Wide-Eyed American Experiences Europe’s Sin City
By Kevin Wilkerson, PubClub.com Travel Blogger
I have long been encouraged by friends who enjoy my writing to sit down and write a book. But instead of going to a publisher, I am writing it here on my blog. This is a travelogue of stories from my travels all around the world. Chapter 1 details my thoughts, impressions, adventures and misadventures on my first trip to Amsterdam.
Every year starting about March or April, a friend of mine would start bugging me about going to Amsterdam for my summer vacation.
He did a lot of work there and was both in love and in awe of the place. And, naturally, he wanted some fun company with him to go to the pubs and clubs, as well as to experience some of the culture (which, naturally, included the Red Light District).
Personally, I first wanted to to the Greek Islands and as you have learned from reading Chapter 1 in this book, I did travel there one year.
He certainly knew how to get my attention. He talked about the girls.
“Amsterdam has the most beautiful girls it the world!,” he would say, accenting those last words by making a fist and gritting his teeth. “They are all these tall, blonde Dutch babes!” Not only that, he added, but they would lay out topless in Vondel Park (they do this on beaches in the Mediterranean, too, I leaned much to my pleasure when I went to Greece).
Then Mr. Amsterdam, as I would later start to call him, would throw in this line, which he thought surely would be the clincher: “And as beautiful as the girls are, the Dutch have the ugliest men on the planet. It’s hard to believe they come from the same loins!”
In other words he was saying you can’t miss!
So finally, one year I gave into him. I decided to re-route myself on the way to Greece via Amsterdam. Hey, that’s the best of both worlds, right!?
The Family-Run Hotel
Another friend, Bob, had flown ahead of me and had a one-night jump on me. When I arrived, Bob was jumping up and down, hardly able to contain his excitement.
“This place is great! This place is great!,” he kept saying again and again. To me, it was apparent he had an encounter with one of those beautiful Dutch babes.
“You got laid last night,” I said.
“With an asterisk!,” he said. With an asterisk!”
Before I could ask what that meant, he said “I’ll tell you later. Let’s show you the town.”
I was all prepared to throw down my bags in my hotel room and do just that – it was about 4 o’clock in the afternoon, and I wanted a beer in a large frosted mug in the worst way – but first I had to take care of some business with a recent former girlfriend, I learned when I got to the hotel.
When I presented myself at the desk, the first thing the hotel proprietor did was hand me a phone.
“Call Lynne,” he said.
“Pardon me? Can I just please have have the key to my room?”
“Not until you call Lynne.”
I was at a family-run hotel – which I love – and it was clear this man I had never met took on the role of a stern father. Lynne was the world’s most adorable girl and I did one of those stupid things that stupid single guys do from time to time and let her slip away after dating for about a year. She had just graduated from college and was backpacking through Europe for the summer and I thought I could have a summer by myself, romping through Amsterdam and Greece as well as back home in Manhattan Beach (CA) and, if all went according to plan, catch back up with her in the fall.
And here was the hotel owner refusing to give me the key to my hotel room because Lynne – who was in London with her aunt at that moment – was lonely. Lynne wanted to meet me in Amsterdam and I adamantly refused (I mean, I might be doing things there I would not want her to see), tho I did tell her I would be happy to meet her in Germany a few days later.
Bob and I were to meet a friend there we had met the year earlier in Greece and she was going to give us the keys to the family house in Santorini. Yeah, we could hardly believe it either!
Introduction To Amsterdam
With that piece of business taken care of, I really craved a beer. I wanted to go to the Heineken factory, where I had heard they give you free beer until you pass out, but Mr. Amsterdam said that it closes at something like Noon. So I plopped myself down at the very first place I saw that served beer and had a soothing beverage in a tall and frosty mug.
I was now ready to see Amsterdam!
I had loved it from the first moment I had arrived in town. The red brick buildings, the boats going beneath my feet when I stood on one of the arched walkways over a canal, bicycles everywhere– all made it seem like a fairy tale city.
Our hotel was right across the street from a place called the Grasshopper. Mr. Amsterdam said that was one of the entrances to the Red Light District. Upon hearing this news, Bob and I downed our beers and immediately started to head i that direction (see Lynne, aren’t you glad you didn’t join us here!?)
Then Bob and I nearly got flattened by a tram.
Experiencing Amsterdam With Mr. Amsterdam
Well that would have ended things right there, needless to say. As Mr. Amsterdam now explained to us, the trams fly by with no regard for pedestrians and you had better keep your wits about when crossing a street. He also gave us another helpful hint about the city: if we become separated, follow the train tracks back to the hotel. Amsterdam is a very confusing city for first-timers as all those streets with the canals look the same, he said, and it’s very easy to get lost.
Okay, enough safety tips, now onto the Red Light District.
Nothing in anyone’s life, certainly someone who spent time in the conservative South like me and the Midwest like Bob, could prepare one for what you see in the Red Light District.
First of all, there’s things in the street that you would not want your mother to see. Or your father or any of your grade school teachers. Where I come from, that kind of stuff is hidden behind dark alleys, not presented right out in the open like shops along a boulevard.
There are adult magazine and video stores, for instance. In the States, the only people who go into these things in the wide-open city are men who pull their hat and trenchcoat over their faces and look around to see if anybody is watching them.
There are also sex shows with salesmen standing outside saying things like “there’s nice smut in here.” Bob and I stood transfixed for a moment at a place with a banana on its sign wondering just what might be taking place with a banana on the other side of the wall.
Eventually, Mr. Amsterdam took us to the famous windows. I expected to see some depressed-looking ladies with droopy boobs and some sleezy guy with chest hair and gold chains out front saying “you coming in or what,” but just the opposite was the case.
The windows were clean and the area was shiny. The girls ranged from who-in-the-world-would-payfor-that hideous to Victoria’s Secret gorgeous. Suddenly, for the first time in my life, I began to understand the appeal of paying for the pleasure.
It was about this time that Bob came clean. He had succumbed to the temptation the previous night. Thus the asterisk. In other words, he has not earned it.
The Pubs Of Amsterdam In The Leidseplein Rembrandtplein
As if our heads were not spinning enough already, Mr. Amsterdam took is to the pubs in the two main night areas, the Leidseplein and Rembrandtplein.
It was here that I saw what he was talking about in regards to the Dutch women. They were all tall and beautiful, just as he had described. Plus, they had that Swedish-blonde hair I love so much and while I didn’t know how they pulled it off in such a northern climate, a golden skin color.
I did not notice the men.
This wound up being where we spent most of our time while in Amsterdam. Window shopping was nice, but I prefer to get my girls without an asterisk.