Watch Your Step!
by Mark H. Bloom with Jason Scholder
Amsterdam, Holland, is a city every international traveler should know intimately. With its drug dealers and tourist traps, if you don’t know the city, rest assured it will know you. In the biblical sense. But perhaps you could say that about any major city.
What sets Amsterdam apart is the diversity of its charms. An action-packed day could easily include: a visit to the expansive Van Gogh museum, your choice of marijuana cigarettes ordered off a coffeehouse menu, a five-star meal at Yamazato, and a psychedelic experience at an all-night rave.
Given your state of mind and sexual proclivities, your day might culminate in a victory walk home from the city’s infamous Red Light District, known by the Dutch as Rosse Buurt. It’s the place where dreams — and nightmares — can come true.
Amsterdam, you see, isn’t just one city; it’s two. There’s Daytime Amsterdam, full of the sights, sounds, smells, and feel of authentic Europe.
Then there’s Nighttime Amsterdam, where appetites of all kinds go to be sated. Gluttons, connoisseurs, and taste-testers all turn out to sample the wares. Nighttime Amsterdam is New York City time, Las Vegas crime, and Bangkok grime all rolled into one Dutch cigarette, smoked bleary-eyed at two in the morning. And at the center of Nighttime Amsterdam lies the Red Light District.
The District’s narrow streets bring a whole new meaning to the term “window-shopping.” Ladies of all colors, shapes, and sizes display themselves behind large panes of glass, like menu items at a Japanese diner. Some are as appealing as the dessert tray at Yamazato, while others resemble the upside-down pigs you find hanging in authentic Chinese restaurants. Selecting a meal is as simple as point and chick. There’s truly something for every taste.
Both Nighttime Amsterdam and Daytime Amsterdam have their charms, but confusing the two could ruin your vacation. While the tranquility of a stroll though Daytime Amsterdam on a Sunday morning can bring you to your knees with its sheer beauty, the same morning walk through Nighttime Amsterdam may bring you to your knees for an entirely different reason.
If there ever was a time to avoid the Red Light District, it has to be Sunday morning. Despite what you may have been smoking, the women still working at this hour won’t elicit visions of Dutch apple pie … or any dessert this side of Hawaiian poi.
You’ll likely see plenty of empty windows, leaving you to your perverse imagination. But you may also see one of the upside-down pigs throw a beckoning glance your way. While trying to avert your eyes, you’ll inevitably glance toward the ground — a decision you will instantly regret. Glancing around, you’ll be forced to notice that the sidewalks are littered with shrapnel, the discarded remains of a hard day’s night.
Dutch hookers, like their government, employ the motto “Safety First.” The hours following a busy shift in the Prostitution Capital of the World evidence a minefield more treacherous than that of a cow pasture in the Great Plains of rural Kansas.
Have you ever been walking along the street and had the sole of your shoe stick to the sidewalk? You’re not in Kansas anymore, and that’s not gum you just stepped in.
Little Known Fact: The Dutch use condoms more often than their American counterparts. As a result, they have a much lower abortion rate due to unwanted pregnancy. Then again, the Dutch — not exactly known for their military — just might be shooting blanks.
Lessons Learned: Watch your step, especially when you’re abroad. Even in a well-traveled section of Amsterdam — about as popular a tourist destination as exists — you can still find yourself in a minefield of trouble. Take my advice: no matter how hard up you might be, stay out of the Red Light District on a Sunday morning.
Mark H. Bloom is a published writer and editor originally from Salem, MA, aka The Witch City. He now keeps his head down when he walks … and finds all kinds of loose change. He entertains himself writing creatively and professionally while editing books and coaching writers. Get in touch with Mark a firstname.lastname@example.org and read his full bio below.