Hello from Amsterdam!
I would be lying if I said that I didn’t know that Amsterdam is very well known for its lenient marijuana policies, however without partaking in many of these activities, the city still has so much to offer in terms of history and beauty.
Coming from a young city like Vancouver, where the architectural aesthetic is all very modern, it’s refreshing to be able to see the different stages of architectural evolution in Amsterdam. Charming 17th century style canal houses stand next to the more contemporary functionalism buildings without looking out of place, making Amsterdam a beautiful place that brings together an eclectic mix of influences that give the city its unique personality. That’s the first things I noticed on my tram ride from Central Station to my hostel. Another thing that I noticed was that it seemed like everybody in Amsterdam dresses with the same style as me – lots of dark colors, leather, and heels. This made for a promising first impression , despite the fact that the weather in Amsterdam was like Vancouver in October – damp, chilly, and extremely windy. Thousands of miles away and I still can’t escape Vancouver weather.
Over the course of my stay in Amsterdam, that good first impression only became increasingly positive. The people were overall very welcoming and helpful, with no issues about whether or not we spoke Dutch. It was a welcome change of pace from Paris, in which someone had shouted ‘chinois!’ at me in the Gare du Nord while I was waiting for my train to Amsterdam. It may have been rude but it was also the first time anybody got my ethnicity correct so far on this trip. In Amsterdam, I was asked a few times if I was Japanese (again) or if I was Thai.
On the first day we explored the Red Light District (De Wallen). It was surprisingly not sketchy at all though. Yes, there were many prostitutes standing in the windows of buildings, making ‘come hither’ motions and plenty of weed and sex shops, but the overall atmosphere was a fairly light-hearted one, given the surroundings. It was more like ‘window shopping’ for men as the locals put it. We blended in with the throngs of tourists, all eager to take in the sights. We took a look around the shops, but drew the line at paying 2 euro for a peep show.
From our coffee obsessed back ground, we got a shocking surprise when we entered our first coffee shop , which actually didn’t sell coffee at all. The designated spaces were meant for selling and using weed. The staff and customers were all fairly friendly and we ended up getting pretty high, which led to a simultaneously exasperating and amusing trip home that took far longer than necessary. Bare in mind that all of the streets are intertwined and in Dutch with similar sounding endings.
On our Second day we visited the Van Gogh Museum , which gave much more perspective on Van Gogh’s life that allowed for greater appreciation of his work than, for example, when we saw his paintings in London’s National Gallery. We also visited the floating flower market which was, of course, bursting with all sorts of tulip related products. there were real tulips, painted wooden ones, plastic ones, tulip bulbs, grow a single tulip packs, etc. all next to the grow your own cannabis sets. The thing that actually appealed to me the most was a little bonsai tree set that had me imagining myself actually caring for plant life! When you’re surrounded by that many promises of being able to grow your own garden , it’s easy to get caught up in it. We also took a less education tour around the Sex Museum.. which was not particularly informative and was mostly an excuse to look at provocative photos.
We visited visited the Purse and Handbag Museum. Which was informative and thoughtfully laid-out with a collection of historical and iconic handbags. Of course, it was mostly women who were walking around in this particular museum, but it was a changing moment to just realize we were standing in a museum dedicated to purses…This proves that fashion is indeed and art.
In hindsight, Amsterdam was both beautiful and educational, for those who like to experience these things sober or not…