To put it simply: we didn’t like Amsterdam. Megan had this grand idea in her mind that she was going to love Amsterdam. We both wanted to believe that the city was more than just drugs and hookers; a city rich with history and interesting architecture. Wishfully thinking that we could easily bypass the tourist areas and discover the real Amsterdam, we wandered for hours unsuccessfully. Because the city itself is relatively small, it was nearly impossible to escape the lewd behavior of tourists and the overall tackiness that Amsterdam’s reputation had attracted. It seems the Dutch are too proud to admit that their “tolerance” for filth has caused what once was their greatest city to turn into the worst. It is the definition of tourist trap, a cesspool of undesirable behavior, crawling with shady people and an unruly immigrant population that has caused as surge in violent crimes in recent years.
We know it sounds harsh, but that was our honest impression. Granted we may have missed out on the true highlights of the city and only saw the areas where people go to “get away with things,” but we really did want to like it. We walked around waiting for something to impress us, but with each corner we turned, we just felt uninspired by it all. It was like the city had no soul. We think we would have enjoyed it much more a few hundred years ago or even 50 years ago before the charm had been completely overrun by low life tourists. As much as we thought it was a total shithole, we are still open to returning one day when the famous flowers and in bloom and if someone promises to show us some unadulterated charm, if any that the city still possesses.
The Dutch seem to be so blinded with pride in their “open-mindedness,” that they don’t see the cancer that has moved into their city and is inhabiting any remaining skeleton of what once was. But, we know that there are many places much more culturally intact in Holland (like Delft) and we are sure could return to the city with a guide or someone to show us why sober people have fallen in love with it. But on this drab February day, the city was just not speaking to us.
It got off to a bad start, first dealing with morning business traffic (video above) into the city and then the steep parking fee (€40 for 8 hours) it because clear that we were totally retarded for driving in Amsterdam. We walked around for hours hoping to stumble upon something wonderful like the skinniest house in Amsterdam. We did the obligatory stroll down the red light district in broad daylight, surprised to find more obese African women than crack skinny eastern European imports. Sure it was depressing, but this is one of the main things people come here to see! Fortunately, because we are a couple we were not approached by men selling cheaper drugs (both legal and illegal) and cheaper sex (via the horrific illegal sex trade) that has become prominent in the city.
In many ways the legalization of these things has backfired and the city is now trying to cut back on number of brothels and coffee shops in the city center. We say GOOD! Why does that crap need to be in the city center anyway? Online forums reveal that many Dutch people take great offense to their county being seen this way. They feel insulted that people flock to Amsterdam for the famous filth and don’t spend any time getting to know the Dutch. It seems tourists presume that sex and drugs have more to do with what it means to be dutch than clogs and windmills these days.
The fact that thousands of men come here each year to partake in the act of purchasing a woman for a few minutes is not only depressing but also very sad. Once you realize that many of these women did not chose this life and are being held illegally, it is heartbreaking. The other thing Amsterdam is known for is their “coffee shops” that do not sell coffee but various soft drugs, such as marijuana, hashish and magic mushrooms. There is an abundance of these coffee shops which fill the streets with their unmistakable sour smell. The interesting thing about the coffee shops is that they are not actually legally selling the drugs, but that the government is just “tolerating” it.
This counter culture totally dominates the real underlying culture. The city has become known more for sex and drugs than its history and that is what gets us the most about it, the city is not Dutch! The epitome of what the city now represents is the is something we saw in the window of a souvenir shop: a weed patterned dildo. Now we can only that in the true spirt of Amsterdam this dildo is versatile and doubles for a bong or some vessel for smoking marijuana.
Out of Luck
Desperate to escape from the madness we tried to inconspicuously follow an English guided tour, just to hear a bit more about the city’s history and to escape it in 2009. That didn’t last long and we were left wandering a city alone again. Our biggest regret of the day was not forking over the dough to go into the Anne Frank house. Walking up we were disappointed to see a modern building, looking nothing like what it would have in the 1940′s. Amsterdam had already been expensive and an overall downer for us so with this unfortunate façade and steep €16 entry fee posted on the door we decided to keep walking. We figured it would have been another let down in the city that had tremendously let us down. Later we had heard from other people that the museum was actually well worth the fee and we felt as if we had missed out on one of the best experiences in the city. We were also to cheap to pay for the church in the Attic, but hey this city was not cheap!
