What are your best and worst memories of your visit to Amsterdam as a tourist?

Worst memory? I guess lugging a suitcase through the Red Light district.

Jottings of Amsterdam, Centraal to Rusland

But you know, sex shops and aromatic coffeeshops, and prostitutes in lingerie incongruously tapping on the window as you walk past (Lady, I’m lugging a suitcase halfway across Centrum, and it needs A Good Time right now even less than I do)—do not convey the frisson of risk and edge that they might. I chose the word tacky rather than dodgy, and there was a reason for that. Sebastian (who I was visiting in Nijmegen) crystallised it for me when I expressed my disappointment to him: it’s a clean, sanitised, manicured experience of sex and drugs and souvenir T-shirts. It’s a tourist theme park, really.

Best part: on my last day, wandering outside the Centrum, and realising Amsterdam is an actual city:

To my relief, when I came back and got intentionally lost walking around town, I saw the flipside to Centrum. (I had a couple of destinations, but got gloriously lost by following the ring structure of the roads bordering Centrum.) I didn’t get a sense of the soul of Amsterdam—in the end, how could I in a couple of hours; but I saw that the flipside is a town that still has too many bikes, but also a place here people get work done, go out to dinner, and get home by 10. Not a particularly striking looking town, but lived-in. (This is not Vienna, which had a point to prove in its architecture; Amsterdam ran the world as a business, and was satisfied with individual affluence.) By the Plantage district, which was parkland until past the Golden Age, the town even loosens its belt a little, and allows for some greenery, and mansions that aren’t single file.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *