The Christian status of our youth hostel had never seemed more painfully obvious than when we stumbled back to it on the second night of a short trip to Amsterdam. After you’ve taken advantage of one of the city’s coffee houses and giggled your way through the Red Light District, knocking on the door of a hostel that offers daily bible discussion is just a tad guilt inducing. However, in truth, it’s just part and parcel of the Amsterdam experience: where the cultural stands beside the carnal, and cannabis simply helps to mute the contrast.
In the culture department, Amsterdam has much to offer. The Van Gogh museum boasts the largest collection of the artist’s work in the world; organised chronologically so that one can attempt to understand the disintegration of his sanity through the changing mood of his paintings. Home to Rembrandt and Vermeer, the Rijksmuseum is similarly impressive, even if its current restoration does mean that only the crème de la crème of the masterpieces are on show.
…their mammoth apple pies are incredible as well…
For me, however, it was Anne Frank’s house that pulled at the heartstrings and sparked my imagination. As we scrambled up the narrow staircase that gave way to her secret home her diary, and heartbreaking story, instantly came to life.
After a visit to Anne’s house, feeling decidedly gloomy, we hit the chip shop. It might be a bit of a jump from Frank to Frites, but it’s Amsterdam and nobody’s judging. Besides, these double-fried, mayonnaise covered delights are a cultural exhibit in themselves. The Netherlands might not be too inspirational in the culinary stakes, but if there’s one thing they do know about, it’s chips (and while we’re on the subject of coronaries, their mammoth apple pies are incredible as well).
…sample some of this city’s tolerated delights…
Talking of guilty pleasures, it’s about time Amsterdam’s Sin City title was addressed. At the risk of stating the obvious, it’s not a new pair of Nikes that most young male visitors are after when they say they’ll be doing a “spot of window shopping” in the Red Light district. Neither will a nice cappuccino and a piece of cake be on the list of priorities for those attending coffee houses. Oh no, Amsterdam can be a drug-fuelled, alcohol-hazed, sex-driven rollercoaster of a holiday for anybody who is so inclined. However, for those who are just itching to sample some of this city’s tolerated delights, you better move quickly. From January 2013, it will be illegal for Dutch coffee shops to sell marijuana to foreigners; a move that many fear will lead to a decline in city tourism.
There is probably no other place in the world that can indulge the human mind more than Amsterdam. After the wholesome desire for intellectualism has been fulfilled, sometimes we just need to satisfy that giggling teenager within all of us. This is where the city’s red tinted, smoke hazed side comes in to play. Of course, if you want that feeling of naughtiness without the drugs (or the naked ladies) then just dig into those bloody good double-fried chips, with an extra squirt of mayo. Go on, you’re in Amsterdam.