Amsterdam Travel Blog

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Infamous Amsterdam was actually not as seedy as I thought...during the day. It was muggy and warm despite the weather advertising only 17 degrees, which was quite a pleasant surprise. As usual, I went haring off in the wrong direction straight out of Centraal station, but eventually found my way to the Travel Hostel right near the red light district. The first thing that struck me - I didn't realise there were that many stag do's going on at any one time, and they all seemed to be in the same city! The second thing was hauling myself and my backpack up 5 storeys of narrow steep stairs, it was a mission and I think I have the daily climb up and down to thank for my iron thighs now.

So, disgruntled and sweaty, I finally made it out to do some real sight seeing, starting with a walk down Damrak, the main street, into Dam Square which is lined with impressively gothic buildings, with a rather disturbing cenrepiece of Christ on the cross, his arms draped with pigeons in a slightly macabre tableau. Continuing on down the street, I eventually hit the canal rings, which are picturesque and well worth seeing in the morning, when they aren't choked with tourist boats. The city only seems to really wake up after midday, with most shops remaining closed and the streets being relatively quiet. Be prepared to see some strange things though in the earlier hours, as people tripping on mushrooms and harder drugs stumble around in a daze! One man had a beatific grin fixed on his face as he urinated in the middle of a square, seemingly completely unaware of where he actually was.

I've never seen someone so happy about going relieving themselves!

The entire city centre can be easily covered on foot, and even walking from Centraal Station down to Leidesplein, where there are a number of cool bars and restaurants, only takes about half an hour. I also checked out Neiuwmarkt on the east side of the city for some cute market stalls selling antiques, clothes, knick knacks, pretty much anything. Close to that is the Waag, the oldest medieval building in Amsterdam, which looks suitably looming and impressive, and also a little out of place for it's size in this city of narrow buildings.

Right near the Waag is the start of the red light district, that playground of glowing red lights, booming-voiced men hawking their wares, and neon signs blinking everywhere.

I walked through it for an hour or so, it was interesting and eye-opening for an innocent like me. There was an amazing range of women in windows, like mannekins in shop windows, I even saw a pregnant one! Their looks ranged from avaricious to bored, some of them even talking on their mobiles as they posed, or didn't pose at all. It was sort of disturbing, seeing packs of sweaty drunken men gathered around a window as a woman posed, but everyone needs a job and at least it's all regulated.

As numerous as the women in windows were the men on the streets quietly muttering "cocaine, LSD, heroine" at tourists as they walked past. That was slightly more scary, and the ease with which drugs were exchanged was astonishing. I saw two deals being made as I walked down one street alone. I suppose Amsterdam is more famous for the "coffeeshops" which don't seem to sell much coffee!

Finally, we went to a couple of clubs down on Rembrandtsplein, which has a cool group of statues at the centre of it, seemingly frozen in mid-attack. The dog yapping at the drummer's heels is by far the cutest. Rembrandtsplein is lined with clubs, bars and restaurants, and one money exchange booth which never seemed to open (much to my frustration!). The clubs there charge an entry fee of 15 euro, and are quite swanky, but good fun.

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photo by: pearcetoyou