Backpacker: Out But Not Down In Amsterdam
So I bet all you untravelled boys and girls back in Ireland are wondering what all the hype is about Amsterdam. Well, apart from the sex and drugs it is quite hard to say what is exactly so great about the city.
We all know that cannabis has been legalized in Holland, but it is a big issue in politics nowadays. The Dutch policy on drugs appeals to me as it would to any student, but not because you can go into a cafe and start puffing away. The way the Dutch treat drugs is quite appropriate. It is seen as a health problem rather than a criminal problem. Yet there is no shortage of cocaine dealers in the Red Light District. The Dutch can easily turn a blind eye to these dealers. A liberal society allows for a relaxed way of life for these people.
There is a common view in a lot of places that Amsterdam is purely sex and drugs, but this is a shallow and incomplete view. There is also a great deal of art and culture in Amsterdam.
My advice to any backpackers would be to rent a bike for a day and explore on your own. 30 minutes out of the city on a bike will take you to the beautiful Dutch countryside, filled with thousands of windmills.
Cycling around the city is very pleasant and exciting. In Amsterdam you will find something crazy around every corner. Magic mushroom shops, unusual street performers, homeless people shouting aimlessly, an abundance of sex shops, the list could go on and on.
I delved into the historical side of the city also. I visited the Anne Frank house and the Van Gogh museum.
There is somewhat a haunting atmosphere in the Anne Frank house. The compact attic where Anne Frank hid in during World War 2 really does make you think long and hard about the devastating effects of the holocaust.
Anne Frank kept her famous diary while she was in hiding. She wrote about everyday life in isolation, and the constant fear of being discovered by the Nazis. One of her famous quotes was inscribed into the wall of the museum in the house, it says: "We can never be just Dutch, or just English, or whatever, we will always be Jews as well. And we'll have to keep on being Jews, but then we'll want to be."
The Anne Frank house allows people to see her life as she lived it, very clearly. There is a lot of information relating to many things in her life, including, her family, her background, her writing, the course of events during the war, and the effects of the Anne Frank diary.
The Van Gogh museum displays a fine selection of art. It contains over 200 Van Gogh paintings, and has sculptures, sketches and works of other artists between the period 1840-1920. The museum is laid out well. The art is split up into three sections: the work of Van Gogh, the work of other artists and the history of the museum collection. You can also see a lot of information about his tragic life and his mental illness, which eventually led to his death.
The people in Amsterdam intrigued me very much. There is so much diversity, such a range of different cultures. My backpacking companions and I were very amused by a group of 'stoners' in Vondellpark one day. Four men and two women, in their twenties, all with dreadlocks and wearing curious clothes. Two of the men were jamming with bongo drums and smoking a joint. They were both completely stoned, but they had an acquired talent with the drums, while keeping a steady rhythm.
One of the women and one of the men were juggling devilsticks, which was very impressive. They told us about their lifestyle: they do as little work as possible just so they can hang out in the park smoking joints and relaxing. The great thing about them was that they were totally comfortable with their lifestyle.
The Dutch are obsessed with cosiness. 'Gezellig' is their word for things and places which resemble a cosy atmosphere. It is used frequently and more or less tells people to relax and enjoy themselves.
The sleazy part of Amsterdam is mind-blowing. The notorious Red Light District is perfect for some and a nightmare for others. Be prepared for the sight you will see. I don't think that any devout Catholic would appreciate this place. It is sleazy and degrading but it is also fun ad exciting. Full of real live sex shows and prostitutes recklessly offering sex for money.
The Red Light District never particularly horrified me, maybe because I was constantly full of vodka and beer. The only time I was terribly shocked was when a prostitute calling out her window, offered to expose her breast for 20 cents.
Well I think that's all I can muster up about Amsterdam. Three days is more than enough time to spend in Amsterdam. But, I could easily see how people could get sucked into the place, and end up living out they're inter-railing trip sitting in some dark, smoke-filled coffee shop. Beware though, you could easily spend 100 euro a day here. There is a large price tag above everything.Well, I have to catch a train to Berlin now, so, happy travelling people.