A German friend that studied abroad at my high school is now going to University in Holland, so I met her and a bunch of her roommates for brunch. It was so nice to see her again!! They all marched into the little white restaurant wearing super stylish outfits and each greeted me with a hug and a kiss on the cheek. Europeans are seriously so stylish! Some people are REALLY fashionable, some are just a little fashionable, and then there’s me that’s wearing a 60-year-old-man’s bright red Columbia fleece jacket because I didn’t expect to be braving the cold for this long. I can’t even begin to explain the expressions people make when they look at my Chacos. I’ve even heard people talking about them, IN ENGLISH (thinking I can’t understand them since we’re in another country), “Mom, what are those things?” “Ummm… I think like orthopedic sandals?!” But really, European style is top-notch… minus the Cheetah-print fur coats, purple lipstick, and high-heeled sneakers (all of which I will never agree with).
The cafe had cute re-furnished distressed furniture, matte white subway tile walls, big bouquets of sunflowers, and geometric class light fixtures. We ordered beet-root and turmeric lattes, carrot ginger soup, berry granola bowls, toasted goat cheese, grilled eggplant sandwiches, and some “energy” nut balls to take for later. After eating, we lost ourselves along the canals as many of the small streets look the same and don’t have many differing landmarks to watch for. We saw a “Floating Flower Market” on our map, which intrigued us, but once we got there we were rather disappointed. Instead of the fresh cut flowers we were imagining, the market mostly sold tulip bulbs and trinkets. It was quite the tourist trap, but we found some cute cacti, stroopwaffel, and vintage stores to peep in nearby.
My friend had free tickets to the “Heineken Experience,” so we figured we’d do free beer, then food, then call it a day. The tour was led by some staff members that told us about the beer-making process with funny little accents and similes. They took us through a horse stable where two of the girls with us started sneezing and coughing. Afterward, they both laughed as one mentioned she was allergic to horses and the other mentioned she was allergic “the stuff they eat.” A horse AND a hay allergy were flaring up at the same time during the tour. The fresh Heineken was delicious, and the tour was fun, but after attending the “Guinness Experience” earlier this summer, we thought this exhibition fell a little short. The Guinness factory was immaculate though, so it really sets the bar high for comparison.
We made some friends on the rooftop deck and talked with many people of different languages and cultures. That’s one thing I love about traveling–you get to experience so many cultures at once and everyone is keen on chatting. A few of the girls weren’t drinking, so me and my friend stole their free beer-tokens and ended up leaving a little toasted and hungry. We asked the hostess to recommend an inexpensive restaurant nearby and the “Spagetteria” was her favorite, so we went for it. It was neither cheap, nor nearby, but the food was great and there were cute baby boys flirting with us the whole time, so we were happy and amused.
I walked the girls back to their car-lot and we went through the Red Light District to get there. They’re all studying tourism at university and they said that the Red Light District is under a lot of scrutiny in the tourism industry because it’s pretty sad and controversial. They said a lot of the working girls are refugees that are either drugged out, or their pimps take their passports and threaten to not give them back unless they work for them. I’m not sure whether these things are always true (or if there are women that love what they do there), but regardless, it was quite sad. At least, sadness is the feeling I got when walking by. Under the red lights the girls danced, smoked cigarettes, drank red bulls and even sat texting on their cellphones. People pointed and laughed and stared, and it just felt wrong. The streets were mostly populated by men on stag-parties, but several tourist couples walked by as well. I saw several girls swat their boyfriends when his eyes lingered too long.
There are actually three of these districts in Amsterdam, the touristy one, and two off-streets with more “fetish” type of stops that most people don’t even know about when visiting. On the main tourist strip, all the girls looked the same: all very thin, pale-skinned with big fake boobs, caked on makeup, fake eyelashes and long fraying jet-black dyed hair. On the off-street, under the red lights were some grandma-aged woman, thick and chunky woman, some ladies that looked so wholesome and innocent that they were probably preschool teachers on their days off, and under the blue lights were the “lady boys” as my cousins called them (I think you can infer what that means)! I thought the worst part was that the streets were studded with steakhouses so once you got your fill of watching fake titties slide up and down the windows, you could sink your teeth into a juicy rare steak. Pretty animalistic in my opinion, and the symbolism is quite gross to me.
Alena Horowitz | Miss Potato