Amsterdam Hotels Articles

June 26, 2010

Weird travel stories


Nov. 15. 7:45AM. Half hour into the early morning train from Amsterdam to Bremen by way of Osnabruck. It’s still dark out – evidently the sun takes its time coming up here this time of year. It’s rainy and chilly. The train is a bit late. Not as late as is the norm in England or Italy, but not near as punctual as the “Vee VILL make dem runt on time”- German trains usually are.

Half way through a business trip, I’ve just left Amsterdam after yet another couple day “field research” trip one of a number I’ve made to the City of Anything You Want over the last few years. I’ve had the opportunity to do research in many cities I’ve been to over the years, but probably none as in depth as the beautiful home of Van Gogh. It’s a city full of canals and houseboats, bicycles, tulips and souvenir wooden shoes. Old men playing chess in the plaza with 2′ tall Kings. Museums. Parks. Windmills. Prostitutes. Water taxis and trolleys.

And, of course, the ubiquitous “coffee shop.”

Amsterdam faces a dilemma. As part of the European Union, its “way of life” has been brought into the spotlight of the EU Ethics Watchdogs. Prostitution, generally legal throughout Europe, is more open in Amsterdam than just about anywhere in the world including Bangkok. Amsterdam’s Red Light district is world renowned and is probably the best organized of its type of “market” worldwide.

The “coffee shop” situation is one however, that lately seems to be bringing out the angst in the Amsterdammers. Most coffee shops in Amsterdam, and the rest of The Netherlands (from what I’ve been told, anyway) serve coffee, soft drinks and “other refreshments,” but don’t sell alcohol. More to the point, these other refreshments offered in coffee houses are marijuana and hashish. While it’s not quite legal to sell these substances in Amsterdam, it’s far from illegal. In the 70’s, when Amsterdam first “came out,” local proprietors could not just open shops to blatantly sell these products. “Pot Palace” or “The Hash House” would not cut it for establishments that were walking a very new fine line. So they presented themselves as purveyors of coffee, a nice catchall that worked better than a wink of the eye or signs advertising “Joint Rolling for Dummies.” As time went by, some of the local establishments that did have alcohol licenses started selling these party goods as well. Eventually, the Dutch government made it a rule that new establishments can get a license

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