Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Day 4

Saturday 4th June 2011 - Amsterdam

When we get up in the morning I'm almost apprehensive over what we might find in this city. I don't know whether to be excited or afraid and last nights little sneak preview didn't really help. I never knew I was so easily affected before, I mean, its not like I've been walking around for the last twenty years with my eyes closed but there is a really massive difference between seeing crazy things on TV and actually witnessing them in real life. Anyhow, we showered and breakfasted and then headed in the direction of the metro. After a good long fight with the ticket machine which point blank refused to accept my travel money credit card I had to use my normal card and pay the bank fees - a little miffed but could have been worse.

It takes about 25 minutes to reach Amsterdam central station upon which we catch our first glimpse of the city. The tourist information office is situated directly opposite the train station and is the first Amsterdam Coffee-shop you encounter. The Amsterdam Coffee-shops are somewhat mythologised around the world and I'm almost certain that if you haven't seen them for yourself that each person has an idea about what they might be like. I was definitely quite a way off the mark. My imagined coffee-shops were situated in a quite calm city such as Bruges and provided a relaxed and inconspicuous place in which people could go and smoke drugs inconspicuously. This image was immediately replaced with a madness that cannot be effectively described. The following experiences were dreamlike, and not for reasons you might imagine. Walking down the traditional European-looking, olde-worlde, looking streets you are bombarded with signs in windows saying "Buy your herbs here", "Magic Mushrooms and other Psychedelia inside" and the music is pumping from these low lit bars where no cigarette tobacco or alcohol is served. The menu consists of the usual coffee list including hot chocolate and chocolate milk with the larger section at the bottom being reserved for different types and strengths of weed which can be bought and a selection of munchies, spiked and non-spiked.

Apart from coffee-shops the streets also offer a variety of weird and wonderful shops selling things that literally make you stop and stare. It was definitely necessary to take a picture of 'The Condomerie" selling every different type of condom you can and cant imagine, including one in the shape of a giraffe and one in the shape of a carrot. It was impossible not to smile as you walked passed and saw a regalia of condoms all hanging from what looked like a couple of washing lines.
The streets are also full of tourists drinking in the streets which is also legal, its mainly however, big groups of young twenty something males and the ones who were busy getting absolutely wheelie-binned at 12.30pm in the afternoon seemed to be mainly British - come on lads, don't let the side down.

The centre of the city was holding a women's beach volleyball contest, which included very little clothing and was being avidly watched hundreds of people. They had actually turned what was once before a piece of road into a massive sandpit big enough for two full size courts. We drank a Heineken - it seemed rude not to, then headed back to camp for dinner.

At nightfall, we returned to the city and literally stumbled into the heart of the red light district. Women stand in windows backed by a red glow. Bikini's fluorescent thongs and other extremely revealing and provocative attire are displayed for the thousands of tourists that are pouring down the streets. The variety of women is also astounding, large women, tiny women, small breasts, extremely massive and painful looking breasts, the more mature women, gay women, and women from every different culture. They sell t-shirts in neighbouring shops saying, "sex at home destroys the prostitution business, prostitutes have to eat too you know." There is no shame at all behind the services these women provide, in fact it is a source of humour and it simply seems as natural as selling ice cream at a kiosk. All the women charge 50 euros 'a time' and disappear behind curtains once the fee has been paid upfront. I don't really know what else to say about what I saw in my time in the Red light district, its not my place or my desire to judge any of this activity. My aim is merely to give a brief and as subjective as possible snapshot into the place I found at the end of the metro and I hope this is how this section of the post has been presented.

However, Amsterdam certainly made an impression, I think it would be hard to see this place and not feel somehow like you'd seen something very new. One thing is for sure, they certainly know how to party here.

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