So there I was, just hanging out in the Red Light District in Amsterdam, where women stand behind glass doors, and any man is just 100 ($40) away from 15 minutes with any one of the girls on a smorgasbord ranging from gorgeous to gut-wrenching. I saw these middle-aged Scottish guys, with their sons, who were about 14, and one of the dads dragged his own son over to one of the doors, handed some money to the girl, and his son came out 15 minutes later to a standing ovation from his comrades.
I was horrified. But this was just one of the things that put me in a bad mood after spending too much time in what some call the Disneyland for adults. Amsterdam is a city that is crawling with ruined people left and right. Getting off the train in Central Station, most travelers are greeted by a man, usually an African immigrant, inquiring, “Cocaine? Ecstasy?” Not only is this unpleasant for the simple pot smoker or drug-free art lover on his/her way to the Van Gogh Museum, but the fact that these are Africans prolonging the stereotype that fuels anti-immigrant groups and neo-Nazis (a growing threat in many parts of Europe) that also made me upset.
Sure, I would suggest that anyone traveling through Europe should make a trip to Amsterdam, but don”t make it longer than a few days. See the Anne Frank House, the Van Gogh Museum, smoke a joint, and then move on.
The thing about Amsterdam is that it proves to the world that if you make something legal, you are somewhat helping the problems associated with it. In Amsterdam, when you buy weed, you know what you”re getting. Anywhere else, you could easily be short changed with oregano. Prostitutes in the Netherlands have their own union (in fact, they also would rather be called “sex workers”) that provides disease testing and the like.
In my trip to Amsterdam, I witnessed numerous people that seemed to have been ruined in their attempt to make Amsterdam their home. Many American hipsters move to Amsterdam for the weed, but most of them seemed to spend their time wandering along the canals amongst the tourists, sometimes making absurd exclamations like “Give me change or they”ll catch you.” I heard stories from people hoping to strike it big by setting up their own coffee shop, only to spend a life in and out of jail. Others just live completely humble and miserable lives under the influence of weed, but I guess that”s just fine for them.
And the driving force in this all is, of course, money. Weed, beer, prostitutes, clubs and such bring in tons of money, which makes any businessman eager to invest in the sinner”s paradise. And the people that are coming to Amsterdam have plenty of it, too, ready to spend it on the typical Amsterdam experience that many college kids keep hearing so much about.
If you want more complaints about the city, I have a couple more. It costs $1 to use a toilet anywhere in the city, there is not one decent meal under $10, and the canals have more bodily fluid in them than water. For those wishing to make a trip to Amsterdam, don”t let my experience talk you out of going, but keep it in mind: Sure, everything will seem wonderful and happy in this town after sucking down some good Afghani hashish, but when you come back down, reality will show you a different story.