Stoont Als ‘n Garnaal
September 2, 2011
Stoont Als ‘n Garnaal
We spent our final day in Amsterdam mostly just walking around the canal-lined narrow streets of the central city. The city is alive with activity and you really have to be on the constant look-out for the literally thousands of bikes that are zipping around everywhere. In addition there are numerous buses and trams and even the occasional car or taxi that you need to account for, in a city that is known for its laid back vibe- there certainly is a frenetic pace on the streets.
We made a last pass through the Red Light District that is home to many coffee shops, bars, legal prostitutes, hemp and ‘schroom shops (smart shops), live sex shows and other sundry establishments. If this were found in the average American city, it would be set in some seedy and undesirable area, but here in Amsterdam it is not only in the center of the city completely out in the open, it is actually a tourist destination.
The district is packed with all manner of people, couples, families with kids, bachelor and bachelorette parties were prevalent as well as many, many young college age kids who you might expect to find in any college town anywhere. In spite of the somewhat sordid nature of many of the places, there is an almost festive atmosphere –like a Disneyworld for adults.
Kathy & I certainly don’t condone drug use of any kind, but in the name of research, we did check out a few of the coffeeshops, which are actually pretty cool places to hang out. They all seemed to have the mellow vibe that you might expect, but with the exception of the funny smell and hyper-relaxed vibe of most of the clientele, you might think that you were in a comfortable bar or café anywhere.
The Dutch have an expression, “Stoont Als ‘n Garnaal” which translates into “Stoned As a Shrimp” and there seemed to be no shortage of followers of this philosophy filling the coffee shops day and night.
Drugs are only one of the draws of the Red Light District, Sex is the other. Literally hundreds of scantily clad women selling themselves in small glass doorways can be found throughout the district. And many men, and a few women, troll the streets window shopping until they find one that suits their fancy, all right out in full public view. There are also any number of places offering live sex shows, x-rated movies and selling all manner of sex paraphernalia. None of which we visited.
We did though venture in to yet another of the many world-class museums that can be found in Amsterdam, the Sex Museum. The Sex Museum is located in the heart of the Red Light District and features four stories of exhibits on all manner of sexuality. I was worried that it might just be a crass x-rated sort of peep gallery, but was pleasantly surprised to find it much more interesting than I might have guessed. It featured a fascinating collection of sex-related exhibits with artifacts dating back thousands of years, displayed in a manner much more educational and far less titillating than we expected.
On a far more serious note, the last museum we visited while in Amsterdam was the famous Anne Frank house. The house located a short walk from our hotel on the Prinsengracht canal was the hiding place of the young Jewish girl, her family and four others during World War II. The young girl wrote her famous diary while they were in hiding in the secret annex at the rear of the house from the Nazis during the war. Ultimately betrayed, Anne and all those in hiding except her father Otto died in German concentration camps.
The house is now a moving museum where visitors can venture into the cramped living quarters where the family and friends hid out for over two years. The furniture has been removed, but otherwise the annex is pretty much just as it was when the family was captured, even the pencil marks on the wall where Otto Frank tracked the growth of his daughters are still visible. It was a solemn yet ultimately reaffirming way to conclude our wonderful visit to Amsterdam as the museum is now a moving tribute to those killed via genocide and a message to the more than one million visitors a year to hopefully bring light to stop and prevent these sorts of horrors now and in the future.
Sex Museum Amsterdam
Anne Frank House