I’ve arrived in the land of sex and drugs of partying and perversity. This is also my first travel destination I’ve gone to alone. Needless to say I loved Amsterdam, and not just for the weed (trust me the stuff from California is way better) but because the city is absolutely gorgeous and I was also lucky enough to meet so many extremely nice Dutch folks! When I got off the train the woman sitting next to me guided me to the correct tram which would take me to my hostel. She even gave me her phone number in case I had any issues during my stay. Then, after I dropped my stuff off, I got a free tour of the city center (courtesy of New Europe Free Tours)!
It was a perfect start to my short trip because I had a way better sense of the city and I knew how to get to all the major tourist destinations. I saw the red lights district during the day which is substantially different than the night, but still very much operating. I got to see the Anne Frank house, where she hid out for about two years during the Nazi occupation of Holland. By the time I had been out in the cold for a few hours however, I was freezing my ass off. This was my first day at below freezing weather and I’m not used to it at all. I had to buy the biggest scarf. The only exposed part of my body when I go outside are my eyes.
The next day I woke up early and went inside the museum at the Anne Frank house. I saw the secret annex and walked through all of the small rooms where eight people tried to hide from the Nazis. It was both tragic and inspiring at the same time. My two favorite quotes from the museum speak for themselves:
“I want to go on living even after my death” Anne Frank
“All of her would-haves are our opportunities.” Emma Thompson
After a heavy morning of confronting a rather difficult portion of the Netherlands history, I decided to head to my first coffee shop. I ordered a sativa and the man working there gave me the joint for free! Dutch people are the greatest!
Unfortunately, since I am completely unused to the cold, I’m starting to get a cold. I decided to head to the hostel for a nap, and later that evening my plan was to go to the red lights district.
When I woke up I dragged myself into the freezing snowy weather and took the tram to the district.
It is interesting that the church is in the center of the area so that men who go in and out
of the red rooms can pay for their repentance, their forgiveness.
The district is organized so that cameras are everywhere, it is actually fairly safe in terms of a hub of prostitution. The women sit at the front of small rooms with glass doors. Red lights mark the female prostitutes, purple lights mark the transgender prostitutes (there were no male prostitutes). When a client wants to pay for sex they go up to the door, the sex worker then opens it to allow his entrance, and closes the curtain until the client finishes and leaves. All the sex workers are 21 or over (the oldest registered prostitute was in her 70s) and are mostly from Eastern Europe. Many of workers have no other options for work, are funding their education, or have been sold into slavery (as in they have to work to repay those who got them into the country).
Like a good qualitative researcher, I just sat and watched for about an hour. I watched several men go in and I timed them, the longest lasted 20 minutes, the shortest 6. The potential client’s faces were perhaps the most disturbing for me. Too many of them looked as if they hadn’t eaten for weeks and inside the glass cases (red viewing rooms where the prostitutes sit and beckon prospective clients) was an animal ready for slaughter. The women in the windows did every obscene flirtatious gesture you could think of. From being almost outright naked to dancing and licking lolly pops, the women did everything they could to try and get clients. One women even told a group of men that all three of them could come inside.
Every person who walked by, no matter if they were actually interested in buying sex or if they just wanted to see a red lights district as a tourist, stared at the women in the windows. A couple people even tried to take a photo of a sex worker, and she subsequently ran outside in the snow to scream at them until hopefully they would delete the photo. The whole experience must be extremely dehumanizing for the women, people walk by as if at zoo. Some people pointed, laughed, or just stared for minutes on end. Most of the working women held constant facial expressions of seduction, others looked like they would rather have their hands sawed off then to be selling their bodies.
By this time it was even colder and I decided to call it a night. I’m here for two more days, I plan to do the Heineken experience and just explore this beautiful city (but im avoiding the food because it is so expensive).
Overall, I loved this city, but I feel like I saw Amsterdam but did not really experience it. Travel to me is more than simply tourism, I wish I could have stayed longer in this city I barely scraped the surface of everything it has to offer.