Tuesday, October 18, 2011
GUS GUIDE: First-Time AMSTERDAM
Before anything else, did you know that "Holland" and "The Netherlands" are not one and the same? Surprising, huh? According to Archimon.nl (where i also got the map below), "Holland" is the former name for part of what is now known as "The Netherlands". The black part of this map is the current Holland, the rest of the map is not. Holland these days constitutes two out of a total of twelve provinces that make up The Netherlands.
Check out World Atlas for a more detailed explanation.
Of course, for tourists, it really doesn't matter so much; and we'll leave the technicalities to the locals and go our merry way.
1. Everyone speaks anglais.
You will be relieved to know that unlike the dear French, the locals in Amsterdam are all capable (and willing) of speaking English. In fact, they take pride in their ability to do so.
Knowing basic greetings in Dutch (especially if you are staying or going out with Dutch friends) is welcome, but not really essential.
2. Canal cruise is a crushing bore. Walk instead.
Most of the tourist attractions in Central Amsterdam are walking distance of each other, albeit a long walk at times.
A typical canal cruise lasts for an hour, with recorded commentary on board ("To your left is. . . .") which can be boring after the first ten minutes or so.
Whilst the house architecture is indeed lovely, it is a better use of time to walk and explore around on foot.
3. Visit the Anne Frank House. Visit the Anne Frank House. Visit the Anne Frank House.
For me, this is the one absolute must. Why? Simply because the evil that prematurely cut short the lives of Anne Frank and other Jews is still present in our world, and we must remember and never let it happen again.
4. There's a reason why it's called RED Light District.
Go ahead, and gawk, ogle, stare and salivate all you want over the girls at Amsterdam's infamous Red Light District. For the uninitiated, the girls rent these windows or glass doors per day, and attract customers by standing in various states of déshabillément.
The RLD is a safe place, even at night, mainly due to the sheer number of people curiously milling around and taking in the sights. Japanese tour groups (with the leader waving a small flag), present!
Should you desire to sample the goods, as it were, do steer clear of windows lit with blue lights. Why? Errr. . .i will quote from Amsterdam Advisor: "To indicate they [girls] aren't technically women, or born as such. They are transgenders, travestites. . ."
Caveat emptor, indeed!! :D
5. A coffee shop is not a coffee house, nor a cafe.
"Coffee shops" are places where anyone over the age of 18 can buy weed/hash/cannabis/marijuana, and smoke it right on the premises.
If you're not into smoking, there are "space cakes" (food products, such as muffins, brownies, etc., that have cannabis as an ingredient) available. Be aware, though, that these are 3-5X more potent that smoking marijuana, so you might get 'high' and hallucinate.
When in doubt, don't.