One tram ride, one bus, one airplane, one train and one tram later we are in the Netherlands and the original sin city: Amsterdam. The weather is gorgeous upon our arrival at 6 PM – not too cold and sunny! Goodbye weather demon of Prague (please, please knock on wood for us!). We made our way without too much difficulty to our apartment in the Pijp area – very artsy, hip and residential. We LOVE staying in areas like this because it offers a great glimpse into what life woud be like if we were to…you know…move here! In a word, life here is cramped, even the buildings seem to be pushing and shoving against each other to make more room. The apartment is lovely with a miniscule kitchen and bathroom. It definitely gives greater importance to the phrase: “a place for everything and everything in its place”. The apartment owner is a young woman who gave us some great recommendations for local eats and fun.
Our first night we were meeting up with our great friends Melissa and Mason who are also on holiday in Europe. After a round of “welcome to Europe” drinks at a very hip (read faaaancyy! – say it with a western twang on the “y” and you’ve got the way I intended that word!) place in Pijp. We then headed over to get a more reasonably priced meal where we had Dutch meatballs and mustard, spare ribs and a delicious vegetarian ravioli…don’t worry we split the food…the alleyways are far too narrow here for any serious overeating! Our original plan was to catch a guided tour of the Red Light District (RLD) however dinner and drinks took a bit longer than expected so we decided to explore the area on our own.
The RLD is intense. Neon lights are everywhere, smells are everywhere, sights are everywhere, noise is everywhere and so are the people. To say that we were shocked is not quite right…but maybe surprised or taken off guard by how certain tastes of the RLD jump out at you when you least expect it. Putting it differently – as a woman who is used to and loves window shopping for clothes, the urge to look at every window as you pass by would’ve been a lovely urge to leave at home. I can’t fully express how fascinating this area is – not just in the history or the architecture but in the fact that this area of unrestrained and uninhibited pleasure seeking is literally right next to the “other” Amsterdam – the one that houses Anne Frank’s annex, Van Gogh, beautiful churches and canals. The juxtaposition is what most fascinated me…well, and the neon lights, who doesn’t love those?
After a very chaotic night of getting extremely lost, figuring out that the trams do not run at night and the night bus schedule is just as confusing as the back alleyways…we made it home and got some nice rest before starting all over again the next day.