I AMsterdam

When I hear “Amsterdam” I think of all kinds of things.  It’s really amazing the kinds of things that I would hear when I would mention it. It seemed that the most frequent was coffee shops and the red light district.  I, not being from the Netherlands, had no idea what I was in for.  I thought at first it was like, a shopping district, like in NYC you have the fashion district. Oh there was shopping that could have been done all hours of the night.  I seriously didn’t know what that was about but I figured I could use the Google. I used Wikapedia instead. The coffee shops I knew were not Starbucks.  In fact, the entire time I was in Amsterdam, I didn’t see a single Starbucks!

I wish I could say I had thousands of pictures of the Netherlands and of Amsterdam, but unfortunately that was not my case.  I have one picture of Amsterdam, and it is of a red light, in the Red Light District. My ship cruised into Amsterdam Saturday night around 2 a.m.  My flight out of IAD was 10:30 a.m. Sunday.  Which means you have to be at the airport by 8:30, off the ship by 7:30 the latest. So as you can see, I was sort of in a time pickle. Too much to do and not enough time to do it.

I personally didn’t really care to go to the Red Light District (RLD) if I was in Amsterdam.  I wanted to go see the coffee shops, and since they closed at midnight I sort of lost a strong interest to go.  I confess, I wanted to buy some marijuana seeds and bring them back to Colorado.  It’s legal here in Colorado. I can’t assume that everyone knows how to use the Internet, so if you don’t know what the RLD is, it is an area of Amsterdam where prostitution is legal.  I wish I had a picture to share, but I don’t.  So I can only use my words to paint the picture.

It was late, and it was dark. A cool mist rose from the Rhine river as our river boat finally docked in the seemingly, distant Red Light District of Amsterdam.  The concierge called a local taxi for me, to arrive by 3:00 a.m. It was late.  He couldn’t find us. Before we left, we made sure, 100% there would be no problem getting back to the ship by morning.  I left my cell phone number with the ship and let them know my plans. I was going to return by 6 a.m. It was kind of exciting and extremely adventurous to  venture out into the night in a strange foreign city in a country that I could not speak a word.  Who would think you’d need to know Dutch? The city was pretty amazing that it was so active so late at night.  I later found out that the bars close at 4 a.m. That late at night, so dark and in a moving vehicle, I didn’t attempt to take a picture. Sometimes I wish you could take your memories and print them out.  It was kind of chilly, but not uncomfortable.  The taxi driver dropped us off in the town square, and we had to walk a few blocks to the RLD.

I didn’t understand at first why he didn’t take us directly there.  Later I discovered that automobiles are not allowed in the RLD. They have these metal barriers up so cars can’t go through.  The best way I can describe it …. there were rows and rows of streets, like a mini downtown.  Many of the streets had doors to “apartments”.  Many of them had big picture windows that you could clearly see into.  There was a stream of water that separated each side of the street.  There were little stone bridges at the end of each block that you could cross to get to the other side. Many of the windows had long red fluorescent lights in the ceilings. This was an indication of what was “for rent”.  Within the catacombs of back alleys within the maze were coffee shops. They were closed of course, but I still wanted to see one up close.  I couldn’t see very much.  Everything was dark and turned off, obviously. They looked like a small tobacco shop with a place to sit and smoke it.  I was picturing more of a Starbucks type of atmosphere.  I was wrong on that one.  I could smell people smoking marijuana openly on the street.  Some of the streets were empty and deserted, and not very well lit.  Despite the circumstances, not once did I feel fear, I always felt safe.

Drugs and sex was what the RLD was mostly about.  I thought it was a bunch of young (16+) horny boys gawking at the goods in the windows.  By the way,  15 minutes is 50 Euros.  Many of the guys there were American, and you could hear their Midwestern accents easily.  Others were Dutch, lots of German boys. Amsterdam was a mix of everything.  By 5:30 or so, I had walked several miles (still had my pedometer on my iPhone) and was ready to call it a night. We hailed a cab and quickly made it back to the Passenger Terminal Authority where our ship was docked.  I was exhausted, and I had about 2 hours before I had to get going back to the good ole USA.  There was a warm welcome from the staff as our cab pulled up so late at night.  I was told they would keep watch out for us to return safely.  What else do you have to do at that time of night when you’re on graveyard shift right?

In case if you wondering, the reason my trip didn’t include more time in Amsterdam, is because that is an additional grand for another two days, in addition to flight change violation charges. We decided that we’ll just come back another time just to see more of Amsterdam. It’s not like we can’t go again.  I wonder if I could convince any of my friends to come along.  It would have to be sometime next year as I am out of vacation time at work. So, …maybe something fun to save up for next time.