I had been subtly avoiding Amsterdam…thinking I was probably too old to enjoy it. I knew I had to see it, so I added a day-trip onto my Holland excursion and took the fast train from Brussels.
Walking down the main road it was around nine a.m. yet the street was packed full of tourists, trying to meet up with tour groups. I forced my way through the crowd, took some great pictures of a WWII national monument, then hung a left and found myself in the red light district.
Before I was able to take in the risque surroundings, I saw the first of many great canal shots. Admittedly the water wasn’t as clean as other canals I’ve seen in Europe, but the bridges and surrounding trees provided some beautiful picture opportunities.
If the idea of prostitution or lewd sex offends the sensibilities of any readers of this, just read my words and don’t look at the pictures. I didn’t think it was that bad, but I’ve been desensitized by prostitution. I spent over a year living in Bahrain, where it’s technically illegal, yet every bar there is full of them…therefore the authorities just turn their heads the other way. Most places in Europe, including Belgium, have some form of legal prostitution as well, so it’s not uncommon to be approached on the street in a normal downtown area of any European city. I’m a proponent of legalized prostitution, and I especially like how Amsterdam operates. They focus on the safety of the workers, as well as their health…mandating and paying for frequent STD testing, and requiring that up-to-date health cards are clearly posted.
As I walked down the many streets in this area, I was initially surprised by the ‘tapping on the window’, which is how the prostitute, behind glass, gets your attention then beckons for you to enter…for a hefty fee of course. I was ‘tapped at’ a lot, hence the title of the blog, and I can understand why as a solo man walking alone through Amsterdam…they probably assumed I was an interested customer. Needless to say I just politely waved them off and kept walking. They have clear indicators on the glass windows that you can’t take pictures, or tap on the glass back, but I’ve heard stories of drunk tourists causing a lot of problems and harassing the workers. The other thing that was apparent in this area, and expected, was all the sex shops. Keep in mind I was there in the morning and early afternoon, and everything was still open and ready for action…I can only imagine how it is here on a Friday night. Of course there were also pot shops and cafes, as well as this ‘gas mask’ bong being sold on the street that looked silly but was likely very effective.
The prostitution museum was the next stop, and was well worth the entrance fee. I found it interesting that prostitution in Holland has only been legal since 2000, as I always assumed it was a long-standing occupation here. The museum was small, but well laid out and had exhibits such as the ‘typical’ room at a brothel, and the various outfits and gadgets employed during a paid tryst. I didn’t realize there were ’10 commandments of prostitution’, and I thoroughly enjoyed the ‘wall of shame’ (highlighting stars involved in the oldest profession, such as Boy George, Hugh Grant, and Charlie Sheen, among others)…though the highlight was the wall of confessionals. This is where people can write embarrassing sexual experiences down on sticky notes and post them. I read many of them, and would like to think some were fake…or maybe this really is a strange world we live in. I uploaded two of the tamer confessional notes to this blog.
Aside from all the sin, I also found some really cool street art spread around the area, particularly one wall down a side street that was covered in some pretty wild images.
Many of the buildings also had some impressive architecture and a nice mix of colors.
Maybe I should’ve focused more on these aspects rather than the red light district, but I only had a few hours here and I admit I was a bit curious. Maybe next time in Amsterdam I’ll do some cleaner sights like the national museum and Van Gogh exhibit. As I left town, I realized how pretty the train station was!