Despite being in a place where bicycles make love to the streets, and you have to actively try not to get hit by the steady flow of bikes, trams and random cars, first days in new cities are always overwhelming, and I usually choose to get lost by foot.
One advantage of being a pedestrian is the ability to pick up random snippets of conversations as strangers zoom by on their bikes. As I wandered aimlessly about the Grachtengordel canal belt, I heard the whir of wheels and voices approaching.
“Soo, I think we should smoke some weed…aaaannnnd then have some sex.”
A middle-aged, straight-laced-looking American couple whizzed by, oblivious to my listening ears. Awww, how sweet.
Aaah, Amsterdam. The city where it’s almost inconvenient to be a pedestrian, and flat-out ridiculous to have a car. The only city I am aware of who built a multi-tiered parking ramp for these beautiful two-wheeled, man-powered machines. The city of canals, cannabis and prostitution.
Of course this isn’t what Amsterdam is all about. I mean, it has Van Gogh and Anne Frank and the Rijksmuseum. It’s got Vondelpark and historic neighborhoods and culture. It’s got bikes! It’s also got the most infamous Red Light District and tiny, charming coffee shops where weed is on every other menu. And while weed and sex may not be ALL of what it’s about, I have no doubt for many folks booking a holiday to Amsterdam, it’s what the trip is all about.
Unfortunately, I didn’t do either of those things. Instead, I wandered about the ancient streets of Oud Zuid and through the maze of canals in Grachtengordel. I cultured myself in the Van Gogh Museum and took naps in Vondelpark. I explored the canals by boat, because, why not? I stood in Dam Square. I read chapters of The Goldfinch in the Musemplein. Dodged people and sculptures in Rembrandtplein. Mastered the tram. Enjoyed hostel happy hour. It was a good, relatively sober, definitely prostitute-less day.
But that was yesterday. Today? Today is all about weed and hookers.
And you can’t judge me. I’m in Amsterdam.