Trip Start Feb 14, 2006
27Trip End Dec 15, 2006
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Amsterdam was the next city on our trans-Europe adventure and I was intrigued as to what I would find.
I must admit, after travelling for such a long time my desire to experience novel things is starting to wear a little thin. Louise and I are already on a church and museum diet. My travel style is becoming truly zen-minimal. I get off the bus, do my best to close my eyes to anything remotely novel, then get on the next bus. Amsterdam, however, had quite a few attractions that I was actually very interested in seeing: The red-light district (that I alluded to in my previous post), the marajuana cafes, and the bikes (It appears that if you want to emigrate to Holland you need to learn how to ride a bike - the average person has 3!). It seems like sin and scooters go well together.
So - the bikes, it is true, are everywhere. Unfortunately there is an incredible bike-stealing business that also operates in Amsterdam and the Dutch, trying to prevent this, ride around on the most horrendous, old-fashioned, rusted-out bikes you can imagine. It's like the bikes are insulting the robber's pride if they plan on stealing one. One of our good friends even painted her's fluorescent yellow just to make it less attractive. It is a fairly safe bet that anyone on a nice bicycle in Amsterdam is either a tourist or a thief (who targets tourists).
Anyway, after much 2-wheeled fun it was time to see the proverbial 'village-bicycleŽ - the red light district (I couldn't resist). Cruising the red-light district with Louise was a strange experience. The prostitutes, for those who don't know, stand behind full length glass windows in little rooms wearing exactly what one expects a prostitute to wear. In the back of these little rooms are even little-er beds and, when a customer calls, a curtain magically appears infront of their window and...
Anyway, there were hundreds of these windows all up and down the street (next to the ubiquitous sex-shops and sex-shows). Now I am in no way against prostitution and, if someone wishes to make a career of it then I wish them the best of luck. However, I couldn't help feel sorry for most of those girls and their little rooms. It seemed kind of sad to reduce a human to a supermarket-ready product.
However, Louise and I couldn't ponder this for long before we were dragged in to see a ''live-show'' by a man with a very-greasy head of hair who promised us it was the only thing a couple could actually do together in the red-light district and still remain a couple. This line appeared to have worked on a large number of couples actually, as inside were rows of slightly furtive looking men and slightly jealous looking girlfriends. The 'show' was more interesting for watching the crowd than the actual acts on stage. Usually a girl would drag some 'lucky' bloke out of the audience then proceed to do certain...things... to him. I was amazed at how many men were happy to get up on stage (infront of maybe 50 people and often their girlfriends) and then be stripped naked and whipped (or involved in the bannana-show, better left to the imagination). I was terrified that someone was going to try and get me up on that stage. Anyway, after hiding under my seat for a good 20 minutes it was time for the grand-finale, the live-sex-spectacular we had been promised. That was, I think, one of the least comfortable experiences anyone in the audience had ever been through. It gave a new meaning to the phrase 'just going through the motions'. Louise summed it up perfectly, describing it as 'anti-porn'.
OK, enough of that topic. The hash-bars were also a definite stop-off for us in Amsterdam. Why walk around Amsterdam when you can fly? Louise and I must be fairly dull people though because neither of us knew the faintest thing about marajuana (apart from the fact that you are meant to smoke it... right?). Anyway, so we went into one of these cafes (which are absolutely everywhere) and, not really knowing what we were doing, asked for some help. The attendent asked us if we wanted hash or weed? I thought they were the same thing! He gave me a look of disdain (added to by his blood-shot pupils and somewhat slack-jawed countenance) and handed me a menu! A MENU!!! What the hell were my options? Actually, there were about 15 different options for one to get high in that store - I could have chosen hydroponic vs natural vs light buzz vs easy cruisy vs on and on and on. I can't really remember what happened next so I will move along to....
Museums (the point where people stop reading). Actually there was a fantastic Van Gough museum in Amsterdam that both Louise and I really loved. We also met up with 2 great friends we had met all the way back in Chile who took us around Amsterdam on our last day, gave us chocolate and made us feel very special.
OK - enough of Holland, next stop is Paris, are you coming?