It was a long long day for me yesterday as I trekked the roads of Amsterdam. Amsterdam, known the world over as the most culturally diverse city in the world, represented by at least 170 different cultures, never ceases to amaze a tourist, for the different activities it offers. We went on an odd and very realistic tour of the city, mindful of the reputation that Amsterdam had to uphold.
It’s also worth noting at first that I joined the excursion organized by the Erasmus Student Network (ESN) Utrecht Chapter. We paid 12 euros for the guided tour, entrance to the Van Gogh museum, tram rides, an Italian dinner and a drink. It takes 20 minutes by train to get to Amsterdam from Utrecht. A return day ticket costs 7euros. So that was the total expense of the day trip.
Our first stop was the Van Gogh Museum. Well, Im not the museum going type. I could only boast of a few museum visits in my lifetime. But I really enjoyed the Van Gogh museum as it depicted the development of the artworks by this renowned painter. It was quite noticeable that as his days became more depressed, his paintings became more interesting and more vibrant. Maybe the relationship between his paintings and his moods is, shall we say, inversely proportional. I cant say much about the museum, nor am I able to share any photos. Of course, it’s not allowed to shoot inside the museum. You just have to go there and see for yourself. All I have to offer is this:
Then we had lunch by the park, beside the museum. We sat on the grass, enjoyed the cool,crisp air.
Afterwards, we went on the city walk. We were led by our tour guide, Basilio, who wittingly showed us around. He showed us into the interesting sidestreets, where apparently, all the action is.
This is it, the Red Light District… In Amsterdam, they follow this tagline to the letter. This innocent looking street more than meets the eye. As you traverse the street, there will be large windows on both sides. If the red light is on, you will see on display a prostitute in her working clothes, seeking to allure the passersby. Basilio says that a 10-15 minute stint with these prostitutes would cost 50 euros. Whhhhhaaaat??? I have to say though, some of the girls I’ve seen will not be worth that much! They really come in all shapes and sizes, literally. The windows though are rented by these girls from 75-100 euros for an 8 hour shift. It’s a lucrative business if you do the math. There is a minimum age of 18 before you can legally engage in prostitution. Apparently, there is no maximum age. At present, the oldest working prostitute is 74 years old! Hmmmm….. this city is really full of surprises.
It would be interesting to know that the red light district is a stone’s throw away from the oldest standing church in the City. Surrounding the Church, I chanced upon this sign.
Who then will say that religion and sexual expression is like oil and water? Apparently, in Amsterdam, they are in the same neighborhood. This marker, aptly called, Hand in Boob, can be found on the sidewalk in front of this church.
So tell me, which is out of place? The church, or this marker?
Okay the next thing that Amsterdam has become famous for is its different take on the worldwide phenomenon called “coffee shop,” which now takes us on a high… Yup the marijuana high. The Dutch government had decriminalized the regulated use of softdrugs. So in a coffeeshop, you are allowed to be served 5grams of marijuana. You can choose from over 200 coffeeshops around town. It has been such a cult phenomenon, especially for tourists that they even have a museum for weed!
And if you’re lost in your search for magic mushrooms, follow the signs:
The interesting sights never end, we came across the widest bridge in the city. On it stands this monument, Multatuli, which in Latin means “I have suffered.” Soft giggles started to fill the air, as in Finnish, the same phrase means, “I have ejaculated.” In Tagalog, multa means “a fine” and tuli means “to circumcise.”
Great sights, interesting city.
ESN-Utrecht is an organization that brings together international students from all around the globe. Visit them at www.esn-utrecht.nl.