Friday, July 09, 2004

Doing the Netherlands in 1995, Part 1.

Some time in late Autumn or early winter I'm attending a wedding in the Netherlands. I'm pretty excited about the trip and have been thinking a lot about our last trip over there.

Nine years ago hubby and I made the trip to a small town in the south of Holland, to visit Danielle (Soony) who had lived with us for 10 months in 1989/1990 as an exchange student. We went somewhere and did something different every day of our trip but I think the most fun day was the day we "did" Amsterdam.
We arrived by train cause parking is nearly impossible in Amsterdam.

I read about it. I saw pictures of it. And I had to walk through it when I was in Amsterdam. Actually we went through on a family day trip. The Red Light District is like nothing else I have ever seen. The ladies sitting in the windows with the red neon lights was so surprising to me and yet so ordinary for Amsterdam. What is considered a taboo in many places is unassuming and acceptable here. You can even buy maps to direct you through the area or get a tour guide! You are advised not to take pictures in the area and I did not want to cause any commotion so I kept my camera out of sight for the most part while we walked through this area. We did try to negotiate with one prostitute to take photos but her english wasn't too good and she thought we wanted a 3some or moresome and never did understand that we just wanted to pay her to have her photo taken with us (clothed) so we gave up pretty quickly. Anyway, walking through the red light district is all part of the Amsterdam experience.

A view of part of the Redlight District just as it was getting dark.

I had to smile as I tried to imagine this fountain on the square in front of the courthouse in Helena. Those old bible-thumpin ladies would be in a swoon!

In the red-light district, the bottom floors of many of these buildings have been converted into sets of small rooms -- or single rooms with small booths or chambers -- with large, door-sized windows facing the street. These windows are typically lined or overhung on the outside with red (or pink) lights. Inside, a prostitute poses (usually in lingerie or a thong bikini) under a black-light or a dim white light.

You're walking along the brick-paved streets checking out the scene. To your left is the canal, to your right a series of prostitutes lit up in the windows, their lingerie like neon signs glowing white under the black-light as if illuminated from within; a live sex show with a barker out front trying to lure in an audience ("You've seen the girls in the windows, now come see the banana show! And they offered us a family discount!"); and an Amsterdam coffeeshop, where you can buy hashish and cannabis, magic mushrooms, poppers, space cakes, and good drinks.

There are coffeeshops everywhere!

There is a great variety of ages, races, body-shapes, and come-ons. Some women sit on chairs looking out at the canal with bored expressions on their faces; others pose, dance, gyrate like "exotic dancers;" others eat fast food or do their nails; others open their doors and call out offers to interested-looking passers-by. You see a man in front of you walk up to a lit window and knock. The door opens and a price is negotiated. The man enters the room and takes off his jacket. The prostitute closes the door and shuts the drapes over the window.

You stop in at a sexual novelty store to get your bearings. Videos galore, magazines for every conceivable taste (for instance, the "animals" category is subdivided into specialties -- women with dogs, women with donkeys, men with cows, etc.; there is even a set of nudism magazines ostensibly made for kids in the naturalist subculture but which are obviously a compromise solution for making relatively non-threatening child pornography available to the pedophile set), dildoes, butt plugs, bondage supplies, poppers, desensitizing lotions for the premature-ejaculate/sore-anus crowd, lewd postcards of all varieties, video viewing booths equipped with leather couches and rolls of tissue.

Coffeeshops sell coffee but they also sell green gold. Yes folks, marijuana is for sale in the coffeeshops with the green and white sticker in the window. Dutch tolerance is a wonderful thing.

Don't overdo it and become a silly tourist knocking the locals off their bikes or let one of those Dutch bike riders knock you on your ass. There are bikes EVERYWHERE and the tiny, narrow streets don't allow much room for you to wander around in a daze without watching where you're going or who's coming up behind you.

Take a tour in the canalboats. It's the only way to experience the true Amsterdam as the canals were of great historical importance. Only few places on earth have this possibility. Personally I would recommend the Museumboat (main boatstop across the Central Station, next to the TouristInfo). This canalboat has six major stops near most visited museums. You can hop on and off the boat as many times as you want and can also endlessly make circles the whole day.

Tomorrow I'll take you on a tour of the rest of Amsterdam.

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