Highlight: Experiencing the red light district. I got to watch the beautiful ladies in the windows and the lewd tourists on the street. Double the entertainment.
Lowlight: The pouring rain that started just after I arrived and kept up in some form for most of the day. I was standing on a street corner at one point and got splashed good by a passing car.
Money spent: 84.5 Euros
Pairs of clean underwear left: 6
Book: 62 (Stone of Tears)
I woke up this morning and jumped on the first train to Amsterdam. I’m anxious about finding a place to sleep tonight. It’s Saturday and its going to be busy. I noticed one hostel in my Let’s Go that says it doesn’t take reservations, just show up before 11 am and you usually get a room.
I pulled into Amsterdam around 10:30 am and practically ran to the hostel. But of course, it was full already. I went back to the train station and standed in a super line long of anxious tourists trying to find a room for the night. From the pieces of conversations I was overhearing things weren’t looking good. Looks like everything was booked solid – people were resorting to staying in 5-star hotels.
When I finally got to the front of the line I told the lady I was looking for a single bed for 2 nights. She typed on her computer for a bit, but couldn’t find anything. There was a 1 bedroom in a hotel for 75 Euros but even that was a phantom that didn’t exist when she called. I asked her about Rotterdam or Harlem, but they were booked solid too. What about the Hague? But that’s 45 minutes away. I don’t care, is there room? Yes. Good, I’ll take it. So, I got a room in the hostel in The Hague.
I jumped on a train for the Hague and dropped off my bags and jumped on a train back. Thank god for efficient and frequent train service (and of course EuroRail passes).
I don’t mind train rides, I just need something to read. I picked up a copy of the Amsterdam Metro. It had a full page article about the Trailer Park boys, but no hockey scores.
Back in Amsterdam, my first goal was to find an English book store and buy a book. I ended up paying over $20 for a soft-copy of the Stone of Tears, but my sanity is worth it.
I spent the afternoon wandering around up narrow streets and over canals, and generally getting soaked by the constant rain.
At one point I stopped in front of a big touristy map of the city. A fiendly guy approached me and asked if I needed directions. I said no, so he proceeded to list off every attraction in Amsterdam I might want to go to, how far it was, and his opinion of it. He had a thick Dutch accent and every time he said “sex scene” it sounded like “sex machine”. This being Amsterdam, most of the attractions he pointed out were somehow related to this “sex machine” – the big “sex machine” is over here, the indoor “sex machine” is there, etc. He went on at length about the banana bar and why he would recommend bringing my own banana and the sanitary condiderations with bananas flying everywhere. He even told me a good place to buy my own bananas. At the end of all this, he asked for money, and I was so amused with the sex machine and the banana bar stories that I gave him 50 cents.
I had dinner at a funky vegetarian restaurant with tasty food and humungous portions. It reminded me of Mondragon in Winnipeg.
After dinner I went to the Anne Frank Haus. They house had a good mix of original paraphenilia, videos, and descriptions of what the house was like and Anne’s life there. It was interesting walking through the rooms and imagining 8 people living in there, constantly fearful of discovery.
At the end, they had a few interactive exhibits. One presented controverial human rights topics and then polled the audience. Then it showed the results for the people in the room and aggregate results for all visitors. Some issues included allowing Orangemen in Ireland to march through predominatly Catholic neighborhoods or allowing a Fascist party in Germany to march in front of synagogues on Saturdays. Both of these are obviously cases where one group is antagonizing the other. I don’t agree with their position or actions, but I don’t think their free speach rights should be suspended. I was shocked to see that the majority of people disagreed with me and thought they should be banned from expressing their opinion. Although, I don’t think I would be upset in these specific cases, but where do you draw the line? Should gay rights supporters be banned from marching near Catholic churches? Maybe anti-war activitis shouldn’t be allowed to go near the US embassy. PETA should be banned from going near McDonald’s or slaughter houses. Or we could just ban free speach all together and avoid all conflicts. It’s a slippery slope.
After Anne Frank, and I was in a thought-provoking mood. So I wandered around the red light district. There were more tourists than legitimate customer. I guess the tourists could have been customers, but I doubt Japanese tour groups or young families are big spenders on prostitutes – I could be wrong. People were just walking up and down the streets gawking at the scantily clad women in the red lit windows. I spent my time between checking out the girls and observing the tourists.
Obersvation #1: The girls on the main strip were really hot. The farther off the main drag you went the less appealing they were.
Observation #2: There were women for all tastes, lots of different races, shapes, and ages (I saw an old lady andfelt sad for her).
Observation #3: As the night progressed the tourists thinned out and guys looking for a good time became more plentiful.
Observation #4: A lot of guys walked around in groups, obviously drunk, and goaded each other until someone had the courage to go talk to one of girls in the window. Sometimes they were even buzzed enough to have the courage to go in.
Observation #5: Those girls have the hardest jobs in the whole world. They sit in a glass window all night in their underwear while people walk by eyeing, critiquing, critisizing (sometimes quite vocally), and oggling their bodies. And with all the abuse they take, they have to keep acting like their interested in you, just in case your a potential customer.
I have to say, I’d have a really tough time building the courage to go and talk to one of them. Everytime one would lock eyes with me, smile, and wink I would blush, giggle, and turn away.