I think the U.S. could learn a few things from the Netherlands. Now, Amsterdam puts Vegas to shame when it comes to drugs, sex and rock and roll. But for all the adult activities that take place there, it is actually an incredibly beautiful city. The city sprawls from Central Station. Closest to the station is the Red Light District and just beyond that are the city’s famous museums like the Rijk and Van Gogh museums. I stayed in a hostel just outside the Red Light District the first night, then met my friends Sami and Clay for night number two and three near the Van Gogh Museum.
As many of you may know, Amsterdam is famous for it’s lax laws on things like prostitution and drugs. However, while staying just outside of the Red Light District, I didn’t feel like there was any danger or harm coming my way. The people for the most part were VERY friendly, and most of them spoke English and would be happy to help you. The drugs were pretty heavily regulated, we didn’t see one coffeehouse or bar where they sold alcohol and Marijuana together. Psychadelic mushrooms are illegal if processed, but if they’re fresh, they’re considered a vegetable and perfectly legal. The whole system was very foreign to me, but the city didn’t seem to suffer from it. As a matter of fact, when we got down into the “suburbs”, I saw some incredibly gorgeous houses, and families living their daily lives.
For the first couple days, I walked through Vondelpark and explored the city center. For those that were wondering, yes, the women do still work their windows during the day. It makes for an awkward walk, but once you get to the shopping district, you’ll see that Amsterdam is just as modern as any city out there. Any mall would be jealous of the shoe and clothing stores that line the sides of the streets and it seemed that anyone studying fashion design would find plenty of inspiration in this city.
The museums were also incredible. The Rijk Museum, although I didn’t get to visit it, houses some of Rambrandt’s famous paintings and is absolutely gigantic. I did get to do the famous Heineken brewery tour, which was cool, but a little too commercial for me. I prefer New Belgium, although I might be biased:) The highlight of my trip was definitely the Van Gogh Museum, which had a special display up called “Van Gogh and the colors of the night”. In it, they demonstrated Van Gogh’s passion for the night, and how he tried to use light to rid the world of darkness. They showed letters he had written to his family with sketches of his ideas, then you could see the realized painting next to it. The big draw was Starry Night, which was special to me because I’ve seen it in books since I was a kid. I snuck a picture so you can see it too.
I left the city on a rainy day, it cleared up just before I had to wait for the bus for the airport. I never thought I’d be able to live in a city like Amsterdam, but it definitely changed my mind.