Experiencing Amsterdam without getting stoned

We arrived at Amsterdam at lunchtime on Friday and decided to head straight to a restaurant for lunch. We walked down Damark Street, which was absolutely teaming with tourists: mostly young British guys discussing their excitement over visiting Amsterdam’s “coffee shops”. It immediately struck me how the centre of this city is a complete tourist trap. There are loads of museums everywhere you look, from the Torture Museum to Madame Tussauds. There are also numerous shops selling absolute tat, such as decorated wooden clogs and statues of Rastafarians smoking marijuana.

We found what seemed like a reasonably priced Italien restaurant and in pride of place was a photograph of a naked woman basking in an enormous plate of spaghetti. We had some pasta with chilli oil and decided to visit Amsterdam’s infamous ‘Sexmuseum’, which happened to be right next door to the Italien. Needless to say, this museum left little to the imagination, and documented the sexual lives of humankind from prehistory to the new millennium. I was very excited to spot a couple of Moche Sex pots, of which I am an expert, due to doing a presenteation on them during my second year at University. I learnt a lot that I really never needed to know but I guess it is always good to learn new things…

After the Sexmuseum we wandered into the Red Light District of Amsterdam, which is the location of the coffee shops where tourists go to get stoned. Surprisingly enough Andew and I desided to give this particualr pastime a miss, but it was blatently clear that we were in the minority. While watching a band performing Jeff Buckley’s Halleluah in one of the Squares, a very stoned guy wondered up to the band and started trying to sing into the microphone, sounding more like a strangled cat than anything else. The Red Light District was not a particulalry scenic part of the city, so we decided to wonder off in a different direction.

At around 5pm we had organised to meet up with Andrew’s friend, Dave, who we were staying with that night. Dave has lived in Amsterdam for several years, after falling in love with the city during his year abroad from University . He speaks fluent Dutch which was really quite! We met up with Dave in one of the quieter bars and were also itroduced to his house mate, Gerben.

After several hours of drinking beers (and in my case my beloved cider), we headed back to Dave and Gerben’s house to eat some food and watch the Olympic Opening Ceremony. I personally thought it was bizarre at the beginning and made me feel slightly embarassed to be British, but fortunately things did improve and I particularly enjoyed the scene with the Minors and the pretend lava. Andrew and I did not manage to stay awake during the hours in which every country partaking in the Olympics was introduced, as this seemed to go on for ever.

The next day we decided to walk along the canals of Amsterdam so that we could enjoy some of the prettier scenery. This was definately worth at as it turns out that Amsterdam is actually rather attractive in parts. Sadly we had to catch our train to Brugge at lunchtime so we could not stick around too long. It was now time to walk the path that Colin walked…

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