Amsterdam, it’s quiet and we sleep in, just a little bit.
The pressure is on from the navigator as we’re meant to be at the National Monument at 10.30 for our walking tour, despite her concern we make it to Dam Square and have some breakfast before we slowly wander over to the meeting point, get checked in and wait our start.
We booked a Sandermans – New Europe Free walking tour , it’s not really free because at the end you pay what you think it’s worth – we end up paying €10 each as it was pretty good. Alex was our guide, about 35, didn’t finish law at uni, lived in the USA for a year, seems to have a good sense of humour, we’ll find out if he’s good on the information and stories.
The first thing we learn is a little bit of Amsterdam etiquette, that is, crossing streets, bicycles, the safe areas ( all of it), so here are some of Axel’s thoughts;
- Cyclists should be called cyclopaths, the Dutch are pretty calm people but put them on a bicycle and they are aggressive and snarling. They fairly rip along in their laneways, sitting upright, some talking on mobiles, dinging their bells and snarling or giving the evil eye at what they see as f….wit pedestrians who wander into their space. What out for them all the time, we do and still nearly get mown down a number of times.
- Naming in Holland isn’t complex – Amsterdam is because of the Amstel River and where they built the dam is now Amsterdam, they call the West Church West Church etc etc.
- The Dutch East Indies company really ruled the world for many years with an economy equivalent to 7 trillion $ , bigger than France and Japan combined today, they did with private armies, private ownership owned by shareholders not the government.
- The Red Light area – if you feel a hand down your pants and you didn’t pay for it, then it’s a pickpocket. Engage and defend.
- The Dutch have 3 Rules that have applied to a lot of things through their history when making a decision whether to allow something that might upset somebody – it’s ok if;
a) It’s good for business. Eg Dope is not legal to grow, sell or own but it’s good for business so it’s tolerated. Same with the hookers in the windows in the red light area, now legal and now pay taxes but at one time not so.
b) If it can’t hurt anybody – eg hookers and smoking a little weed
c) Plausible deniability – the authorities turn a blind eye and say oh I think you’re over thinking this or words to that effect and effectively deny that there is an issue. This is how they became a Protestant country despite having a large catholic population and not having to evict or kill the Catholics. Long story this about the Catholic and Protestant’s but it all relates to the 80 years war with Spain and a few other BIG issues in their history
- Coffee Shop = Weed.
- Cafe = coffee
- There are 110 km of canals and 15,000 bicycles per year end up in the canals – mainly through drunks and vandals. They fish them out and recycle them – that’s a joke!
- Amsterdam has a long history of tolerance and was the first country to agree legalise to gay marriage- good on them – so they ( the government) erected a monument celebrating the gay population but also the many gay people who were incarcerated ( with pink triangles rather than the Jews star) and killed in WW II by the Nazis. This monument is in front of the most conservative church in Amsterdam.
We end the tour and lunch in the Jordaan area at a place called R03M, a groovy, funky area with way less tourists but crafty shops and nice cafe’s.
We walk the streets until about 4 then take an hour on a canal tour, sort of interesting but it was a little warm in the boat.
Genelle has a nail problem so while she gets her nails done I drop into a nearby gay bar for a beer, Mark keeps walking, but while the beer is enjoyable I’m not afforded the slightest interest by the well dressed chaps who bat left handed sitting nearby. Not sure if the problem is me or them?
we wander into the red light area, a few girls in the windows, the crowds growing but it’s still light so I’m guessing it gets busier later on.
We have dinner in a little Italian restaurant and keep walking back up towards Dam Square, our feet are hurting and despite wanting to stay a little later we hobble back through the alleys and streets, up canals and down canals to our haven at the Hotel Sebastian’s.
We have another half day here, so tomorrow morning is exploration of a few things we missed and then we’re on a train to Brussels and then on to Bruges in Belgium.
Ciao from Amsterdam