Day #11,220: I always pictured nighttime in Amsterdam to be the breeding grounds of some very bad behavior. Evenings bathed in harsh red light, neon “XXX” signs flickering above, the air reeking of seediness (read: stale weed).
But somehow in my Hangover-Part-Four-style imaginings of Amsterdam, I had forgotten that Mr. M & I are not very good at very bad behavior… slap-on-the-wrist-level foolishness, sure, but we’ve never had a mug shot taken or started a bar fight or hotwired a car. If we’re being honest, I’ve never even been issued a traffic ticket.
The idea that Amsterdam’s red lights would lead me to stray that far from Goody Two Shoes Land was a little ridic.
Much more intriguing than a little puff-puff-pass at the local brown café was a stop for some of the region’s legendary waffles.
Troublemakers that we are, our next stop in Amsterdam was at a museum. The Rijksmuseum is famous for housing one of the largest collections of Rembrandts around.
I was particularly excited about this not because I like Rembrandt (sorry) but because my favorite childhood pet was a gray cat that my mother named Rembrandt… not because she liked Rembrandt, but because she believed a cat named after a famous painter would clearly be destined for greatness.
Unfortunately, Rembrandt the Cat of Greatness burned his candle a little too brightly at both ends and wound up hit by a car doing whatever epic neighborhood deeds Great Cats do.
It seemed right to honor both The Rembrandts with a trip to the Rijksmuseum.
Rembrandt the Painter is best known for capturing contrast in his artwork- the interplay between dark and light- which seemed only too appropriate for our nighttime jaunt through Amsterdam.
Embarrassingly enough, I was so hung up on sex, drugs, and The Rembrandts that I had forgotten about Amsterdam’s other defining feature: its stunning canals, which ring the heart of the city’s downtown and are simply magical at night.
Amsterdam’s gorgeous canals are kinda like those in Venice, but (shhh- you didn’t hear it here) secretly way better because they don’t smell like moldy sewage run-off.
The Dutch have engineered a system of locks that allows them to drain their canals and refill them with fresh sea water, thereby keeping the nasty Venice Stench away. Future generations of Crafty Dutch Engineers were even brought into New Orleans as consultants after Hurricane Katrina forced American engineers to rethink the city’s lock system.
After cruising the waterways, Mr. M & I decided to do a little window-shopping. In the red-light district, this is a euphemism for hooking oneself a hooker, but our pleasure was something a bit more tame. (Optional: see footnote below for a short essay on Why I Could Never Engage an Amsterdam Prostitute)
A little hot & bothered by all that tempting cheese, we decided to take in a vegetarian feast in the form of rijsttafel- which translates to “rice table.” Rijsttafel originated back when the Dutch occupied parts of Indonesia; meals composed of an insanely wonderful number of side dishes were adapted by the Dutch to allow visitors to sample a wide variety of the region’s foods.
There are tons of Indonesian restaurants that specialize in rijsttafel in Amsterdam, and almost all offer an herbivorous version. I was in Veggie Heaven.
To frame Amsterdam only in terms of its vices is to fall victim to a pretty serious case of Travel Stereotyping.
Sure the Dutch are a little less Puritanical than we stodgy Americans, but how can sex & drugs ever overshadow this?
Not. Even. Close.
Details of the Day… and an Uninvited Footnote Essay:
Waffles: The Americanized “Belgian” monstrosities served up rootie-tootie-fresh-&-fruity-style are the waffle equivalent of that embarrassing drunk uncle who gropes friends at family functions, and who the Amsterdam Waffles wish would stop showing up on breakfast plates and befouling the family name. The Best Waffles Ever in The World (if I’m allowed to claim this, having admittedly spent only a few days in the Netherlands) are served up from a nameless stand outside the Rijksmuseum. If it lends any credibility to my theory, I’m not the only one who believes this to be true: visit here for how to cook up your own version at home.
An Uninvited Footnote Essay: Why I Could Never Engage an Amsterdam Prostitute. By Miranda.
The next afternoon, we did explore the red-light district, and it scared the bejesus out of me. Not because I’m a prude. But because it’s a Well-Known Fact that mannequins are the third scariest human-like things on earth… third only to dolls (#1) and clowns (#2) and followed closely by mimes (#4). Because this is Well-Known Fact, I don’t even like walking by closed clothing stores because I’m always convinced those shadowy mannequins will suddenly come to life and murder me a la every horror movie ever.
Exploring Amsterdam’s red-light district consists of meandering through windy, dimly-lit, narrow alleyways, where the hookers stand verrry still posed in storefront windows, presumably so you can consider the wares before purchasing.
Allofasudden they’d shift their weight, and every friggin’ time I’d jump behind Mr. M and scream because it was like a horror-porn movie where sexy mannequins come to life to kill and/or seduce you and because the alleyways were so narrow that I kept jumping away from one sex-mannequin awaking to kill (or seduce) to realize I was standing directly beside another. The locals must’ve thought I was insane… or Amish.
I wish the real answer were a short and dignified: Because I Have Good Morals, or even Because We Didn’t See Male Hookers, but the truth is that both these reasons would be a distant second to Because It’s Obviously Fool-Hardy to Walk Down Streets Inhabited by Sexy Mannequins of the Living Dead.