Amsterdam - 10 Things You Should Know
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Amsterdam – 10 Things You Should Know

Amsterdam – 10 Things You Should Know About the City of Amsterdam

You’ve heard the basics. Smoke up at a coffee shop, check out the red-light district, ride a bike over the canals. But those are not the things you need to know before you go. Here are a few details the standard introductions to Amsterdam in the Netherlands that the guides usually forget to mention.

1. Tolerance in the Netherlands is simply the new Dutch East India company.

The locals here are business people. Tall, beautiful, business people. The Dutch have a history of beating the universe by flipping bad investments.  The sad part is that their great decisions seem bizzare enough to the rest of the planet that we literally travel across oceans to gawk. It’s like buying a plane ticket to Disney Land.

The Canals of Amsterdam

The beauty of the canal system here and the complexity of the construction required to make this place, hints at it’s fiscal foundation. There is nothing holding this city up but piles and piles of money. The river Amstel used to flow through here (where Amsterdam gets it’s name) and – you guessed it – they dammed it up. Amstel-dam = Amsterdam. After the Dutch realized they are awesome at damning things, they set about working on their souls.

2. Subtle middle-fingers to the church are peppered throughout the city in an almost laughable cornucopia of money.

The monarch’s palace is built literally meters away from the church in Dam Square, and it has unicorns on it. Not Jesus. Not clam shells and cherubs, like 4 solid unicorns with golden horns.

unicorns at dam square

In a hilarious secular moment, the palace had promised to build a beautiful tower for the church for tolerating the construction. The priests agreed and during the towers construction…. Wouldn’t you know it, they ran out of money. Not before the priests had bricked up the largest of the beautiful stained glass windows in preparation though.

3. The red-light district did not always have it’s “headquarters” (get it?) in the De Wallen district.

It was originally elsewhere, and moved there to answer the mighty call of the sailors coming ashore from months-long sausage festivals.

Amsterdam the city was expanded many times in its past, having the main ports moved farther and farther from the city center. But at one time De Wallen was right next to the ports. Ladies of the night would move closer to offer sexual eruptions and Portuguese breakfasts to the men. In response, the church played it’s business card.

Installing a small wooden shack of a church right in the center of the round ‘square’ where the men could confess their sins before their journey back to work. At one point the priests even gave out a sort-of ‘get out of hell free’ card with instructions on how to adequately punish themselves for the Chilly Rainbow + Rusty Trombone combo special running all weekend.

So the little wooden church there evolved into a huge brick building. It’s genius, and still stands today.

4: In the Red Light District How Much will it Cost to Indulge?

The short answer is that it costs 50 euros or thereabouts. It will last a max of 15 min, but let’s face it, you’ll be out before that. The women here are freelance and work on cold hard cash. Not to be a total bummer here, but this town is not completely made up of the best parts of an Aldous Huxley novel.

There are big media campaigns to help the girls involved with it, and plenty of check-ins by government officials help to identify those girls who may be here against their will. The trafficking is a problem, but it’s being actively combated.

5: Are there any dudes in the windows? Ahem… for a friend.

As far as having Magic Mike and his gang of firemen twerking in the windows, your friend will be disappointed. But that’s not to say that men don’t work here.

6: Fort Knox is envious of the camera system in the red-light district.

You are being filmed in this area of the city particularly. So if you plan on running for president, the red-light district may not be for you. This is to protect the ladies from your drunken friend smashing through windows and sword-fighting with the blue light special.

7: Taking pictures of the girls in the red-light district is a major NO-NO.

Women can and have splashed Amsterdam tourists with water bottles, club bouncers can and have thrown phones into the canal. Seriously though, there is nothing particularly special about these women.  If you’re into the natural look, its gonna be a long walk, but they do exist.

8: Bikes will Knock You Out

Everyone will tell you that the bikes are crazy in Amsterdam, but they usually don’t tell you the adjustments you can make find your place in the food chain. It’s not hard. The sidewalks here have been divided lengthwise and the lions share has gone to the bikes. This makes everything more efficient, but also more complicated, especially at intersections.

Here is a great tip that no one told me: Crossing the street on foot means that you need to check for traffic a minimum of three times in a single crossing. You must seriously look every time because bikes are SILENT.

  • look1: bike traffic
  • look2: car/train traffic
  • look3: bike traffic on the other side of the road
9: Marijuana is not actually legal.

Contrary to popular belief, marijuana is not legal. It’s tolerated, but you can’t light-up in a movie theater and not get shouted at. It all goes back to what’s good for business. The Dutch are fine with bending social norms as long as its good for business. The moment you start irritating someone, you start rocking the money boat and that will get you on the wrong side of an angry Dutchman.

10. Rent a bike as soon as you can, and take it easy on the weed.

Really that headline says it all. Be safe and don’t overdo it here in Amsterdam. You do all of us travelers a disservice when you get immature abroad. Americans have a tough time as it is. I am sure you will have a blast. Thanks for reading!

Enjoy the city of Amsterdam!

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