Amsterdam

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The first time we visited Amsterdam city we realised that parking was a major, and didn’t get a chance to really explore. So second time round we park at the Zeeburg Park and Ride, (conveniently in the streets around there they offer free parking) and catch the tram in. As we have come to expect in The Netherlands… It’s raining, but we suck it up, buy a bright orange umbrella and start exploring. The first thing we do is buy some food. Dan goes for a pickled Herring in a bun.

photo For 1 Euro…

And I go for a waffle with chocolate ice cream! For a whopping 8 euros.

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Amsterdam is expensiiiiive!

While we were in Berlin we attended a few free tours, one of the city and one of the graffiti culture… both were fantastic and encouraged us to attend one in Amsterdam. We went on a 2pm tour called New Amsterdam , run by Sandeman, who also do New Berlin tours. The tour guide will kindly tell you at the beginning of the tour that YES the tours are free, but this is his/her job and any ‘tips’ are at your discretion and kindly welcomed…

As we begin the tour we are told the ‘toleration’ rules which can be seen throughout the tour. According to our tour guide The Netherlands TOLERATE  almost anything as long as it abides by three rules. It’s

1) Discrete

2) Doesn’t hurt anyone

3) and is good for business

We keep this in mind as we head towards the Red Light District.  We are guided through the history of how the red light district came to be- When Amsterdam was overrun with sailors. (To be brief) Contrasting to how it functions today, as a paid, taxed, and cared for profession. Interestingly enough, in the next couple of years the Amsterdam Red Light District will be shortened to just two streets- at the moment its around 5-6. As we walk down the beautiful, winding, cobble stoned streets small pieces of art pop up…

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The oldest Condom store in Amsterdam. The KING of condoms.2015-05-11 12.39.00

And moving down towards the multiple, luminous red doorways. Amongst the red doorways stand “SEX STORE” after “SEX SHOW”after “LIVE SEX SHOW”, really emphasising what Amsterdam makes its money on. Aside from the exhibitionism red light district prides itself on, this area of town is very pretty. The canals lined with houseboats, the pots of flowers, bikes lining the bridges, music wofting through the air… It’s a strange contrast of sights, sounds and smells.

Then to the story of the ‘Coffee Shop’s.” A shop where you can buy and smoke marijuana in multiple different ways. You can’t drink alcohol at these venues, and usually you have to buy a drink of some description.

We are brought back to the Tolerance rules. Coffee shops are NOT legal, you can not LEGALLY smoke marijuana in Amsterdam… however, it is TOLERATED. Interestingly enough, our tour guide mentions that most Dutch people don’t smoke marijuana, it’s not seen as cool, and the red eyed people wandering the streets looking for munchie food are tourists! (The Netherlands actually has one of the lowest marihuana smoking percentages in the world… New Zealand on the other hand… )

We visit The Bulldog. The first Coffee Shop in Amsterdam… Now a massive chain, offering traditional Coffee Shops & Bulldog restaurants.

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The tour covers a range of historical events, from Anne Franks house (Any attempt to visit would’ve written off an entire day- The ques were SO LONG) to the story of why Amsterdam has such narrow houses- Turns out there used to be a tax on the width of your house… so the houses here are extremely narrow but extend back.

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And the tour ends on one of many picturesque canals, leaving us to soak up the sun.

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But not before we see a mobility scooter racing a horse and carraige.

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And have a tourist snap.

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And find my dream bike. Check out that comfy seat! 2015-05-11 14.45.12

Final views on Amsterdam. Beautiful, relaxing, and interesting yet dark and dirty and touristy.

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