Saturday, January 18, 2014

Two Sided Guilder

Already, I have misled you about Amsterdam.  They no longer use guilders so the title should of been "Two Sides of the same Euro" I guess..but then it would be less "Dutchy".  I am all about "Dutchy."

I know that my regular readers are aware that I am married to a Dutchman.  His grandparents were part of a  group of Dutch that came to America and settled into a community made up of other Dutch. Then those Dutch families had lots of Dutch babies.  So, in other words, he is a pedigreed Dutch person compared to me being somewhat of an ethnic mix, of sorts. My family is predominately Irish, Scottish and a few dozen other things...none of which were from the Netherlands.

 His family still has roots in the Netherlands in the area northwest of Amsterdam.  Anyway...I was excited to get a chance to go to a country where all the natives pretty much look like my husband and his family. Yes, I can identify a Dutch person at 50 yards.

As for my's post is a little bit of a precursor to explain a few things prior to the second post I will do that is specifically about my visit to Amsterdam.

The weeks leading up to my planned departure I  noticed an interesting reaction when I told people that I was going to Amsterdam. They sometimes get that curious look, that knowing half-smile on their faces. "Amsterdam," they say with a mischievous grin, "lucky you!" I sometimes am hesitant to tell people that we sent our youngest child to go to the University of Amsterdam for a year as we thought it would be a great experience.  No!! Not the experience of recreational drugs and hookers. He could of gotten both at his state party schools,..... of course, I choose not to know about any of that.  (fingers in my ears...lalalalalalalalala)

 Yes...there are great things to experience in the Netherlands...specifically in Amsterdam.  Let's talk about the museums.  There are at least 89 museums. [click here for list of museums]

I could of (and would have loved to) spend another few days just visiting more of the museums around town. 

 Undoubtedly, millions travel to the Netherlands to see the just re-opened Rijksmuseum and its famous "Night Watch" painting, along with many other attractions of this truly charming city. But, let's face it, often the first thought that pops into people's brains is the acceptance of soft drugs and legal prostitution in the Netherlands. 

That is not to say other countries do not have a liberal attitude toward recreational drugs and prostitution. But the Dutch, with their history of practicality and compromise, decided to deal with these matters in a pragmatic way. In the process, they created a whole new world for tourists craving tolerance and a brush with the forbidden.

Still, there are great misconceptions about what is and is not legal there. Just to clarify some of those misconceptions, the Dutch do have rules and laws. 

 So what, precisely, is legal in the Netherlands?

You may be surprised to learn that recreational drugs are illegal in the Netherlands. Yes, even pot. But an official policy of tolerance emerged and in 1976 the Dutch parliament decriminalized possession of less than 5 grams of cannabis. That gave rise to a type of establishment found only in that country. In hundreds of "coffee shops" across the country -- not to be confused with "cafes" where you, in fact, go for coffee -- you can select from a menu of cannabis products and light up in full view indoors or at a sidewalk table.

Things got a little complicated in 2008, when the Netherlands, as other countries, imposed restrictions on smoking in public places. A great battle ensued as coffee shop owners complained the ban would put them out of business. Dutch compromising ensued. So, today, you cannot smoke in most public establishments, but you can still smoke marijuana in a coffee shop.

So, to recap: No cigarette smoking in public; yes to pot in small quantities and mushrooms are OK in very small quantities. Keep in mind their laws concerning banned drugs are harsh. 

And then there is the  Red Light District of Amsterdam.  The Rossebuurt, as the locals know it, is unlike any other place. (Yes, there are other Red Light Districts in other cities around the world but Amsterdam's is one of a kind.) Certainly, the RLD that everyone knows about is the one where women, of all nationalities, parade their wares in red-fringed window parlours.  There job is totally legal and is regulated as any other type of employment. 

Any tourist that wanders over to take a peek...and face it, what tourist DOESN'T do that?...what they will notice first (or at least in the top five  things they notice) the groups of voyeurs that are made up of packs of men, couples holding hands, giggling groups of women out for a "girl's night", or a bus load of Japanese tourists with their cameras.  The cameras, however, can not point toward a working person in one of the windows.  Taking pictures is strictly banned. (You do realized there are both men and women that work in the RLD, right? ...and at a few windows you might have to ask if they are man or woman...if it matters to you.)

What you might not think of when you think of this part of Amsterdam is how very charming that part of the city can be.  There are long winding cobbled streets with 14th century architecture.  The Gothic Oude Kerk (The Old Church) and Cafe' Pacifico. for example, are both in the Red Light District.

If you look close, you will see the windows trimmed in red.

Same street after dark..easier to see the red windows.

My next post will cover our arrival into Amsterdam, albeit several hours late...thanks to the ICE train delay out of Dusseldorf and some of our activities.

Here are some of the pictures of our visit to Amsterdam.


Debra She Who Seeks said...

Interesting post! I had an uncle by marriage who was of Dutch ancestry but apart from him, I don't think I know many Dutch people.

Pickleope said...

