Tuesday, June 2, 2009


what a crazy crazy city it is too, though unfortunatly, as i learned yesterday, slowly becoming less to it's detrement i feel. amsterdam is like no other city in europe at least that i have encountered thus far, and yet the powers that be (ie the government) is attempting to homoginize it with the rest of the european metropolises in appearence, and experience. a shame. we started our day with a free walking tour of the city and mour tour guide kevin, was sort of grumpy having been called in on his one day off, and therefor was very no-nonsence and extremely funny. made for a thoroughly enjoyable tour, three hours around the city and i learned a great deal. i am starting to really admire the dutch for their no nonsence approach to co-existance and tollerence of anyone and everyones beliefs, values, ideas, fashion sense etc. their sence of humor is quite enjoy able as well, for instance when king louis (napoleans brother who was given holland as napolean himself couldn't be bothered with anything else that far away) made all the dutch give their last names instead of just being identified by their occupation and the street on which they resided (a confusing practice as if one ever moved or switched jobs their name would be altered to reflect the changes) many gave silly and or offensive names to the information gatherers who didn't speak any dutch and didn't know any better. unfortunatly their clever joke backfired as there are decendets of these very families not burdened with names like 'big bottom' and 'smelly pants' among others less silly and far more offensive.
we walked through the famous or imfamous red light district and saw the girls (technical title would be sex workers) in their windows though they generally looked bored, one was even texting on her mobile phone while in the window, and learned how the area is being systematically shut down despite the huge tourism draw it is. just this week (as it is te first week of june) they are shutting down over a hundred windows, and those they shut down are replaced by upscale resteraunts where the service is sub-par (so i've been told) they are rude if you aren't dutch, and if you want to pay them to do something they will sing for money. not quite the same thing, and it seems silly to change a place that is so unique only to turn it into a mirror of other places so close, and less pricy. why not allow it to keep its individual charms, why isn't it okay for the ultimate city of acceptance, to accept and embrace this. seems to me it's their buisness what they do and none of ours (or the governments) to put a stop to it just cause they think they could possibly draw the same amount of tourist interest from a less 'racy' set of city attractions.
i was also easily able to appreciate the physical beauty of amsterdam as well, with its uniform brick front buildings and whispering leafed treelined canals. the houses are all so narrow because they had a width tax (and still do) measuring only the front of the first story of the building, therefor, the wider your house is the more you have to pay. we saw one hose that is just seven feet wide! i also learned that the brick fronts are required and not only that, are owned by the city, and while you pay a tax for them each year, the city takes care of all maintinence and upkeep. we learned why there are hooks at the tops of the buildings (to get large furniture into the upper floors without navigating treaturously narrow staircases) and why the buildngs seem to be leaning/ skewed to the side (either build on ground which has since shifted and been eroaded by time, or they actually get wider on the upper floors for added interior space as only the first floor is measured for width tax, though this was of course only possible on corner lot buildings and therefor all of the streets seemed even more narrow and mysterious due to the looming skinny tilted buildings) and that there are over 1,284 bridges in the city crossing over the many canals.
we went to two markets (populated by stalls selling much of the same stuff i have seen throughout europe and even in thailand with only the price and color varying, and many many mobile fry cafes, or frites. delicious and served in a triangular pocket of red and white striped paper and you eat them with a miniature two pronged plastic fork and they are so good you burn your mouth not caring just unable to stop. we went to the sex museum (thorough and hilarious) and the anne frank house (serious, sad but very important) and remembering how she wrote of hearing bells from her hiding place, looked across the street to the church on the square, heard the bell music it produced. i saw rows of hundreds of bikes and tons of people riding them, men in buisness suits, talking on phones or smoking (what i will not suppose) women in heels and with babies and large shopping bags. i felt very pleased to be walking all over the city, like it was more respectful of the city which places so much emphasis on green living, to power myself around to all the sites instead of taking a bus or train, appropriate for this city, though after two days of it my feet are getting rather tough. feel tingly when i sit for a moment>

1 comment:

  1. nice! glad you enjoyed your time there! I totally did also!