Kolby Did Amsterdam: Coffeeshops, Sex, and… Anne Frank

Amsterdam is a funny place for people who can categorize themselves into either (or neither) of the following: 1) You have no soul, or 2) You don’t care for your soul, or 3) You’re a history buff and you like beautiful cities.

Well, that soul stuff may be a little over-dramatic. Extremely, in fact.

You’ll never see such a religiously perfect place so overrun with joy, villainy, and wholesomeness. So much to stare at. So much contradiction. It really was Christianity at its finest. A playful Gomorrah.

The reality of the city is that the facade is simply that. Sure, you can smoke pot whenever you want and women show off their holiest holes like they’re a Chinatown motel advertising its VA(C)ANCY, but give yourself one day of walking around and taking it all in and you’ll realize that it just doesn’t… matter.

Amsterdammers don’t care. (I’m sure they don’t even care if Amsterdammers is the proper term.)

The Dutch don’t care. Tourists go on journeys and pay for by-the-foot history lessons of coffeeshops. In those shops — and those tourists enter them — a thick vapour of evil smoke buzzes permanently over your head. When you sit in there and a group comes in, they look at you with the kind of envy only virgins could have. They judge you a little, but they want to be you so damn bad.

The grungy shops with Jamaican flags and skulls on the doors sell pot right to you there, and they’ll sell you special muffins and brownies for a decent price, too.

It’s all in front of you, and you can’t help but feel a little dirty the first time.

You feel sticky.

You learn quickly that, if you become fixated or even surprised by the topic or presence of both recreational narcotics and in-your-face prostitution, you’re just lame. Lame. A jerk. Aren’t you?

De Wallen - Red Light District in Amtserdam_Fotor
Photo: Wikimedia Commons (enhanced with Fotor)

By Day Two, it’s the fella who’s still laughing about the dames in those stripped down and squeegeed windows of the Red Light District or the one who’s still asking everyone whether they want to smoke every minute of every day who seems the most out of place. They still read like North Americans lost in a land they’re in but not a part of.

It gets worse when you go home.

“Oh, going to Amsterdam, eh? Did you smoke up?”

You hear that question for an hour, and then you’re snapping back.

“Yeah, you know what? I did,” you’ll say. “Get over it.”

(They’ll then wonder – aloud – what your problem is.)

At the heart of Amsterdam is something much richer and thicker than your closest Christian mothers’ group could imagine.

There’s history here. There’s Anne Frank’s House. There’s Van Gogh’s once worthless works of art and there are impressions left by Impressionists. There are pancakes and waffles and more chocolate than a year’s supply of Wonderbread could ever need. There are cobblestone roads and windy streets and bikers who don’t care about your toes or, sometimes, your head, brain, and stomach.

There are sundowns and there are rising ones.

It’s all in front of you, and only the worst of all possible nomads or enthusiasts would walk through the city without taking it all in. Soaking it all in.

And, of course, there are the Dutch.

While the French actually make an effort to not only not help but to then actually offend and hinder your happiness, and while Italians spend all day doing nothing of substance or importance and then preach to you that “You don’t know how to live,” the Dutch are completely content to let you have it your own way.

They are hard-working. They are fun, and they enjoy being fun. They keep to themselves. They are proud of their colours and their flag.

They don’t mince words. They don’t mince garlic.

They are content and they don’t feel the need to bother you or to waste their breath bragging about it.

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3 thoughts on “Kolby Did Amsterdam: Coffeeshops, Sex, and… Anne Frank

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