I have decided to stay here a couple of days at a friend's place until my school orientation week starts. Today I took my first tour with my favourite tour group: Sandeman's New Europe Tours; and it was nothing short of spectacular. Our tour guide gave us the in's & out's and all the hidden secrets, tips and tricks of of Dutch culture, The Netherlands, and Amsterdam. It's quite windy though.
Amsterdam, what can I tell you, as my mom would say: "it's the den of inequity!". It's the old city of The Netherlands that is notorious for it's elaborate Red Light District [with the show girls in the windows, so you can literally window shop and where prostitution is legal], the liberal laws on soft-drug usage such as marijuana and mushrooms, and of course the coffee shops with the space cakes and magic brownies.
That's as much of what people are familiar with; but there's so much to this city than that [as a matter of fact only about 9% of the population of Netherlands smoke pot I think]. There's a great history behind it, the rivers and canals that entangle the city, the over-population of bicycles, the cats kept in restaurants because of the rat problems, the leaning buildings because of the sandy foundations, the thin buildings because of the high tax based on the width [due to lack of space], the Anne Frank house which details the sad history of the war, the hidden catholic churches due to oppression by the protestants, and the real reasons behind the Red light district.
On the tour I learned many new facts that revealed the secrets of this city's and country's current state. Basically the Dutch allow things to happen, bend the rules, as long as money is involved and everyone is happy. Below are some of the things that occur:
- Red Light District: This area is over 700 years old, and is right next to the old church! The reason for this is that long ago, sailors would come into the city and well start to look at people's wives, and daughters; so the city created this area for them. The girls are legal and pay a fee to rent the windows [this way they are protected from the brutal treatment of pimps], they make back their money within a couple of hours. Afterward the sailors would see the church go to it and beg forgiveness for their sins, the priest would then say "offer a donation and you shall be saved". This way everyone was happy; so why make it illegal.
- Coffee shops: it is illegal to grow, sell, buy, or smoke marijuana in the Netherlands. However, the coffee shops make this possible, somehow [magically; it's a paradox]; None of them state "marijuana sold here", or have any depiction of marijuana on their signs. But they pay a heavy tax to the government to open one [as a matter of fact no one can open a new coffee shop again, they are slowly phasing out the entire thing, and soon in the future, Amsterdam would be without weed and without prostitutes: so if that's why you want to come here, then i suggest you come now!], so the city is paid, and so when police see "coffee shop", they turn a blind eye. It sounds illegal or corrupt, but this entire thing works, and the society and system is quite advanced in all areas. It's quite good too, since they have lower drug abuse rates than other countries, and usually teenagers can try the drug [for experience] and come off of it without having a criminal record [since most teenagers try the drug and come off later on in life].
For more pictures see: