I'm dangling my feet over the water as Jules and I sit at the edge of a walking bridge, which arches over one of Amsterdam's more than 100 canals.
Yesterday morning Jules and I searched Schiphol Airport for what we needed: our Eurail passes validated; train reservations from Amsterdam to Paris; train tickets from the airport to Central Station; and an ATM to withdraw money.
While riding the escalator down to the train terminal we heard beeps, signifying the train was about to depart, so we rushed to board it. Jules made it, but an elderly man was in my way and the doors closed just before I could hop on. Jules and I looked at each other through the glass, first with shock, then despair, and then we just started cracking up.
Thankfully I was reunited with a not-too-worried Jules at Central Station. What a great way to start our solo trip though — we weren't even successful at boarding the same train.
We battled jetlag by setting out to get oriented and explore the streets of Amsterdam. We perused a smartshop. Never before had I seen mushrooms, ecstasy, and many other mysterious drugs sold in a cute little shop.
While searching for lunch we stumbled into the Red Light District, which took away most of my appetite.
Cannabis College was very educational, with displays of pipes, bongs, vaporizers, medical marijuana licenses, and other cannabis products like teas, ropes, and clothing. We were too cheap to pay three euros to see the marijuana garden downstairs. One wall was covered with small posters showing pictures of the poor families of people imprisoned for what this "college" thinks should be legal everywhere.
We made it through the tulip market over to Leidseplein but lost gas before making it to the Rijksmuseum or Van Gogh Museum like we had hoped. So we went to a coffee shop instead, not to smoke weed like many of the other customers were doing, but just to use the Internet.
Last night we went on the Randy Roy's Red Light Tour. Here's what I learned from our guide, Kimberley, that I found especially interesting:
- Marijuana is actually illegal in Amsterdam. It is just decriminalized, which means the police look the other way.
- They have transsexuals, but no male prostitutes in the windows.
- If a prostitute is unhappy with a customer, she will throw his shoes and pants out on the street so he is humiliated.
- Many prostitutes are members of a prostitutes' union to advocate the government for their needs.
- In the African quarter, 15 minutes with a prostitute is 25-35 euros. Everywhere else it's 50 euros.
- You cannot open up, pass on, or inherit a coffee shop because Amsterdam is trying to cut down on their abundance.
- The Red Light District used to be the most dangerous area before they legalized prostitution; now the police look out for the safety of prostitutes and the area is very safe.
- The oldest prostitute is 85; 60-year-old prostitutes are rather common.
This morning, we ate breakfast at the Pancake Bakery because Jules wanted what her Dutch grandma used to make for her, a food I was not familiar with: poffertjes.
This afternoon we visited Anne Frank's house, a very cool museum. My favorite part was at the end when there was a film presenting quandaries over how much freedom people should really be allowed. Should there be freedom of the press to the extent that newspapers are allowed to publish cartoons mocking Muhammad, the prophet of Islam? Should there be freedom of speech to the extent that music artists are allowed to rap about exterminating homosexuals? Should there be freedom of assembly to protest, to the extent that Northern Irish Protestants are allowed to march through Catholic neighborhoods?
I thought it was cool to follow up the museum with this program because we should be proactive about the lessons we've learned from the Holocaust along with the rest of history. It reminded me of the quandaries I had a few times as the editor of my high school's newspaper over what should be published: issues of student safety versus freedom of the press.
About This Entry
You are reading "Amsterdam", an entry posted on 25 June 2008 by Jackie Steves.