It was a bright summer morning under a clear blue German sky. There we were, five fun-seeking, well-intentioned young Americans. In high spirits we set off in the direction of a notorious city.
We had great expectations.
What we didn’t know was that not a single one of us was mentally or physically prepared for what we were about to experience. Amsterdam took us to a place I like to describe as somewhere between chaos and a fantastic dream.
Chaos: It’s a place with barely any restrictions, where you can satisfy your every whim or desire around any corner. Randomness abounds.
Dream: The city on a whole is like how you might create a city in your mind (Inception anyone?). At first it could pass as somewhat normal, and then you realize that most things are slightly off-kilter, and some are completely out of place.
It’s as if there’s a reality threshold that you pass on the way into the city without even knowing it, no smoking or ingesting of any substances necessary. Although much of that was done….It’s sold in coffee shops, what do you expect?
After six straight hours of getting pumped up in the car, our first order of business was to act like moronic Americans and accidentally drive our car through the extremely narrow streets of the red light district. That’s right, we got a windshield tour while almost running over scowling, bike-friendly only pedestrians. Classic.
After we disposed of the car we walked our way past window after window of dancing scantily-clad prostitutes until we reached our hotel. We were sleeping in a room sandwiched between two sex shops, and across the street from both The Sex Palace and The Hemp Museum. Ahh the wonders of online booking.
In Amsterdam, everything that is underground or out of sight in the states is staring you right in the face. There’s a coffee shop on every corner, selling everything from space muffins to joints to weed tea. There are certain streets of the Red Light District where you can find exactly what kind of prostitute you are looking for –an older woman, an Asian woman, or even a transvestite.
The weekend felt like one magnificent blur of a night that lasted for a straight 72 hours. A member of our group was punched in the face by an Italian, a few of us gallivanted around the city in a bike taxi singing The Beatles, someone almost got an unmentionable piercing, and another was dancing on a stage with a 70-year-old Native American dance fiend named Abraham. We even stumbled into an incredible ‘Condomerie’ displaying what must be the world’s most elaborate condoms.
From my short but sweet sober recollections I can tell you that Amsterdam is a truly international city, meaning people come to party from all over the world. I met people from Ireland, Poland, Britain, Romania and even Alaska – all on their own quests to have an adventure in Amsterdam. More people spoke English here than anywhere I’ve been in Europe so far.
While 98% of the trip was a party, there was some cultural stuff thrown in there too. We visited the Van Gogh museum, which was definitely worth the 45-minute wait. It takes you through his life, shows you his first paintings and gives an insightful look into the symbolism behind his work.
We experienced an epic pub crawl around the city, I conducted a thorough investigation on which were the best coffee shops, we found an incredibly talented Irish singer *(link: www.myspace.com/gyrospect), and expanded our beer knowledge by visiting the Heineken factory. We loved it so much we stayed an extra day.
As we drove away we briefly considered turning around. We could just leave everything behind, share a place together, open a coffee shop (someone may have to be dancing in the window for rent) – the party could never end. But then we must have drove past that reality threshold, because real life smacked us in the face again.
Amsterdam: What You Need to Know
1. Ride a bike. Period.
2. Never take pictures of the prostitutes, they will literally throw urine at you. They pee in a cup solely for this purpose.
3. Never eat the whole space muffin. You’ll thank me later.
4. Visit the Van Gogh museum after eating your space muffin.
5. Eat at the Pancake Bakery, they are the best pancakes you will ever have in your life (and there’s quite a variety, like a “Mexican” with guacamole or a banana and nutella).
6. Carry 30 maps of the city with you, just in case.
7. Be careful about who you bring with you, some people will not be able to hang. Those you do bring, keep track of them. It is far too easy to drunkenly end up in the canals.
8. Be prepared to drink ONLY Heineken, and also be prepared to never want another Heineken again.
9. You can smoke a joint walking down the street or sell your body in a window, but open alcohol containers are not allowed (because THAT makes sense).
10. Be careful – some people go to Amsterdam and never leave. We met some Australians who visited for a weekend and decided to stay, find a job, and leave their lives behind. Not advisable.