I arrived in Amsterdam early Monday morning to spend a week and a half with my friend Natalia. We have decided that Dutch sounds like garbled laughing broken by commercial American words.
‘HAHABAHAGAHA McDonalds BAHAHAMAGA Weed JAHAKAHADA Tourists.’
But nearly everyone speaks English so we don’t make fools of ourselves too often.
I don’t think I’ve ever been this jet lagged before, but we did our best. Between frequent naps, Natalia and I made sure to see the Anne Frank House, Jewish Museum, and to walk the canals. We have yet to see the Van Gogh museum, but are saving that as our finale before I return to the states.
Before I continue, we must make a distinction that will be crucial to understanding the Netherlands.
Cafes: Serve coffee and pastries
Coffeeshops: Serve coffee and marijuana
As a golden rule, one cannot go to the Netherlands without visiting a coffeeshop. You just have to go to see what it’s like, whether you partake or not. A tourists’ favorite coffeeshop is called Prix d’Ami, and is three floors of hazy lounging.
If you like people watching, coffeeshops are a great places to do so. Patrons come from all walks of life; businessmen, mothers, tourists, and locals. But be sure to pack a coat, shops tend to be a little cold to prevent people from falling asleep.
Natalia and I stayed at the Shelter Hostel in the red light district. The Shelter Hostels are a chain of clean, well-managed Christian hostels. But it felt very strange to leave that highly religious environment and walk straight into an alley lined with florescent lit windows.
The red light district is most certainly an interesting locale. I knew what I was walking into, I knew what to expect, but I was still surprised. Even more surprised when I realized the zone doesn’t close during the day. Children just run around and the ladies pose and continue working.
Seeing the red light ladies in other contexts is quite humorous. Just like everyone else, they leave work at the end of their shift and hope to go home and relax. But everyone on the street is aware of their profession; blue snakeskin boots are a dead give away.
Finally, Natalia and I arrived in Den Haag (the Hague). Here we are spending time with her family and friends. They even bought us the most amazing bacon I’ve ever had the honor to fry. Bacon, a quarter of an inch thick and barely cured. God’s bookmark indeed.