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