There’s simply no other city quite like it, and many have their reasons why. But I, unlike most people who visit Amsterdam was not there in search of Coffee Shop ‘Stones’ looking for the best weed to get me high as kite while I traversed the city, no, which would probably add to its surrealism. I was there on a cultural quest, which later hit me like a bombshell when I realized I was on the land of colonizers.
It comes as no surprise when you hear all sorts of interesting stories from people who have set foot in the city, since all that is considered taboo e.g. drugs and prostitution is legal in the city, so one can imagine all that goes down in such a place. But the government argues that it has an agenda of safety behind the legalization of certain businesses. Since you cannot utterly prevent people, out of free will, from doing what they want and for any means, let’s rather legalize it and ensure their safety. For example prostitution has been legal since the year 2000 and is quite a lucrative industry. In 2011 the BBC, in its article ‘Amsterdam’s prostitutes targeted by Dutch Officials’, estimated that the industry generates approximately 625m euros per year. Prostitutes in Amsterdam are taxpayers and it is considered as a real occupation. The Red Light District is where it all goes down, but not all is dirty. There is a prostitution museum, ‘Red Light Secrets’, where you go on a journey with different girls who share their story with you. There are sex shops too, anything sex related you will find at the Red Light District, which is huge by the way.
But it’s not all sex, drugs and Heinken, an internationally known beer that is manufactured there (see The Heineken Experience), and it’s not just another European city. As I have traveled in few but different parts of Europe I can’t help but note that they all have a different cultural experience, which makes sense because also different parts of Africa have their own unique experiences. Amsterdam is the only European city I can envision myself staying at, and most of it is because of their liberal nature.
I highly recommend going on city walk tours, in any city that you are visiting, even if it means taking your own strolls in the neighborhood, as stated in my previous article, become a local. Use their local transportation system and interact with locals as much as possible. It goes without saying that you have to join in on the canal cruises.
On the cultural exploration of things you just simply have to visit the two best-known museums: Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum and if you have time (which I did not) the Diamond Museum all of which are at the city centre.
Rijksmuseum: hit me like a bombshell. I was just amazed and angry at the same time at how Europeans have been able to preserve years of their history and culture. I was unsurprisingly angry and annoyed that our history was destroyed at their hands. This museum offers a lot of painting and artifacts, the most famous being that of Rembrandt (Nice Day For Night Watch). A tick goes for about 17.50 Euros an estimated R323,75. I rate getting involved in a guided tour is your best as it can super very busy and crowded, and you are able to extract as much information as possible. The museum is probably too big to explore all at once, especially if you are to examine each an every piece of art.
Van Gogh Museum: This was my highlight of my trip in Amsterdam. I never knew I could fall in love with an artist more than I did their art. Unfortunately you are completely prohibited from taking any pictures in this museum, but the Van Gogh’s narrative leaves you with just enough. The museum is nicely organized to his timeline, but not only that, in-between different periods of his art which are in different rooms, there are messages on the wall that inform you about what going on in the life of the artist. He was such a deep soul that I feel many people will resonate with.
Anne Frank Tour: if you know a bit of European history you will know that Amsterdam was the home of Anne Frank. Her diary is the second most sold book in the world after the Bible. The city commemorates their involvement and their losses due to World War II. Small golden stones imbedded on the ground throughout the city that account for almost all the deaths. They state who lived here, when and how they died during that period, which is truly remarkable.
You obviously have to visit Dam Square, the grand square dominated by the Royal Palace, and if possible Keukenhof flower garden for springtime tulips, they love their Tulips. I absolutely loved the people too; they were all kind hearted and helpful. I simply have to go back, for longer this time around.
by Nonhle Matsebula