Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Amsterdam

The Intro
So I spent the last few days in Amsterdam on a three day autumn break. It was great. Plenty of things to see and do even if you don’t smoke marijuana or fuck prostitutes. I have separated this into chapters of no particular order. Read a couple chapters that interest you. Pictures to be uploaded later


The SEX, DRUGS, and Amsterdam

Well let’s get right to it. It seems that Amsterdam has a reputation. It is deserved and on the other hand wholly undeserved. There is sex and drugs everywhere but the city has so much more than that to offer and it would be a shame if a person stayed away from this city just because of these things. Just ignore them and have a good time. If you are curious, here is how it all works, not that I did any of this. I was here with my wife. Soft drugs and prostitution are illegal here. The city just chooses to look the other way. This gives them the advantage that they can close any of these coffee houses down at any time. If you want pot, and you are over 18, go into a building with the words “coffee shop” written on the outside. If you want a coffee, go into a building with the word “café” written on it. Pot costs 7 euro a gram. Good shit starts at 15 a gram and you pay about the same but get less as the quality and strength increase. You can smoke the pot you bought at the coffee shop of buy a cup of coffee and sit in the restaurant or out on the terrace and smoke your own. Most coffee shops have bongs at the counter that customers can borrow. You can smoke also in public, as long as it is not too public or in dance clubs. E is also allowed in the clubs, just as long as you only have 1 or 2 pills for personal use and are not dealing. Smart shops sell magic mushrooms, though this will soon end as ‘shroom trips are decidedly more dangerous. Every souvenir shop sells seeds (for pot). The nice upscale flowers shops do also, but who can blame them as it seems that Americans only come to Amsterdam for pot and they specialize in growing plants. (see flower section). Prostitutes cost 50€ for the 15 minute suck and fuck. It probably would be the least romantic thing you have ever done. Not that I have ever shopped for prostitutes, but the ones in the red light district looked better than any I have ever seen on street corners before, though not of them were what I would consider “hot”. My wife noticed that they all had long hair. I found it curios the not one had short hair. The eerie part was walking by the windows that had the red light in it but the chair was empty, ‘cause you knew what was happening right behind the door in the back of the room.

The Museums

I though that the Van Gogh museums was the best museum I had ever been to. I enjoyed it more than the Met or the d’Orsay or even the Louvre. I tend to enjoy classical art more than modern art, and Van Gogh was one of the first modern painters, but despite this the people who put this museum together put together more than a collection of art but told a story of history. You walk in, first on display is the artwork that Van Gogh would have seen before he started painting, then they show you what he painted after seeing this art work. Then the he made friends like Paul Gauguin, they show his paintings and influence, then they show what Vincent painted. Everything is in chronological order. You can really se how his style developed. Vincent did many self portraits but what I found most interesting was the display his group of friend painters all painted a portrait of each other, with a picture of themselves in the background. What makes this museum great is that it is not just a collection of priceless masterpieces as most art museums are, but it has a purpose and tells a story.
The Rijksmuseum has an excellent collection of Rembrandt. If you like classical art it is a must see. I am lost for words when I look at a Rembrandt and see how well he uses light in his paintings. Even four hundred years later people cannot copy this skill.

The Food
Amsterdam has the best Indonesian food outside of Indonesia. I don’t know why, it just does. It is spicy and sweet and complex with its flavours and it did a number on my stomach, but it was well worth it. One can also buy a decently priced Argentinean steak if one is hungry. The pancake houses are a must. They serve waffles but you would be and idiot not to order a pancake. Sweet or savoury, they are all good. If you want a waffle, go to Brussels. I found these awesome chewable toothbrushes in the bathrooms of many restaurants in Amsterdam and they work pretty well. They come out of a gumball like machine by the sink, you pop the capsule open and chew on the plastic horse pill sized toothbrush and them spit it out. It works very well. DO NOT eat at FEBO. I cannot understand why people do. It is fast, cheap, and horrible. I am also so proud of myself. I never get any decent fried chicken here and Amsterdam has a KFC, but I stuck to my principles of never eating American fast food in other countries.

The Flowers
I am not much into flowers but even I was impressed with the flower market. It floats on a canal alongside a city street and, being fall, they had an unbelievably great collection of bulbs. (which are planted in the fall). I bought a planter for our window sill. In the spring I just have to open it like a can of sardines, pour water in and out comes flowers and strawberries. They actually have flowers there that I would consider cool looking. They all also sell seeds (for pot), but being that they are experts in horticulture, I would say they are better people to buy seeds from than the guy that works the counter at a coffee shop. Anyways, why shouldn’t they make a buck off of the stupid high tourists? I just think, if it is not your thing, ignore it. (Though even though I am quite open minded, I was a little offended when I saw an English mother shopping for pot seeds with her two very young daughters, explaining to them the differences between the seeds.)

The Bicycles
Amsterdam has to be one of the greatest cities for bikes, even better than Basel. There are few hills, and bike lanes and traffic lights everywhere. Don’t bring your own, the risk of it getting stolen is too high, rent one. They also don’t have mountain type bicycles there. This was the first time I rode a “city bike” and I have to say it was unbelievably comfortable. I may actually buy myself one for Basel. I got used to having only three gears. Bikes are the fastest best way around town.

Getting there
If you just happen to be heading there from Switzerland, Citynightline is the best. I have travelled with this train before but this time I went first class. I got a great deal on the nicest room class in the train. It was like a miniature hotel room, private restroom with shower, room service, and all. I had enough room to stretch out my legs in bed even though I am 6’4” and the bed was comfortable, much more so than the beds in the couchette. Star gazing through the skylight while lying in bed on a train is a one of a kind experience. So was the shower. The water really didn’t become very warm, though it wasn’t cold. I think they need to add a propane heater. I could also dine in the restaurant for a late dinner or hang out in the bar. Breakfast is brought to your room, you have a dinning table with two large windows for watching the sun rise, or set.
It is more expensive than flying, but there is absolutely no stress involved and in the end you have either more time in the city or more money in your wallet. The train leaves at 9 or 10 in the evening and you arrive around 8 or 9 in the morning. Most flights, that I have seen, fly either around 5pm on Friday, or 9 am on Saturday, so in the end, if you fly, you either have to pay for a hotel room Friday night, or you lose half of Saturday to stressful travel. I spent three days in Amsterdam but the city night line is perfect for two day weekend trips where you can easily have two full days in the city of your choice but only pay for 1 night in a Hotel. FYI two full price round trip tickets are about 1250 USD.

The Language
The language almost is German. My wife and I can almost understand it, though we could not come close to speaking it. IT is like a dialect of German that is also written, and no harder to understand than what the people speak in Wallis, though Walliserdeutsch is not easy to understand. It doesn’t really matter though. Everyone seems to be able to speak English, and if not, High German. I guess that is what tourist dollars do. Her are some useful phrases phonetically spelled if you ever happen to stop by.

Ahpe teet = breast of a monkey
Ik be grip hat neat = I don’t understand you.
Mine feets is geh stoh len = my bike was stolen
Ik ben under influte van pade stolen = I am on a mushroom trip
Post seagulls = stamps
Dag = hallo
Fet = cool
Var zin mun Klumpen = where are my clogs
Trauhme = marry me
Lekker = tasty
Ek ben drong can = I am drunk.
Moosed ye coma = did you have to come?
Gezelich = cozy

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