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 trip...today'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.