|We left Brussels on the sixth, more than a little sad to leave. We stopped at Le Perroquet for one last delicious sandwich, got one last delicious belgain waffle, and headed to the train station. The train to Amsterdam was three hours long; we were in the city by 6pm. Our hostel was literally across the street from the train station.
Now, before I go any further, I have to warn you: you will never, ever, encounter a city quite like Amsterdam. Ever.
We walked into our hostel and were greeted by sights we had never seen in such a public place:
People sitting on the floor, surrounded by pillows, smoking pot.
People at the bar, smoking pot.
People playing pool, smoking pot.
We checked in, dropped our luggage off in our room, and went back out to the common room. A guy came right up, introduced himself, and asked if we wanted to go down to the Happy Room and smoke a bowl with him. (Don't worry Mom, we declined.)
It's a liberated city, and that's all there is to it.
You can walk into a cafe, order a couple joints, and smoke them while you have a cup of coffee. You can order magic mushrooms like you'd order a McDonalds Happy Meal. You can smoke marijuana everywhere, except for public buildings like the train station and the library.
We saw the Red Light District during the day, which was an enlightening experience. There were women from 18 to 50, beautiful, plain, skinny, large, all dressed in next to nothing posing for potential customers in their windows. They looked bored.
Keep in mind, prostitution is a job, just like any other job in Amsterdam. There are regulations, health codes, taxes that are paid. The girls who work in the business have to be certified, and they have to get checked up for diseases at least once a week in order to keep their certification.
It's a very different atmosphere, and quite honestly, I loved the city. We met wonderful, interesting, generous and accepting people in Amsterdam. We made friends so quickly at our hostel that it made our heads spin. Everyone wanted to come out with me to celebrate my birthday, and even the biggest stoners remembered on Sunday morning to wish me a happy 21st.
People are incredibly generous with what they have. It sounds dysfunctional and a bit comical to the more conservative reader, but everyone shared their drugs with everyone. Ok, even I have to laugh at that statement. But it's true. And you won't meet more down to earth people anywhere. Everyone does their own thing, and respects each others' differences. For the most part, I liked what I saw.
We were both sad to leave Amsterdam, because we had met some unforgettable people and our trip was coming to an end. But it was a brilliant city to end the trip on, and I had a fabulous birthday weekend.
The flight home was ever so smooth, and we let out a big sigh when we got onto the 78 bus in Nottingham. We were actually coming home. What a trip.