not stop talking about it for the entire weekend…and probably the rest of my life.
The Green City. Yes, yes and yes. It’s just like that. You’re walking down a canal and suddenly find yourself in a cloud of smoke. You know how bakeries reek of delicious smelling, fresh baked bread? I think the simile is evident here. You’re welcome to take your bag and go, or roll one up right there. You can even bring your own green and smoke it in your desired coffee shop. Of course in this instance it is courteous to order a coffee. For those seeking something more psychedelic, ‘smart shops’ (as they are advertised) will supply you with various fungi, seeds and pills.
This city, is whack.
STROOPWAFFELS. Good lord. I had to start exercising the moment I returned to Germany, just to work off the obscene amount of these delightful Dutch treats I ingested. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stroopwafel] They are so delicious I felt compelled to add ‘stroopwaffel’ to my Facebook interests. ‘Nuff said. Amsterdam is full of good food and as Ana perfectly stated, “I prefer to eat my way through a city.” I can not say enough good things about Dutch food (AND their grocery stores –they are practically gourmet). No wonder everyone bicycles here…
Bicycles. Apparently, the sheer accomplishment of being able to ride a bicycle does not qualify the rider as competent. Touring Amsterdam by bicycle is simply a must. But I must warn you that cycling in the city requires more attention than driving a car. Use your bell aggressively, engage your periphs and stay in the bicycle lane. When said bicycle lane ends and there is just two feet separating you from surely-impending-Death-By-Tram, try not to panic… Also, using the hand signals you learned in grade two is not geeky, it’s a matter of survival. Employ your arms! On our way back to the campsite I got lazy for just a moment thinking about something-or-another. My MOMENTARY lapse in total concentration nearly resulted in what would have been, the fatal bicycle crash of a flying Dutch woman.
The Dam Square (central square). I recommend the store Mango, located in the Magna Plaza Shopping Centre just behind the ‘palace.’ Also, in the perimeter of the square there is a ‘condom specialty shop’ where one can buy the most novel of condoms: the Statue of liberty, Empire State Building, the Eiffel Tower, etc.
[http://www.condomerie.com/webshop/default.php?cPath=113] Definitely worth a gawk.
Right near the centre of the square there is a large (5 story) high-end department store. If you are looking for a delicious, economical lunch, head up to the top floor and you will find the most posh ‘cafeteria’ e.v.e.r. It must be seen to be believed. Here you can grab a fresh blended juice from a bed of ice, hand craft a plate of roasted veggies or create a gourmet stir fry (Mongolian BBQ style) for less than ten euro. After lunch, pop across the square and buy yourself a pair of wooden clogs (from the 1,000+ pairs) at The Best Dam Souvenir Shop.
Anne Frank House –located within the city. We didn’t get it to it as the queue was so long, but I have heard that it’s a humbling experience.
Museums: Rembrandt, Van Gough, Madam Tussaud’s (okay, the last one is a wax museum).
Heineken Brewery Tour- 15 euro includes two beers.
Every time I have ever flown through Schipol, little did I know of the debauchery occurring beneath me. It’s hard to think of such open whoring and drug use without conjuring up the image of ‘Tourtuga’ from Pirates of the Caribbean (or that’s just me…). Despite the shock value, Amsterdam is really very beautiful, if not apparently lethargic. The canals promote foot and bicycle traffic and the charm of the classic Dutch architecture slows what would otherwise be a hectic city. I thoroughly enjoyed my weekend and it was indeed, too brief! I definitely must return one day to munch out on some stroopwaffels and watch the girls at the Banana Bar do what they do best. [http://www.amsterdamnightlife.net/banana-bar-amsterdam/]
I’m sorry, this city is whack. [Love it]