Monday, March 29, 2010
Amsterdam part twee
Okay, back in Amsterdam. What is the first thing we should do? Travel to the red light district to check out the women of the night or find my gnome? Why not both?!
I know you find it surprising that I actually managed to do two things in one day; as I am prone to not rising until after 2pm. But I did. I got up at 9:30 am to receive my free Dutch-style breakfast. A meal very similar to the Continental, except the fruit (solid and liquid) are substituted with a hard boiled egg and ham & cheese. Then wandered off to find a business type centre (a place where you can use the Internet, print and fax all at the same time) to secure our rental location in Tel Aviv for the first week of the trip to Israel. After this, on the way to a coffee shop to have my daily fix of caffeine, I pass a market and catch the eyes of a gaggle of gnomes.
They are found intermixed amongst trash (or what some people call treasure), calling out with their sad eyes to be purchased. After viewing a few of them I saw the one I wanted. He was smoking a pipe in his right hand and holding a shovel with his left. He was obviously a gnome that worked hard but still enjoyed life. My type of gnome. But alas drinking coffee was the priority at this time and I left to consume copious amounts of coffee. After which I convinced myself that purchasing the gnome, even though I would have to lug him around the next three weeks through Israel, was necessary. As my first time around in Amsterdam resulted in no gnome purchasing, which saddened me considerably at the time. Mind you I never made it to a market the first time around, as of a result of me never rising before 2pm. But you know this story already.
Anyways, sorry for the ADD tangent. The point is, I bought the smoking gnome, and we got along great. Even the hotel manager where I was staying commented on the gnome purchase.
"You picked someone up while you were out?"
"Yeah," I laugh, "he was so cute I had to buy him."
The manager laughs. I start to think this dialogue, without the visual, could be understood as a man bringing a hooker back up to his hotel room (circa 1950s). Despite this attention and my eccentric nature, I decide not to take the gnome out for a tour of the red light district. After all, it is a 20-year old Dutch gnome, I'm sure he has seen it all before. So I leave him in the hotel room and he quickly situates himself on the window sill giving him a prime view of the canal. Which is fine, until he starts drinking my beer. When we got back 3 hours later, I found the gnome with a half-drunken bottle of Grolsch.
I didn't realize he was a drunkard; but then again, "smoking a pipe and working hard" is a gateway drug to becoming an alcoholic. The signs were all there, but it didn't matter, I was stuck with the gnome for the next three weeks. After which he will live with my other gnome on my balcony. The other gnome is Canadian...I believe the Dutch and the Canadian will get along just nicely.
Okay, enough about the gnome back to the other point of this blog post - the tour of the red light district. As most of my reader's know, I did not make it to the red light district on my first trip to Amsterdam. So I definitely had to go this time around. First observation, the red light district is exactly like the rest of Amsterdam except there are alive bikini clad woman offering themselves to you in the windows (not to be confused with Guess ads which are pictures of women offering themselves to you in windows). Second observation, there are more tourists milling about because of the real women offering themselves to men who have the mental likeness of prepubescent children. Thankfully it wasn't tourist season, so I could make my way down the street. Third observation, this is one of the only places in Amsterdam that has a McDonald's. Some would say a sign of a civilized society, i would say a sign of Western tourism-another form of world domination instead of war.
That was the extent of my observations this round. Didn't visit a sex museum and didn't visit a live sex show; I'm not interested that much in sex. So, we leave the liberated sex workers, to wander the streets of Nieuwmarket, a neighbourhood adjacent to the red light district. Some call it the ghetto, but I suspect this is only because the architecture is more modern than the 1600s style that dominates the old city.
In Nieuwmarket we come across some signage in the form of 8 foot tall letters spelling "I AMSTERDAM". How clever, if you aren't from Canada that is. Instead of a Molson's Canadian television ad, Amsterdam gets an ad in the form of public art. But not your typical type of art, this type you can actually engage with. People would spend up to 30 minutes climbing over the letters while posing for a friend's camera. The difference, from what we would experience in Canada, is in Amsterdam no one cared if people climbed on the letters. There were no signs telling them the risk of falling and breaking their head open, or prohibiting them from doing so because someone broke their head open once doing just that. Oh Canada, the risk adverse society. Pretty soon we will stop thinking for ourselves, and we will just demand that the government does so for us.
Fun fact. Where this public art ad is situated is the site where 400 years ago Amsterdam would conduct their public executions. Good times.
We have another coffee while viewing the public art ad and move on down the street. We end up on a corner where we are warned to look out for pickpockets. Finding the area not too sketchy, we sit down for a beer and take in the world of Amsterdam. Then we move onwards home, while passing another market, stopping for one more beer, and hitting the University's daily book sale.
Surprisingly the day did not end here, we went out to our favourite Indian restaurant in the Jordaan, known by me for their famed spinach, tofu and cheese dish (very good when needing to replenish the iron supplies), then picked up some more beers (since the gnome drank our last ones!). We then proceeded to drink in the hotel, when we got the idea in our head to see if a local bar was open. We honestly didn't think there would be since it was 1:30am and we were staying in the Jordaan (our favourite non-touristy Amsterdam neighbourhood). However, about a 7 minute walk away was a bar open until 3am with a smoke-easy upstairs. Heavenly! We stayed until three because we met some locals (a self-identified Ethiopian and German who had both been living in the A'Dam for the last 24 and 20 years respectively). I think that makes you a local? We chatted about Canada and its lack of dominance in the world political sphere. However, interestingly enough, both these locals felt Canada had no identity as a nation (as it was too young to have its own culture), while on the other hand, identified being Canadian as not-American. Kind of like Canadians do.
After our drunken discourse, we walk on home, and I sit and type this blog after 5am Amsterdam time, I think that is 8pm Canadian BC time (the day before). Tomorrow I begin another long journey, this time to Israel. Only at least this time I will be arriving at 2:30am Israeli time, just in time to go for a drink.