Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Venice of the North

Everything I have ever heard about Amsterdam is true - every single stereotype. Hundreds of hookers standing behind windows, tons of coffee shops that don't sell coffee, and constant partying. The hostel we stayed in was in the infamous Red Light District, so needless to say I witnessed some crazy shit. That being said, its actually really lovely place and has a quirky charm about it.

On the day we arrived we took a free walking tour of the city. Amsterdam has a really great history. A lot of it is kind of depressing (to prosecute women they used to sew their bodies together into a ball, put live cats in the center, and throw them into the river. They would die from the cats scratching them to death trying to get out. How someone even thought to do this I don't know) but it's really interesting to see how it progressed into such an open, liberal city.

(Angelina and I inside the A of the famous "IAMsterdam" sign)

After that walking tour we took another walking tour, this time of the Red Light District. Our guide told us all about sex culture in Amsterdam and how the district actually operates. It turns out that in order to be a prostitute in the red light district, you have to be over 18 and a member of the European union. Then you have to get a register a license from city hall and fill out tax information (they are basically independent contractors for the city) and pay to rent out your own window. Their services start at $50 for 15 minutes and everything the man wants it negotiated and paid up front. Madams and pimps are illegal, women work for themselves and no one else. Actually, a lot of them are friends and watch out for each other. Theres also tons of different types of women in all different sizes (there's a "big mama" ally where you'll find exactly what you think you'll find) and styles. Some wear glasses, some have shaved heads, tattoos, etc, and the oldest working prostitute is now in her 70s! Also, when you rent out a window, it comes with a panic button. So if a woman feels uncomfortable with a client, she presses the button and an alarm can be heard throughout the entire district. There are also security cameras everywhere. Believe it or not, the district itself is extremely safe and well regulated.

(The Red Light District during the day)

Other than that we basically spent the rest of our time exploring the city by foot. I really wanted to go to the Van Gogh Museum but it was closed for renovations! I was so bummed. We were also going to go to the Anne Frank house but decided against it as it was pricey and the line was extremely long. Instead, we checked out Vondelpark and the Sex Museum, which was just as interesting as it sounds. We also ate delicious Dutch food like savory pancakes and febu, which is an inexpensive breaded meaty thing that comes out of a vending machine. So fucking good. Also, they have incredible coffee and amazing cheese. We literally spent 30 minutes at a cheese shop being fatties and sampling different kinds ( don't worry, we did actually end up buying some!)

Honestly though, when it comes down to it, I would only recommend Amsterdam to people who love to party and smoke tons of grass. Other than that, unless you're a nerd like me and are interested in the history of the place, there's not much else to do.

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