A Travellerspoint blog

Red Light Special

**Parental Advisory**

The following blog will contain information regarding things we learned about Amsterdam....including prostitution, marijuana, and magic mushrooms. I'll try to keep it as PG as possible. Mahalo.

Ok, so let's start at the beginning..... We arrived in Amsterdam late afternoon in the middle of a rain/hail storm. Joy. Thankfully, our hostel gave fantastic directions. We ran to catch the #21 bus and twenty minutes later were delivered right to the door of our hostel. The showers in Paris were gross, so the first thing we did at our new digs was de-lous ourselves. After a good scrub and hot shower, we decided to check out the area around our hostel and soon discovered that there was absolutely nothing to do. We did, however, find ourselves a kebap vendor and grabbed a bite to eat (Pete was right, Berlin's are the best). Instead of turning in early, we opted to grab a tram into the nightlife district, Leidesplein. I immediately set my sights on The Bulldog, Amsterdams first coffee shop. This is my theory....why not smoke a little pot in the one place thats it's legal and regulated. Well, technically it's still illegal but we'll get to that later. Not really sure what the whole system is, I asked the bartender for the "menu" because that's what I read when doing my homework for the trip. He points to the snack menu. I smile and say "um not that menu". He then points to the joint in his mouth and when I nod yes, he points to a small bar behind us that we passed on the way in. Located on this bar was a button. When you press this button it illuminates a marijuana, hash and reefers (joint) menu. Underneath a sign that says "Officer on duty" you tell the person what you want, they let you smell it to make sure you like the quality, and then you pay. Not all the coffee shops are this formal, but since the Bulldog is a chain and has multiple locations I'm sure they are subject to more inspections. Aud doesn't smoke, so she ordered herself a Coke Light (they don't have Diet Coke in Europe) and sat patiently as I enjoyed the local culture.

Brace yourselves for a big shock here.....The next day, we did the free walking tour. Is everyone composed? Good. Lee was our guide for the tour and she was awesome. It was her first tour back after being sick, so she was very enthusiastic and excited to show us around. One of our first stops was the Red Light District. Before we got there, she stopped to warn us about taking pictures. The prostitutes in the windows take their professions very seriously, as well as their body gaurds. A few things can happen if they catch you taking pictures. Including but not limited to:

1. Your camera could wind up in the nearest canal.
2. You could wind up in the nearest canal.
3. Something will be thrown at you and not in a gentle or friendly manner.
4. The "victim" will come outside (in her dental floss) and throw a jar of yellow liquid (not lemonade) on you.

We were standing outside a row of windows with their "product" on display listening to the information our guide was bestoying upon us. Behind our guide were three older tourist ladies taking pictures of the various surroundings, when all of a sudden we hear someone screaming and swearing at the top of their lungs. Not two seconds later, much to our delight, we see a beer can go flying through the air at full steam and just nail this lady with the camera in hand. I didn't have the heart to go up to her and do a sniff test, so we'll never know if it was beer or urine. The timing was absolutely perfect!! Who knew we'd get an interactive tour? POP QUIZ: Does anyone care to guess what the age of the oldest prostitute in Amsterdam is? I didn't think so....but I'm gonna tell you anyways :) 82 years old!!!!!!! And get this....she's got a waiting list. {enter puke noise here}

We also learned why the houses appear to be leaning every which direction....The original foundations of the houses were built on wooden stilts, which obviously start to decay after many years. When the houses start to tilt and the frames shift, the owners tend to just replace a window here, or a door there, until they have to completely replace the entire foundation under the house. See, it's not all about pot and prostitutes. Speaking of pot, Lee also gave us the history of how Amsterdam developed its acceptance of marijuana. Back in the 70's, they had really bad problems with heroin and cocaine use. Their resources were strecthed thin trying to crack down on everything so they decided to put drugs into two different categories. Hard drugs and soft drugs. Marijuana and magic mushrooms were put into the soft drug category and therefore de-criminalized. They let the peace lovers smoke their peace pipe and focused all efforts on the junkies. And get this....it worked. Outside of pickpocketing, they have one of the lowest crime rates around. Amazing. There are all kinds of guidelines and regulations for the coffee shops regarding the amounts they can have on the premises, and how much they can sell to you etc etc. Basically, as long as people aren't being idiots about things and not trying to export pounds of marijuana on the streets, they turn a blind eye to the people who like their occasional (or frequent) joint and space cake. The issue with magic mushrooms is even more interesting. They were just as accepted as marijuana until 2008 when someone with mental issues (this was a proven fact not my opinion) drank way too much alcohol, decided to eat some shrooms, and have the grand delusion that she could fly. Because no one does stupid things when under the influence of alcohol and the autopsy revealed that she had eaten halucinagins, mushrooms were soon deamed illegal. The coffeeshops were told they were allowed to sell off their remaining stock. Here's the kicker, no one took inventory of all the remaining stock for every single coffeeshop selling these little darlings. So, if you ask around you can find places that are still selling the "last of their stock", two years later. Genious. We opted to avoid these, since the buildings already look like they are reaching out to grab you when your sober. We also saw the coffee shop, Dampkring, that Matt Damon shot in for Ocean's 12. The tour wasn't all drugs and scandal. Like everyother stop on our trip thus far, we also learned about Amsterdams WWII history.

Day three in Amsterdam was beautiful. According to weather.com, it was to be the only nice during our stay and we took full advantage. First, we made our way to the third stay of the trip. Because of spring break season and Easter weekend, the availability (and affordabililty) of beds was rediculous. Our first two nights we stayed at two different hostels, and our last two nights were spent at a room we rented from a nice Dutch lady named Donna. After ditching our bags, we opted to start the day with a stroll around the Red Light District and people watch. After seeing more boobs and skin than necessary, we navigated our way through the alleys of Amsterdam to the Anne Frank House. See, we did educational things too. During our stay in Berlin, we managed to pick up a copy of The Diary of Anne Frank. It was really interesting to walk through the house as I was also in the middle of reading the diary. For instance, in her diary, she talks about how she decorated her room with pictures of movie stars from magazines and newspapers. Some of these clippings are still on the walls today. Everyone should read this book. The insight and knowledge that she possessed at such a young age is asstounding. That evening we decided to stay in for the night and watch TV because for the first time our entire trip, a few of the channels were English!!!! We watched a movie, as well as Oprah, MTV, and the Disney Channel. We were beyond excited.

Our last day in Amsterdam, we slept in and watched TV in bed. I know it sounds like we were wasting the day, but after a month and a half of not having our own space (or TV in English), it was a great way to recharge our energy and give our brains a break. We finally left the room around five that evening so we could grab dinner (and I could make a farewell visit to a coffeeshop). The night ended perfectly with Pearl Harbor on TV. You can't top a dinner date and chick flick with my one of your besties on a Saturday night.

We got up early the next morning and caught our train back to Paris. Just when I thought all the shocks of Amsterdam were over, Audrey overheard four American dudes discussing what their prostitutes were like. I am now scarred for life. If I ever find out that someone I'm dating or interested in has been to Amsterdam, I will require a lie detector test and full panel from a doctor before getting serious.

I can sum up Amsterdam as one place everyone should see in their lifetime. Walking around the Red Light District is like walking around an alternate universe. There are women of all shapes and sizes in windows morning, noon and night and the scent of marijuana is everywhere, literally. You can't tell weather it's wafting out of a "coffee shop", or walking past you on the sidewalk. I was in constant awe and shock the entire time we were there. I hope you enjoyed reading about it as much as I loved seeing it.

<3 Always,

Cat (and Aud)

Posted by audandcat 02:12

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