Amsterdam. Possibly the city known for sin, even more than our own Las Vegas. Where most cities try to hide the sex, drugs and capitalism; Amsterdam made a tourist bonanza out of it. University students all over the world spend holiday in the infamous Red Light District, and after my visit there I can see why.
I took a 10-hour over-night train from Munich to Amsterdam. It was expensive, but worth it. It dropped Bridget and I at the center station, which was just a few blocks from our hostel. The Youth Hostel Meetingpoint was… disgusting. It had great security, a bar with snack food available all night and was cheap. Unfortunately, the carpet was coated in human hair. Practically made of it. The showers had no ventilation, were slimy feeling and had no hot water or water pressure. I’m just glad I got out of it without bed bugs!
Besides that, it had a great location. It was located in the first district of the Red Light District, which is made of 4 separate districts. The first district is made of munchy food stops, coffee shops and sex toy shops. The second and third district have many of the infamous windows filled with a variety of girls.
Once you get over the shock of seeing women half-naked/naked in windows you can really appreciate the unusual experience Amsterdam offers.
Europeans often look across the pond at our easy acceptance of violence as wrong. We hide sex, or make it dirty. We hide the human body. I tend to lean toward a more European view. America’s casual reference to violence in the media is more disturbing to me than the naked body. On the TV in Ireland one of the shows my roommates and I loved to watch was a health series dedicated to educating people on a variety of health issues. Censoring is so different across the pond that the show was able to show the human body entirely in the context of showing you what to look for disease/infection.
* Because of the strict policy and belief that the girls’ privacy is sacred, photos are not allowed to be taken in many areas of the city. So I don’t have many photos.
Just like in Munich, I took a 3-hour walking tour of the city. There I learned history about architecture, the plague and funny little stories about the tour guides own experience in the city. I learned that all of the buildings were built to tilt forward on purpose. Due to how high and narrow they are, and the silt underneath, this allows movement. All of the buildings at the very top have a large poll that sticks 5-feet away from the building. At the end of the pole is a pulley system. This allows people to move heavy/large objects in the narrow doored/stairs into the building. The buildings are also tilted to ensure that any object being pulled up will not crash, scratch or scrape along the buildings exterior. Our tour guide told us that while he was taking a tour through the city they stopped to watch a man and wife pull a new stove into the house. It seems the wife was in a mood and kept harping at her husband while he was pulling the stove up. He was so distracted from his job of pulling the stove up the side of the building that he accidentally let go of the rope. Resulting in their brand new stove falling 4-stories to the ground below. No one was hurt, but I’m sure the husband got an even greater ear full afterward!
Here is a picture of a front tilted building along the canal –
When the plague hit Amsterdam and relentlessly infected the population built upon canals, the people decided that cats were to blame. So, they killed off almost the entire population of cats. A very bad idea, because rats, the true carriers of the plague breed rampart and infected even more of the population. The people realized their mistake after two more years of the plague, and decided to ship in hundreds of cats from France and Spain. My tour guide joked that they all spoke with French and Spanish accents now, but, what I found most amusing was how cats were allowed to wander in and out of business in today’s world. Every store I went into, every restaurant and every coffee-house had their own cat! The cats were just allowed, and encouraged to walk around. As a cat person I loved this!
I learned that when Napoleon Bonaparte invaded and took over Amsterdam he gave the city to his brother. Upon doing this, Louis Bonaparte made the quarter, where the Dutch Royal Palace is, very French in architectural design. He built over everything, and upon his introduction to the people of Amsterdam he learned one piece of Dutch. He tried to say. “Amsterdam, I am your king!” What he actually ended up saying was, “Amsterdam, I am your duck!” No wonder Napoleon removed Louis from Amsterdam and gave Holland to someone else after only Louis ruled it for only one year.
Posing at the ‘I am Amsterdam’ statue was the last little bit of my trip there. I wasn’t there for long, but Amsterdam definitely gave me a different view to think about. Here is also a photo of the canals!