We stopped for some blah giant pancakes and pea soup, but were never able to find what we were really excited about: stroopwafels made fresh on the street. We searched high and low and simply could not find any being made. This was perhaps the most disappointing of all. If you have never had a stroopwafel and would like to experience one, try Shady Maple Farms they are made in Holland, organic and vegan! What more could you ask for?
After Delft we drove to Haarlem, which was the town Harlem in New York was named after. We walked down what appeared to be a never ending shopping boulevard and spent some time in a Hema store, which is the equivalent of Target in the Netherlands. Harrlem had a really wealthy looking old suburban area with really cool looking Dutch mansions. After leaving we drove to the sea shore, where people go for the summer. Driving south, looking for the Kukenhof, without a clue of what we were doing there far too early in the season, we got a bit lost before coming back to Utrecht.
Before we went to Delft, we thought we would stop by Gouda, just because it is where the yummy cheese is from. We gave up on the small town after being stuck in a traffic jam that only released us by driving the wrong way down a one way street. On to Delft…
We liked Delft. Overall it was our favorite city we visited in the Netherlands. There were not many people there so it was quiet, it was also clean, pretty and felt quite Dutch. We took the obvious picture in the giant yellow clog and randomly bought the most amazing apple strudel from a nothing special looking bakery. We did a little boot shopping and ate toasties (basically like glorified grilled cheese sandwich) in a café. The toasties were not very good and from what we can tell they never really are, but neither is any of the food in Holland besides the apple strudel. There were some cool antique shops here selling expensive delftware, old tools and ice skates. We probably should have bought something. The most memorable part was trying to parallel park along the canal. It was very scary, as there was no barrier and it times it looked as though Bryan would drive it into the canal. But we managed alright.
Unfortunately we didn’t get to see much of the historic Utrecht because we were too busy getting lost in the suburbs in our rental car. Arriving in Utrect at the correct location was the most confusing travel experience we have ever had. We don’t know why it was so hard to get where we were going but it was absolutely horrible. We followed the directions off the highway, but couldn’t understand how we were supposed to exit the massive roundabout. We drove back and fourth all over the city trying to figure it out and around the roundabout many times. At one point we ended up very far from the city where Bryan somehow took us for miles on a bike path that was barricaded off from the highway next to it. Doing our best not to hit bikers in the dark while we raped their bike path with our car, we eventually were able to exit into a suburban office building parking lot where we realized we were hopelessly lost and Megan began to bark orders out as to what to do next. It was in this moment, at the peak of frustration and irritation that Bryan slapped Megan across the face it attempt to force his woman to regain some composure (this was his first and last wife-beating experience). Knowing she was about to burst into laughter at what the ridiculousness of the evening had led them to she hopped out of the car in an attempt to look angry over it. After reconciling and laughing about what had happened, two gym bound Dutch men emerged in full body gray sweatsuits, looking like dead ringers for Hans and Franz (above right). They were our knights in sweaty gray sweatsuits, telling us we were very far from Wilhemena Park which was all the way in Utrecht. “We are not in Utrecht anymore?” They told us which way to go and we headed back where we had come. Eventually we wound up circling the same area we had been over an hour ago, but with help from Bryan’s sister Jimi, we finally made it two her dorm.
Her dorm was located in former army barracks, and the dorm below her had caught on fire earlier in the day. The entire room was charred to black (left), but the rest of the building was unharmed. We didn’t sleep easy knowing that the building had no fire alarms and was filled with pothead students (who presumably started the first fire in a pot smoking haze). We stayed in her room on the air mattress we had brought, for 3 nights. It was free and pretty comfortable. The only complaint about the accommodation was the bathroom/shower. There was no separation between bathroom and shower. The bathroom just happened to have a shower head and floor drain. So when you shower everything would get wet, including the toilet paper, and then when you were done you could use a giant squidgy to clean the water from all edges of the room into the drain. The drain, which was also very clogged, so you showered in a pool of water. Gross.