The third of my four cities visited was Amsterdam. While I had heard all the bits and pieces about drugs and prostitution, I hadn't expected them to be as prominent as they were. You could probably fail a drug test simply from walking the streets in and surrounding the Red Light District. That was the first thing we noticed on our walk from the train station to the hotel. Once we arrived at the hotel, I was surprised by the stock in the vending machine in the lobby.
I feel that this vending machine says a lot about Amsterdam. Although surprisingly, it is illegal to smoke weed and drink in public there. We were staying on a street on the edge of the Red Light District. On this street there were several sex shops and gay bars. Several of these shops and bars seemed to specialize in BDSM and unlike in the US, these shops had clear glass windows, several with colorful and all with very pornographic window displays. In addition to the sex shops, there were several bars and stores specifically for buying and using shrooms and weed. Even though it was only around 2 pm, we decided to go for a walk to check out the Red Light District's stock of prostitutes.
Ignore the fact that this picture was clearly taken at night
We were taken aback by not only the fact that you could easily find a hooker at two in the afternoon, but that all the ones we found were extremely attractive. To me, walking around the Red Light District felt very much like a trip to the zoo. My father and I even jokingly called it the people zoo. All the girls are behind a glass door. They actually live in the same place they work. You could often see microwaves among other personal effects in the rooms. Many of them didn't even pay attention to the people passing by as they were too busy smoking or texting on their cell phones. 99% of them were very exotic dance wear or lingerie. The only thing that made it feel less like a people zoo was the fact that occasionally the prostitutes would tap on the glass to get your attention, not the other way around. Also, in a real zoo, the animals won't steal or smash your camera if you take pictures of them, which is why the picture above is the only one I have to show you. As you strayed away from the main drag a bit, you found older, larger, and less attractive prostitutes. I think that when you look the age of sixty, you should probably exchange your corner brothel window for an ordinary apartment and stop being a whore.
Before I noticed the smell of weed in Amsterdam, I noticed the 8 million bicycles being ridden and chained to every building, pole, or tree. In the picture above, you see a parking garage specifically for bikes. It holds something like 5000 bikes and it was packed to full capacity. Amsterdam also has over 9000 canals. A lot of these canals have boat houses in them. While the idea of living in a boat house in a canal sounds cool, a lot of these houses reminded me of trailor park homes. Especially since there were so many half sunk boats chilling in the canals.
not sinking yet...
Overall, I enjoyed Amsterdam. It was unlike anything I have ever seen before and was probably the first thing in Europe to really shock me since coming home to a dead earless, skinless half of a rabbit on the counter during my first homestay in France back in 2007. I'm ending this entry here since my trip in London hasn't finished yet. Part 3 will be on its way soon!