I Am(sterdam)

Amsterdam is so much more than weed, prostitutes and general debauchery, though I’m sure you would be hard pressed to convince most people of that.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy two out of three of those as much as the next person (if not more), but it’s actually pretty funny when you speak to locals and realize that many of them don’t partake in any drugs or alcohol. I think the Netherlands might have it figured out. By legalizing and regulating all substances to a certain extent, the population probably experiments with all sorts of stuff for a time and then they grow up, having learned how to use things in moderation, or not at all.

Amsterdam was one city that I could really see myself living in. It’s small enough (to me, at least) that I’m not overwhelmed, but big enough to spend years exploring. People are friendly, most speak English and there’s practically a museum on every block.

Oh, and there’s also the fact that walking around the city is a joy in and of itself. EVERYONE (mostly tourists) is high. No one wants to make eye contact with you, let alone engage in conversation, so if you’re sober and people watching, it’s a hoot. But you could also be one of the blissful stoners, so truly, it’s a win/win. It’s legal to smoke weed everywhere, including most bars we visited. Signs actually say “NO TOBACCO! WEED OK.” I stepped into the first bar and thought, “I’ve found my people.” Joints typically run 6-10€ and a gram can be purchased for about 11€.

As tourists, we also visited the Red Light District. I don’t have any photos for obvious reasons, but I can tell you that it’s a surreal experience. It’s sad to see, but one person we met put it into perspective for us. He explained that a spot in a window in a prime location and at peak hours costs about 4,500€ to rent monthly. He also said that each act performed is priced separately and tacked onto a base fare. Basically, some of the women working in the Red Light District make more money than most of us ever will. Granted, that doesn’t make it all “okay,” but my opinions aren’t relevant to this post, and I won’t go making broad statements without substantiating evidence. However, if you’re interested in debating the ethics of legal prostitution, please drop me a line! I’m actually very curious to hear what my readers think.

After visiting the Red Light District, we woke up wanting to do something cultured. So, we headed to the Van Gogh Museum! I wanted to visit the Banksy and Dalí exhibit at the MoMA, but the not-enough-time curse followed us to Amsterdam. The Van Gogh Museum was beautiful, if a little tragic. You grow up hearing all these tall tales about the artist (e.g., his slicing off his ear for a lover) but once you take the time to learn about his life from first hand documents, letters and diary entries, you can’t help but feel a certain type of sympathy for his tortured mind.

Starry Night was painted while Van Gogh was in an asylum toward the end of his life, and it is undoubtedly one of the most influential pieces of our time. Yet, he committed suicide thinking he had been a failure. Some of his most famous pieces are on display at the Van Gogh Museum, and it’s almost hard to believe that one person created so many works of art. Photography is not allowed inside the museum to preserve the artwork, but the Museumplein is just as photogenic.

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Me, a local

There you have it. Amsterdam is everything you’ve heard and much, much more. I’d love to go back before the Banksy/Dalí exhibit ends, but with classes, I’m not sure I’ll be able to! Tons of wonderful exhibits are always in rotation, so you can’t really go wrong anyways.

Thank you for reading & until next time!

xoxo,
Julia

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