Friday, October 28, 2005
For the love of God we finally made it here. Living in Europe almost tallies up to two years of my life (a year and two months in Germany + 7 month semester abroad stint in France = 1 year 9 months), and I was starting to think I'd never make it to the Hedonist capital of the world. Conclusion: I'd go back for their Thai food, alone. See, Germany has this tendency to "Germanify" various types of cuisines much like the States has the tendency to "Americanize" foreign fare. Germany's tactic? Pouring a dump truck load of salt on your dish. You'd think they were preparing for a blizzard about to hit your Chicken Pad Thai. Good luck washing that down with your eye dropper-sized water. Regardless of whether it was Americanized Thai, Dutchified, or the genuine thing, I partook in the wonderful sweeter Pad Thai that I remember as my favorite dish at Raan Phad Thai in Nieuwmarkt.
This is just around the Red Light District. And what, really, is there to say about the Red Light milieu that hasn't already been said? My brief take on it is: it's the only place that packs in more sensory overload than Jungle Jim's. I had this idea coming into Amsterdam that the women would be in windows a level up from the street, which some were. Most, however, stood behind doors with windows, right smack on the street level. So you'd walk along a building and be literally inches away from them, just on the other side of the glass. Some posed, some picked guys out of a crowd and lured them with various sexual gestures (these women put the pro in prostitute), and others sat idly in their windows, mindlessly chatting away on their cell phones. They came in all shapes, sizes, and colors...with streets dedicated to various fetishes. I was slightly disappointed that there were no men in windows, be it for the female or gay population (and there is a gay district) as a sign that this truly was "the most open-minded" place in the world. I had never seen so many men (as varied as the women in the windows) in one place at one time. It was hard to figure out who was more interesting to watch.
The coffee shops were just as overwhelming. Enormous menus, delicious clouds, colorful people, and plain ol' disbelief. I wound up being disappointed enough in my choices that I found myself wishing even for college schwag.
The weather was so nice that we rented some bikes from Holland Bikes (the cheapest and least touristy-looking) and rode around the city and Vondelpark most of the time, only really making it to the Rijksmuseum which is 90% closed due to renovation. Probably one of Amsterdam's most overlooked landmark is the still functional Theater Tuschinski, the most beautiful cinema there ever was. Art Nouveau threw up on this place, inside and out. We caught the new Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (very funny) just to take in the atmosphere a little longer. Poor Aardman, though.
And lastly, a walk through the Jordaan neighborhood is highly recommended. With the exception of all the hub-bub around the Anne Frank house, it's a peaceful neighborhood with incredible architecture and shiny paint jobs. Whether craziness or peace, Amsterdam is truly a city of extremes. But you have to admit, the place has balance.