Now of course our time in Amsterdam would be wasted getting high all day everyday, as the city is an attraction in itself. Wandering the many canals feels like Venice without that mass of tourists and an overall more laid-back feel. While others say it is easy to get lost in the maze of canals I feel it is not that confusing, you simple have to look at the curvature of the adjacent canals as they all sort of bend inwards (not the actual sections themselves, take a look at a map to see what I mean) towards Amsterdam Centraal. You can often get around the concentric canals quite easily on a bike (although my friend Meryl, a native Amsterdammer tells me to stay off the bike paths, ‘there are too many tourists already clogging up the roads’ she says).
During our time here we also visited the park near Rijksmusem, which has the famous ‘I amsterdam’ sign out the front. Many people are just relaxing/sunbaking on the grass of the Museumplein and so we decide to join them and people watch for a bit while we wait to go to the Van Gogh Museum (we bought prepaid tickets to go at a certain time). Interesting fact, I learnt that Van Gogh is pronounced as it is spelt rather than the common van ‘go’ as in ‘let’s go to the mall.’ Also no photos inside the museum allowed, but I am sure you are familiar with some of Van Gogh’s famous works like ‘sunflower’ and ‘starry night.’
Now I’m no big fan of art so many of the finer points are appreciation of Van Gogh’s paintings are lost on me. What I did like though is the progression of his self-portraits (before today I thought there was only one) throughout his lifetime corresponding with a narration of the struggles he was going through at the various times. His thoughts are also recorded in several letters in correspondence with his brother. Many of those around him never thought much of his work, and sometimes Van Gogh himself doubted his worth as an artist – if only he could see what has become of his legacy now.
For the evening activities it was time to visit the famed Red Light District of Amsterdam. The surrounding area is filled with many coffee-shops, bars and backpacker hostels before we finally get to the main strip (pun intended). Either side of the canal is decked out with brothels, sex shops and all manner of raunchy perversions. Now the ‘shopfront’ is usually fitted out with floor to ceiling glass from which to admire the girls (also note that it is forbidden to take photos of them; if you do they are obliged to spray you and your phone/camera with a hose/spray gun).
I am also surprised the area is not quite as seedy/sleazy as I had imagined, there are all different kinds of tourists; the asian tour group, old couples, frat boys and even families. Now most people like us walked up and down the strip and checked out the girls (some were ridiculously hot) but very few actually went in for ‘services’. What was a popular thing to do though was see a sex show; and although I didn’t get a chance to, next time I am curious to see what the ‘Banana bar’ show has in store. They say they go through about 15kg of fruit a night but I’ll leave that to your imagination as to what they do with it.
Now it’s everyones favourite time of the day; time to hit the coffee-shop! I for one questioned the meaning of my existence while watching Charlie Sheen ride a tiger in a Spanish movie with Dutch subtitles. Fun times.
The next morning it was time for us travellers to part ways, James was onwards to Barcelona on his tour of Spain with other James (not imaginary), and Miranda onwards to Sweden for exchange. It was time for me to head back to London to catch my flight. However I had a bit of time to kill as my cruise back to the UK was not until 6pm, so I proceeded to take a few joints with me back to the park; best day ever. I don’t remember much else happening that day, but here’s the sunset from my cruise before we cross the English Channel. Cheers Amsterdam, you been pretty swell.