Down and Dutchy in the ‘Dam

Canals in Amsterdam

Canals in Amsterdam

There’s a small village of cobbled streets and canals somewhere in Europe with the name of Amsterdam. In this town, villagers scoot about on bicycles, clanging their bells at pesky pedestrians who stray or stay on their path.

Tiny shops sell small, select lines of goods such as three varieties of grilled sandwiches – and only that. Some streets are calm and quiet with plenty of trees and chairs for a moment of solitude, while others, are bustling with waves of people flowing to and from their vices of choice.

And the choice is plentiful. Amsterdam is a town that reflects the liberalised views of the Dutch people. Take one of the coffee shops for example. Here people ask you how you like your coffee… Milk? 1 sugar? 2 spliffs? Rarely do people actually come in for coffee when you can come in for an over-the-counter joint instead. Dutch businesses annually make mint-loads from tourists since marijuana was legalised.

Don’t pass on an opportunity to stroll through the colourful red light district, where legalised prostitution advertises itself at the windows. Picture a room that is more like a telephone box with a curtain. Inside this box is a woman. She comes in all shapes and sizes and the accessories are entirely optional. It’s almost like being in an inverted fishbowl as the ladies come forward and tap on the glass trying to get your attention. And sometimes they don’t use their knuckles to do the tapping…

But vices aside, Amsterdam has its charms with its emphasis on water, environment and village-style urban living. Traffic is efficient and varied and the Dutch are always willing to help out a foreigner. But for me, the masterpieces of Holland’s most eccentric artisan were one of its best attractions at the The Van Gogh Museum.

How could I not mention my favourite part about my Amsterdam arrival… the urinals at the Schiphol airport. Painted on to the porcelain are small black flies, strategically placed near the drain. Scientific studies, of whom the scientists must be very proud, have shown that men, given something to aim at tend to do just that – aim. So painting flies on the urinals has halved the cleaning bills of the Schiphol airport… Now there’s a research grant well deserved.

Travelers Tips:

After your arrival at the airport, DON’T catch a taxi and pay 40 Euros. Catch a train to Amsterdam’s Centraal Station instead, and then either a further taxi or streetcar to your destination for a total of about 5 Euros.

Stay at the Hans Brinker Budget Hostel for a cheap stay in Amsterdam. Enjoy their rather unique “It can’t get any worse, but we’ll try our best” advertising campaign, and of course the plastic cheese for breakfast. Get more details through

Posted on August 18, 2005, in Brazilianaire Vol. 1 and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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