Whoa, wait, hold on, what now? Mushrooms are cool!?! As a long-time member of the Dutch immigrant community (I say community but I've never met another self-identified Dutch person), I must declare that I now have to go.
That was an enlightening post, I was always confused as to the rules.

Chubby Chatterbox said...

Amsterdam isn't as naughty as people might like to think. But I did find the marihuana banks interesting. You go into them to buy seeds, which are shipped all over the world. I never saw plants for sale but seeds were in abundance.

Cheryl P. said...

What I have figured out is that some of the Dutch that migrated to the U.S. in the late 1900s tended to isolated themselves into communities and interact with other Dutch. Towns like Holland, Michigan, for example. The others that mingled and mixed into the melting pot are now a blended mix of ethnicities as most of us are.

Cheryl P. said...

You are Dutch? If I met you, I would probably be able to tell. Dutch people tend to all have a very characteristic look about them, that is hard to quantify but very distinct.

I don't know about making the trip for the sake of mushrooms but Amsterdam is such a neat city. Do all means.

There are signs and brochures that try to give people a heads up on the rules but there is confusion. I wouldn't want to cross a line and have to deal with any foreign authorities.

Cheryl P. said...

I saw plenty of signs on windows and such saying seeds...but then I wasn't paying that close of attention. There were plenty of things that I found way more interesting.

Wendy said...

I have several many Dutch friends. I am always amazed at how conservative they all are ,when Holland itself is more liberal. Is it because the immigrants were the more conservative ones, as many are descendants of the immigrants right after the war. THe slide show is delightful. Will you be telling us more about the boats tour and what you see, or are they more just a water taxi from place to place. With all those bikes, does that mean less congested roads?I rather hope so for the safety of the riders! Guess we'll all find out how 'naughty you were' especially those who gave you that sly smile, the next post...looking forward to your adventures.

lisleman said...

I worked on a project that involved the cable company there. Made a number of trips. Great city to walk around in. Fortunately our project had enough visits that we contracted a small outfit for transportation. I was so impressed with the driver and his ability to guide his Mercedes quickly through the variety of vehicles on their narrow roads.

Yes the red light district is a big tourist attraction with guided tours.

Jayne said...

What a fun trip. Thanks so much for sharing it, Cheryl. I'm sure it's the closest I will ever get to being there. And again, LOVE the drawings. :)

Lady Jewels Diva said...

"I see Dutch people"

So do I, every time I look in the mirror.


Cheryl P. said...

I think there are a lot of conservative Dutch. The "old school" Dutch Reformed Church was quite strict. Things have changed drastically over the last 40 years though.

As for the boats...they do wonderful tours. You can buy various passes. Our passes were for 24 hours. The boat captain talks about the history, architecture, geography and such as you cruise along. You can board and de-board as you want. So we could of used it as a water taxi had we wanted to go back to visit something along the route.

All those bikes do make for some congested roads. The streets are narrow and there are bikes everywhere. The good news is that most people don't drive cars in the city center. There is so much public transportation there is no need.

I am sure that no one is surprised that I was NOT naughty. I was much more interested in the history of the city and the museums than I was the liberal use of pot.

Cheryl P. said...

Yes, the local of any city seem to be as ease with driving under the local conditions. It freaks me out to be in a cab in NYC but the cabbies are calm as can be.

We never got into a car in Amsterdam, so I didn't experience traveling by car.

I find the RLD pretty interesting. I would love a chance to talk to one of the women and ask them some questions. (aren't I nosy?)

Cheryl P. said...

Thank you, Jayne!!! It was such fun being there. I think I would like to go back in the spring.

And a special thanks for liking my cartoons. I really enjoy doing them.

Cheryl P. said...

Seeeee...I knew I liked you!!! I adore Dutch people, not only my husband is Dutch but my children are too....or at least they look Dutch instead of Irish. Maybe Dutch is the dominant gene.

lisleman said...

I suspect they get interviewed by reporters sometimes. I guess if you were to pay them for their time they would talk to you. Depending on your questions they might give you good answers. I was told some of the girls used to be guys. I have no idea how true that is.

Lauren said...

It makes perfect sense to be able to smoke pot in coffee shops. Then you don't have to drive to McDonalds. Loved the line, "I see Dutch people" and the corresponding visual.

It looks like a gorgeous city. I would love to go there some day.

Riot Kitty said...

I think I would like to visit. Pot in coffee shops seems like an oxymoron though, doesn't it? I mean, wouldn't one cancel out the other?

Cheryl P. said...

I am still unclear about if coffee is even available at a coffee shop.The brochures say to go to a cafe or a restaurant if you really want a cup of coffee. And none of the menus show anything other than weed, seeds, etc.

I do find it interesting that you can't smoke tobacco products in a coffee house just marijuana.

Cheryl P. said...

I don't really think anyone ever would order a cup of coffee...even if it was available in a coffee shop. They are in the business of selling soft drugs. Cafe's are where one gets coffee. But wait...I just did an Internet search and found one shop that does have beverages on the menu. Whoo-Hoo! That is an enterprising shopkeeper.

