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Walking through the cobble stoned labyrinth of Dutch streets feels like you have stepped back into a simpler time. A time where hours and minutes don’t matter, a time where leisure is at the forefront, a time when business is often very closely linked with pleasure…
Each street offers its own unique surprises, yet paradoxically each street is largely alike; sex shops, coffee shops and prostitutes fill these pretty little streets.
As you attempt to find your way around the maze-like red light district of Amsterdam you are greeted with sights of women flaunting their goods in windows and tourists admiring what these windows display. And all the while there is the constant lingering whiff of Cannabis filing the streets.
Watching the men negotiating with the prostitutes and agreeing business was a little disturbing for me. Amongst many drunken young men in search of a 15 minute, 50 Euro ‘experience’ were also teenagers, old men and even middle aged couples! I found the latter particularly unnerving.
It is sad to see so many women offering themselves in such a way, I can only assume that they don’t much enjoy their line of work-especially with some of the potential clientele! I was sad to read, although not surprised, that 40% of their business is in fact from British males. I’m sure the British men have a great reputation over there! :s
Aside from the red lights giving the streets a somewhat erotic ambiance, there is the constant smell of weed from the abundant coffee shops filling the city streets. Each time you cross a coffee shop the smell becomes stronger, and although I myself do not smoke, the smell does have a rather inviting nature. I’m sure many will have been enticed down into the dark, smoke filled shops.
In contrast to the red coloured, busy, almost over-active streets outside, the coffee shops have a chilled, laid back atmosphere. Many have Reggae type music, drawings and things on the walls, and dark coloured lights, often greens and blues. Here, people will drink coffee or coke (you are hard pushed to find places that serve both alcohol and cannabis in Amsterdam) and the smoke the into obliteration.
Everywhere you go in this part of the city you are reminded of the legality of both prostitution and cannabis. In 2013 new Dutch law will supposedly stop non-nationals from buying the drug, however many believe that this will not be enforced in the city due to it being such a big force for tourism and a substantial revenue earner.
Amsterdam is a city like no other, and it really is unique in its sights and its smells, amongst many others I’m sure.