I think there are a couple of ways you can approach a trip to Amsterdam, and different types of people will do it in different ways. The first type of person is someone I imagine is quite refined, a classic tourist who wants to witness all that the beautiful city has to offer; learning about the vast and varied history of Amsterdam, discovering the beautiful walkways along the canals, bathing in the eclectic atmosphere which could only be created by such a precise balance of traditional and contemporary lifestyles.
And then there is the second type of person. These people are every country’s worst nightmare, and probably a large part of the reason why Europe secretly hoped Britain would leave the EU. You know the ones: they skulk the darkest corners of the city late at night, eager find a coffee shop to light up in, or catch a glimpse of one of the working girls in Amsterdam’s Red Light District.
Ahh… How I wish I was I could say was the refined type…
On the Friday, we arrived in Amsterdam looking like the typical tourist; tired and a little worse for wear, laden with unnecessarily large bags. However, that didn’t stop us from heading straight to a little coffee shop on the edge of the Red Light District called The Green House. Though slightly cramped, the atmosphere was friendly enough and we managed to get a seat at the bar despite our rucksacks taking up so much room. We bought two cokes, a pot brownie, and a reasonably priced pure CBD joint, to share. While the drinks were slightly over priced, that is something which is quite common of coffee shops and, unlike most places, buying drinks wasn’t compulsory. After about half an hour, we left feeling a lot lighter, and slightly more cheerful. We perused the alley ways and came across a Smart Shop (which is code for ‘Hallucinogenics Sold Here’). After some debating, we saw they had a product called ‘The Philosopher’s Stone’ and we were sold.
We hung around Nieuwmarkt for a while, before heading to our hostel which was near the Biljmer Arena, about a 20 minute journey on the underground. HostElle, is a beautiful and quirky all female hostel and I cannot recommend staying there enough. The have a 24hr reception, are always friendly and willing to help, and have a steady supply of free tea, coffee and pasta! I know, what more could you need ladies? Well, how about free sanitary items, because they have those too (#FeministHostelsdoexist). Each room at HostElle has a different theme and our was Pop Art, which was cleverly decorated with vibrant colours and wall murals.
Having said that, a wall mural of half a woman’s face is not what you want to be staring at when you try hallucinogenic truffles for the first time, as we did that first night. I can’t really explain why, but I just began to have this feeling that the ‘Wall Woman’ really didn’t like me. Her eye lashes kept on growing and shrinking and every time I blinked, she seemed to be getting closer. That was the start of a very unusual evening, which involved a lot of staring deeply at paintings, having conversations with people that weren’t there, feeling the weight of my own brain and being able to see all of the nerve connections within my own body. Although, I’d say I had a much better time than my friend who was convinced the shadows were trying to hurt her, and kept having to leave the room because ‘it just didn’t feel right’. Let’s just say, I won’t be trying any more of Amsterdam’s earthy delights again any time soon.
The following day, we continued on our downward spiral, sampling the delights of ‘The Bulldog‘, Amsterdam’s first ever coffee shop, and then aimlessly wandering the redlight district and surrounding streets, before making our way back to the hostel and satieting our ‘munchies’ with free pasta and crisps. I know, classy, right?
It was only after the events of Sunday night, that we realised our new way of life was not sustainable. Having decided to branch out, we stumbled across a comfortable looking coffee shop just outside of our usual hunting grounds, called ‘Bagheera‘ . Having noticed that their strongest strain of weed was ‘Amnesia’ I strongly suggested to my friend that we avoided something named after severe memory loss. She, however, managed to convince me that it ‘wasn’t that strong’ and ‘we’d be fine’.
We were not fine.
Having had about a quarter of a joint each, I started to notice it was becoming difficult to hear, and what I had thought was just a light tingling feeling, had morphed into a thousand bee’s wings beating horrifyingly fast under my skin. Air bubbles had formed within my eyes and it felt like I was looking through fog. That was the beginnings of an evening of walking miles around Amsterdam, and wondering how we came to find ourselves in unusual places. We could barely hold ourselves upright, but still we pressed on until we eventually made our way back to the hostel (by some miracle). It was at this point that my friend started to space out, and then came to inform me that she had been possessed. Yes, that’s right, possessed. Things only got weirder when we convinced ourselves that by wordlessly touching her forehead I had successfully performed an exorcism on her.
The novelty of getting high quickly wore off after that.
Giving ourselves the Monday to recover from our ordeal, we only briefly ventured from our hostel to visit the prostitute museum, an attraction that I would absolutely recommend; it was really eye opening as to the hardships that prostitutes face, as well as how they view their profession.
On the Tuesday we decided that we should probably do something else fairly touristy, so we went to the Amsterdam dungeons (because that’s not something you could do pretty much anywhere). The experience lasted just over an hour, and was good balance of humour, engaging actors, and well-timed jump scares.
That evening, we took our tourism down the ’18+ only’ route, and went to Casa Rosso, a sex theatre. It was definitely a surreal experience, with acts ranging from pole dancing to ‘the banana show’, and more. While it was definitely a ‘when in Rome’ experience, I wouldn’t say it was that enjoyable overall; it’s certainly a male orientated show and at some points you felt sorry for the performers as they didn’t seem particularly enthused to be there, and who can blame them- the show is open 7/8 hours every night!
Wednesday was our final night in Amsterdam, and we went on an evening canal cruise tour. On the tour it came to light just how much of Amsterdam we had yet to experience. It certainly has a rich history, and each little area differs slightly depending on its location and founding- era. I would really recommend exploring Amsterdam throughly if you ever go, as I know will if I visit again in the future.
Moral of the story: Tourism first, drugs later.