Sex Shows, Space Cookies and Party Boat Rides: A Shy Girl’s Trip to Amsterdam
On my first trip to Europe, the Netherlands was one of the destinations I was most looking forward to. One of the reasons was that I had friends there, with whom I had worked and wanted to see. And the other, not-so-wonderful reason was the opportunity to try a ‘space cookie’… legally. I didn’t know much else about the Netherlands, except that they had windmills and once had a little boy who put his finger in a dike to stop the country from being flooded.
But there is so much more! Driving into the country from Belgium, I noticed how flat the country is. There were loads of dairy cows grazing about and wind turbines. Honestly, it was my first time seeing a wind turbine–we didn’t have much of them in South Africa back then. I love them. Every time I see them, I have hope for our planet.
Of course, no visit to this country is complete without spotting some windmills. This windmill looked a bit shocked to see us.
As a female traveler coming from South Africa, safety has always been a concern for me and I was completely at ease in Amsterdam, even on those nights when my friends and I were a bit too ‘happy.’ I found the people quite friendly and helpful and that most speak English.
Amsterdam is a beautiful city, filled with canals and beautiful architecture, but the most dangerous thing in this city is the bicycles. Coming from a country where most people take their cars to work and barely use public transport, let alone a two-wheeler to get to work, I was not expecting these innocent little modes of transport to bring out the ‘save-yourself’ mentality in me and Stephen King’s Christine mentality in the cyclists. When you see a bicycle (and its rider) coming, you dive out of the way! Just kidding, they weren’t that bad, but really, don’t get in the way. They seem to like terrorizing the tourists.
Amsterdam’s style of architecture is just gorgeous from old buildings to shiny modern-day structures. I was fascinated by the older style buildings–they look like very edible cake toppers. Not worry, I did not devour the ‘edible’ buildings.
I was here in early spring, so there were not many tulips around but I found a nice patch of them while roaming around. Of course, they are available for purchase at many flower shops, though some may be fake.
A canal cruise with friends is a must-do. At night the various bridges are lit up. You won’t find many locals on these ferries, so when a whole bunch of tourists get together, there will always be loads of laughter and fun while exploring this amazing city.
One thing we noticed while on our canal cruise in the evening was that, most of the homes didn’t have curtains/shutters/blinds on the windows. Judging from all we experienced while we were here, must say the Dutch come across as very open minded and liberal people.
Speaking of ‘those nights,’ a visit to Amsterdam is not complete without a visit to the Red Light District area of the city. You’ll know you’re there when you see a fairly obvious sculpture on the ground before walking through a really narrow and creepy tunnel.
Of course, once past this tunnel, no more photographs are allowed, or else you’ll be thrown into the canals – and they aren’t kidding about this!
Far from being a ‘smutty’ environment, for my friends and me, it was more comedic than anything else. Passing windows with the curtains closed meant the ladies of the night were busy. So for us, it was more of a game in which we would expect the curtains to suddenly open and send us scurrying off in different directions.
As a group, we were given tickets to a sex show… clearly we had no idea what to expect. Let’s just say, if it wasn’t for the free alcohol, we would have been quite disturbed after the show. We were a group of girls, so it was pretty hilarious to us–as immature as that may sound. Once again, it didn’t feel like a sleazy place; quite a lot of bachelorette and bachelor party groups were in attendance, and it was actually quite festive. Audience participation is encouraged for some acts, and this proved quite funny when friends were taken up on stage. I will never look at a banana in the same way again. I am fairly conservative and what many people would call shy, but this was definitely an experience I am glad I took advantage of.
At the time we went, tourists were still allowed to sample ‘delicacies’ that are otherwise considered illegal in other countries. None of us were brave enough to have a whole brownie on our own, so we split it between the five of us, and nothing much happened there, except that we missed the last bus to our hotel and had to pay a hefty fare to hire a cab to take a couple of screaming girls home.
Amsterdam is also famous for its beer, and while I am not a fan of beer, you know the saying, “When in Rome…” So, when in Amsterdam, try some Heineken and Grolsch.
Since 2013 Feb, I have been vegetarian, working on going full vegan, but when I was in Amsterdam, Wow, the variety of cheese they have! I sampled almost everything, and ended up buying a couple of ‘blocks’ of cheese to take home. I was terrified about customs pulling me over for bringing in dairy products, so I declared it when I returned, but they let me keep them. I love South Africa!
Other places of interest in this vibrant city are the Anne Frank museum, the home where Anne and her family hid during World War II, and the Van Gogh museum, which houses some of this artist’s paintings. For interest’s sake, you can find some ‘interesting’ things in the Sex and Vodka museums… once again, I must say, unless one is really prudish, they’re worth a visit. It does not hurt to be open-minded!
I came to Amsterdam and did all of the typical tourist-stuff, and left slightly “Amsterdamaged.” But when I return, I would like to see other parts of the city that ‘tourists’ don’t normally see/visit. I’m pretty sure there’s more to this place… as with any place on this wonderful planet.
One of my high school teachers always spoke so highly about the Netherlands and its people, who are hardworking and ingenious, having turned fields not suitable for agriculture into thriving farms, and protected the land from being flooded by water because of its relation to the surrounding sea levels.
I learnt Afrikaans growing up, and Dutch is pretty similar, so it was fairly easy to read any Dutch scripts but not to worry, most signs are in English. I would like to end off with a sign I saw in Amsterdam:
“Man is not happy unless he is honest. White, black red or brown, this is true for all times and all people.”