I was in the Netherlands visiting E last weekend and we popped up to Amsterdam for a night. The title is because I didn't want to call it "Amsterdam" and red lights, hookers and canals featured rather a lot. We did do some other cool stuff though!
We started off with a bus ride to 'S-Hertogenbosch - try saying that out loud! Conveniently called Denbosch for short which is much more pronounceable.
|Hard to see but there are a bunch of bridges seen through each other.|
|We were still immature and giggly at this point.|
|E got a fright when the eyes on that butt suddenly blinked at her!|
|A penis bowl as far as I could tell.|
|Don't you wanna be this chick?|
|Most forms of fetish were covered, I won't include all here.|
|I have somehow managed to accumulate two photos of me with model penises this year - the other was a bucking bronco version in Vegas.|
|I particularly liked this one!|
The next day we grabbed some bread and coffee and had a canal-side breakfast. We hit up the flower market before going on a walking tour of the city.
|Sadly limited flowers heading into winter.|
|Very cliche Amsterdam photo - canals and bikes.|
Quick history: It began as Amsteldam in 1200 in the province of Holland. It had a large number of protestants and merchants which the King of Spain (also King in the Netherlands at that time) didn't like so much leading to the 80 Years' War. However, as they are merchants they actually preceded the war selling arms to the Spanish. They won and in 1688 became one of the first republics. The city was very rich at this point however, as we all know "mo money, mo problems" and there was a lot of corruption. Napoleon turned up and ruled for 20 years from 1795. The city was devastated. They sat out of the first World War for this reason and tried to sit out of the second but got invaded by Germany instead. This was incredibly depressing and led to the hippie "Make love not war" attitude that the city now has.
On which note: hookers. It costs them 100 euro a day to rent the window and Dutch law requires they don't sell for cheaper than 50 euro/15 minutes which is the standard price. They range in age from 18 to 76 and as we all know prostitution is legal in the Netherlands! (Also in NZ so no big shock for me and E). There is actually an old church in the red light area that used to have a practice where sailors, who were often very short on time when they got land leave, could repent their sins in advance and pay a little money to the church of course. This church is beside a kindergarten, a pub, and a brothel - shows some of the diversity in Amsterdam!
As we all know the Dutch are pretty keen on biking: Amsterdam has about 800 thousand people but around 1.2 million bikes!
Around 5 or 6 people a year die from falling in the canals, largely during winter and largely drunk male Brits according to our guide.
Many of the houses have hooks at the top used to winch items up - if you've ever seen a Dutch staircase you'll know why - and many of the houses also lean forward slightly to avoid smashing windows while transporting the goods.
The entire west side of the country was created by draining the water from the land. This was done using windmills which is why the Netherlands is known for them. The local airport's name translates to "Graveyard of Ships Amsterdam International Airport" - this because it didn't used to be land.
During WWII so many of the houses in Amsterdam were destroyed by the Dutch themselves to use as firewood that the Canadian liberators asked if they had been bombed.
The Netherlands actually settled New York first and named it New Amsterdam, they eventually traded it to the British for $700 and Suriname.
Marijuana is actually illegal in the Netherlands but the Dutch legal system has three tiers dealing with it - the lower two allow for set amounts to be carried and sold within the country.
The current King is known as the Beer King and has an Argentinian wife. He's not very popular but she is - her first introduction to the Dutch people was a video of her drunkenly dancing on a table!
All of the above information (with the exception of the Dutch law, courtesy of Eleanor) was provided by our guide on a 3 hour tour, so if some of it is wrong - his fault! In any case it's generally entertaining.