I spent a wonderful four days in Amsterdam, Netherlands in June 2009 and five days in June 2010. Out of all the cities, states, and countries that I visited, Amsterdam has to be the coolest place ever. The reasons are:
Amsterdam has many historic sites and museums, and the architecture is stunning. The picture below is Central Station, where all metro, trolley buses, and buses meet. Central Station is the heart of Amsterdam, and is called the Centrum. The city's center has the oldest, and the most interesting architecture. The further one gets from the center, the more modern the architecture. Contemporary Dutch architecture tends to be simple and boxy, and not opulent like buildings in the city's center. Some of the museums are:
I could only find two things I did not like about Amsterdam.
Amsterdam is known for its tolerance of low-level drugs like marijuana. The key word is low-level. Somebody caught with drugs like cocaine could get into serious trouble with the authorities. The Red-Light District has Cannabis College, where visitors may see live, growing marijuana plants. I was told people are allowed to grow up to 5 marijuana plants without penalties. Cannabis College charged 3 euros for a tour. The place stunk so bad from the plants that I left the building light headed.
Amsterdam makes me think about the United States punitive approach to drug use. Although government spends billons to arrest, prosecute, and lockup drug users, the U.S. still has a serious drug problem. In Amsterdam, the government collects tax revenue from marijuana sales and here's the kicker. Drug use is lower in Amsterdam than comparable countries like Germany and Great Britain where marijuana is illegal.
Amsterdam has several types of coffee shops. Some coffee shops are standard, and they sell coffee, teas, soups, and sandwiches. Other coffee shops sell marijuana products. It is easy to tell the difference between them. As one approaches a marijuana coffee shop, one smells the strong, musky, nasty smell of marijuana. Of course, the stoners out in the front of a coffee shop are a dead giveaway, not your typical well dressed coffee connoisseurs.
These coffee shops sell pre-rolled, packaged joints, hash brownies, space cookies, high-grade marijuana seeds, and other delights. A picture of the Greenhouse Coffee Shop is to the right. The Greenhouse supposedly developed the strongest strains of marijuana and has won the High Times Cannabis Cup 31 times.
The infamous Red-Light District is to the left. Women display themselves to potential johns. During the night, the women wear lingerie and dance seductively, trying to lure in customers. They will even leave the booth to touch and negotiate with the johns. The back alleys have hundreds of these doors in rows. Ironically, a large concentration of these alleys wrap around a circular courtyard with a church in the center. I guess the sinners can run to the church to get saved after committing lewd sins.
Many of these working women are foreigners, arriving from Eastern Europe, Asia, and Latin America. I read these exploited girls have to pay 150 Euros per night to rent their booth and charge anywhere from 30 to 50 Euros per john, depending on services rendered.
If you get a chance to visit Amsterdam, do it! Despite the expense, Amsterdam is worth it. Unfortunately, the conservatives have taken power in the Netherlands, and they are plotting to change it. The conservatives are closing down the coffee shops and the booths in the Red-Light District. The government is buying these businesses and converting them to other uses. For example, the prostitution booths tend to be small and the government is converting some of them to artists' studios. One can debate about how many of these booths can be converted to artists' studios. It is questionable if this policy could work.
- The city area spans 84.6 square miles.
- The currency is the Euro.
- Amsterdam is the largest city and capital of the Netherlands.
- In 2009, the city's population was estimated at 1 million. If the suburbs are included, then the population is approximately 6.7 million, making Amsterdam the 6th largest metropolitan area in Europe.
- Amsterdam is the business and financial center of Netherlands and is considered the 5th best city in Europe to establish an international business.