Cheryl P. said...

Do you suppose the reporters mutl-task while they ask questions???? I thought the same thing about if a person paid for the time, if they would be willing to answer some questions. With my luck there would be a language barrier and clothes would be coming off before we got it straightened out.

There are sections of the RLD that are guys in the windows and there is a section that I am not sure if they are men or women. I guess some people like a surprise, heh?

Life, Laughter and Paris said...

The 89 museums would have kept me busy! (Did I mention I love your drawings)? So glad you're writing about your's ALMOST as good as being there!

Cheryl P. said...

Me, too, Susan. I didn't get to go into nearly enough museums. I would like to work in another trip later in 2014. Coffee shops aren't my thing but history and art ...totally my thing.

Thank you so much for the kind words. I feel like I am boring people with this trip. Aren't you planning a trip in the spring??

abeerfortheshower said...

I love how everyone makes it sound like a trip to Amsterdam is all about the hookers and pot. Like, it's totally worth thousands of dollars in airfare, a hotel stay, food, etc., just so you can smoke a few joints and pay for sex. Because, you know, you can't do that anywhere in America.

Wendy said...

'Do you suppose the reporters multi-task while they ask questions'. Now Cheryl, you reply to me that you are not naughty and then ask THAT question ;). Just teasing.

Wendy said...

So, I wanna know, were you always a keen history lover, or has that come over time? I could spend hours in each museum. Guess I'd be in big trouble with 89 of them! I really appreciate how there is so much to learn and explore. I think the 24hr passes for the boat is a terrific idea. I am nowhere near weary of this travelogue.

Cheryl P. said...

I was ALWAYS a lover of history but even more..I love museums. When I was little and other 5 year olds wanted to go to the zoo, my dad would take me into Chicago to spend the day at The Museum of Science and Industry, or Shedd's Aquarium, or the Museum of Natural History. I still will drive the 8 hours to go to museum row in Chicago.
I was discussing the possibility yesteday with my husband to go back later in the year so I could visit a few more musuems. I didn't get into either the Van Gogh or the Rijksmuseum. He did because he went there 4 times on his stay but we didn't have time on my stay. We have to wait 180 days though because of his visa.
I, so appreciate you reading this saga of my vacation. I have to tell you though, my readers have dropped at the same velocity as a brick being tossed the Eiffel Tower. I think readers are way past of wanting to hear anything more.

Cheryl P. said...

Hahaha...I think I am just being pragmatic. Surely, he would need to do research for a totally accurate report.

AletaObrien said...

I'm laughing, because my brother said he wanted to go to Amsterdam just for the Red Light District. But really, how is it that much different than Bourbon Street... well, a lot larger than just a street, I imagine.

Funny about the pot in the cafe but not a cigarette. hehe.

One of my friends married a lady from Holland. She's Dutch and I think she's beautiful :)

Lady Jewels Diva said...

I wish!!!!!

My father, the Dutchman, could eat anything and everything and was thin as a stick. I can't. I got the other side English and German, big boobs, big hips, big feet! Although I did get my big head from him. I'm a 58cm, my mum is only 56cm!

Cheryl P. said...

I would laugh at that too, Aleta. The women in the RLD don't have anything that women don't have in the U.S. Bourbon street doesn't require a visa.

Odd isn't it? You can smoke weed but not tobacco.

I think the Dutch are quite good looking. Of course, I am terribly prejudiced.

Cheryl P. said...

I totally get that. This is why my children got lucky. My husband is 6 feet 5 inches and can eat everything in sight and not gain weight. My kids got his height and are thin. I am really short and have to watch every calorie. I though, no one has big boobs around here. No one.
Interesting about your comment about a big head. My husband looks ridiculous in hats because his head is so big.

meleahrebeccah said...

"I see Dutch People" is killing me! LOLZ!

"So, to recap: No cigarette smoking in public; yes to pot in small quantities and mushrooms are OK in very small quantities. Keep in mind their laws concerning banned drugs are harsh."

So wait - I can't smoke a cigarette? But I can get high? That's insane.

Off to watch the video now!

Cheryl P. said...

Yes, doesn't that seem bizarre by American standards. There you can smoke pot in a coffee house or in some cases, in front of a coffee house. You aren't supposed to smoke dope on the street but there are places that they do. BUT tobacco cigarette smoking is not allowed.

Lady Jewels Diva said...

Clearly big heads are a Dutch thing then!

Cheryl P. said...

Perhaps that's so people will be sure to notice how attractive Dutch people are.

Linda R. said...

I love hearing about the cultural differences. Who would have thunk that a coffee shop is really a pot shop and you go to a cafe if you actually want coffee.

I'm with Meleah, that "I see Dutch People" is hysterical!

On to the next part.

Cheryl P. said...

That does seem strange doesn't it? I wouldn't think a person would make that mistake twice...the second time would be on purpose.

Glad you found humor in my cartoon....I wonder how many people don't get the Sixth Sense connection.

Linda R. said...

Only those who never saw the movie. I should re-watch that.