Home > Blogs > Robert Study Abroad, Spring 2007 > 18 February 2007 - Amsterdam

18 February 2007 - Amsterdam

Posted by admin on February 18, 2007

This street performer was one of several in Amsterdam yesterday. There were four others, all in drastically different costumes, performing as live sculptures. Every minute or two they would strike a new pose and hope for those passing by to put change in their cups. They don't appreciate pictures, but I was able to take this one before he could see me and turn away.

The six of us who went to Amsterdam left Delft at 9:30 am and we were in Amsterdam after about an hour. Amsterdam Centraal is a huge building. It services 15 platforms and is extremely long. After finding the tourist information spot inside the station we paid our 2 euros for maps and were on our way to explore the city.

One thing that surprised me about Amsterdam is that all of the streets in the "Centrum" area were identical. Early on the crowds weren't too bad, but after noon tourists came out of the woodwork. The downtown streets had a very limited assortment of shops. Our only options were expensive clothing (especially the pre-worn/stressed junk that costs more than something that looks new and unworn), expensive shoes, souvenir shops all selling the same assortment of crap, and expensive restaurants. I can't say that I'm surprised by the expensiveness, but I am surprised at the lack of variety. I'm in Holland for another 5 months, so I know I'll make it back to Amsterdam and in the future I'll save my time and explore another part of the city.

The electric trams were everywhere, too. They even ran down streets filled with pedestrians. At first it was a little unnerving to walk so close to the trams, but being unable to move more than a couple feet away as they passed forced me to quickly acclimate to these close encounters. The trams only run at 10 - 15 mph in these streets, so while getting clipped would ruin your day, it's an easy problem to avoid.

Amsterdam is infamous for two things: drugs and sex. I knew about the "coffeeshops" were marijuana is sold, but I didn't expect them to be as common as gas stations in Iowa . These coffeeshops were on every block, and often there were several in a given block. The streets had a definite pot-odor to them all day. As I watched the smokers in the streets I noticed that while most of them had cigarettes, a few had joints hanging from their mouths in public. Pot use is generally tolerated by the authorities as a means of keeping its use from getting out of control. And even though hard drugs are not tolerated, as we were walking down the street yesterday a man quickly walked by us while softly asking, "Ecstasy? Ecstasy? Dope?" as if he was looking for a buyer.

For meals yesterday we were able to find some decently-priced food. One of the malls had a cafe in it that served excellent sandwiches for great prices. Most of us made it out of there for under 5 euros. Four of us (Nick, Wade, Jasmine, and I) had dinner at a Chinese establishment which advertised 7.50 euros for one hour of all you can eat. Being of Thai decent, Nick was able to pick apart the shortcomings of the food, but my taste buds couldn't tell the difference. It was better than Hy-Vee chinese food, though. Dinner was the last event of the day for us in Amsterdam , and as we left the restaurant to head back to the train station we passed through the edge of the Red Light District.

I expected the Red Light District to be gross and revolting. Seeing the girls in the windows was the same as walking past the lingerie section at JC Penny's, nothing exciting. They just stood in their windows without expression. There were a lot of businesses offering peep shows and other forms of adult entertainment, too. We just walked straight through without stopping anywhere. Personally, I can't understand someone's being driven to prostitution and I did find the Red Light District to be pretty gross. It wasn't as blatant or as graphic as the college lore makes it out to be, but I won't be returning.

All in all, the trip yesterday to Amsterdam was good. When I go back, though, I'm going to skip everything in the downtown area and search out attractions in other parts of the city. Currently I'd like to see the Rembrandt museum and the Heineken factory.
Song of the day: Flying High Again by Ozzy Osbourne (Purple Haze by Jimmy Hendrix was a close second)