Highlight: Wandering through a street market packed with locals and not tourists. I could tell it was mostly locals because most of them (women included) towered over me. Eating the pickled herring and trying to figure out what “Biertje” meant were highlights.
Lowlight: Seeing the old and larger women standing in the windows in the Red Light District, cringing at the sight, and then hearing 12 year old boys with their parents making jokes.
Money spent: 75 Euros
Pairs of clean underwear left: 5
The hostel I’m staying in is full of school kids, young families, and homeless people it seems.When I woke up this morning, there was a guy sleeping on the floor next to me. Looks like he took the mattress from the bunk beside mine and plopped it on the floor, and then fell asleep with his clothes on.
My first stop once I got to Amsterdam was the Van Gogh museum. I took my time getting there and wandering down the streets. I stumbled upon the Rembrandt Plaza where I took a picture of Ben Bear and big statue collection. I only mention it because that was the last time I remember seeing Ben Bear. He must of fallen out of my pocket somewhere. I hope someone finds him and takes care of him. Otherwise he’ll be left to wander the streets alone and might turn to a life of drugs and prostitutes.
The Van Gogh museum was good. I think I prefer art museums devoted to one artist to the sprawling collections. It’s easier to get into a frame of mind and observe one artist’s work. I really like Van Gogh’s work and the museum had good written descriptions on each piece.
After the museum, I grabbed a sandwich and wandered through a large street market. I bought 2 pairs of socks (no more laundry now), some trail mix, pickled herring that I ate with a tooth pick, and a t-shirt for Kelsey that says something in Dutch – biertje. The lady selling it didn’t speak very good English and said it meant “juicy” or “tasty”. (Editor’s Note: When I got back to Canada I found out it is slang for “beer” and was popularized in a Heineken commercial.)
After that I wandered around back into the red light district and enrolled myself into Cannabis College. It was more like a museum or resource centre – full of facts about hemp and marijuana. Including some interesting stuff about the pulp and paper lobbyists’ campaign to outlaw hemp back in the 1930’s. Back then a lot of paper was made from hemp and a lobby campaign led by Harry Anslinger successfully discredited hemp and got it banned. That was when the term marijuana was first used, in propaganda against “marijuana – the killer weed from mexico”.
The “college” also had 5 different marijuana plants growing the basement for educational purposes. I was intrigued to hear that marijuana is still technically illegal in Holland (because of EU laws), but its use is controlled and tolerated. Supposedly possession under a certain limit is ok, each household is allowed to grow up to 5 plants without artificial lights, no one can sell the seeds, and coffee shops can only sell 5 kg per month which is closely regulated and taxed. Obviously at points the laws are broken. There is no way coffee shops are supplied solely by individuals with only 5 plants each. But a blind eye is turned because of the tax revenue and tourist appeal.
I was impressed with the scientific approach the Dutch take to pot. They have 14 main strains they grown with each having different properties. When you go to a coffee shop you’re given a menu that explains the properties of each strain. B.C. bud on the other hand is just pot that is grown in BC, with no clue to the strain or potency.
After the college, I walked outside and was surprised to see prostitutes in the windows. I guess the demand is always there, but I really didn’t expect to see prostitutes during a Sunday afternoon while families with young kids walked by. I really thought it was a night thing.