A Walk on the Wild Side in Amsterdam

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red light district amsterdam
Amsterdam’s Red Light district was busy even on a religious holiday
Image: Wikimedia

I didn’t intend to end up in Amsterdam’s Red Light District. I had left the ship in search of a post office and some shampoo. After all, I have to keep my hair shiny and bouncy.

I struck out on the post office; as it turns out, May 21 is a religious holiday in the Netherlands, and all the government offices and many of the shops were closed. I walked a half-mile from the Cruise Passenger Terminal to the Central Train Station, where I found a shop that sold postage stamps but not shampoo. I asked the clerk where I could find a mailbox and was directed outside through the opposite side of the station.

The Bustling City of Amsterdam

Once upstairs and outside, I found not only the mailboxes but a city bustling with activity. I decided to explore. About 6 blocks away from the train station, I discovered an area about 20 square blocks in size, cut into sections by canals and lined with shops, restaurants, and bars. There were no “franchised” restaurants or shops here. No TGI Fridays, no Gap, no Banana Republic. Most of the shops were closed. I was disappointed that I couldn’t explore their goods; I was intrigued by their window displays.

amsterdam temple
At the end of the block was what appeared to be a very large Buddhist Temple. Image: Wikimedia

I turned a corner and found myself in the Chinatown section of Amsterdam. There was a tea shop that not only sold tea but would perform tea rituals for their guests; an Acupuncturist who offered foot massages to the weary; and a Chinese import shop. At the end of the block was what appeared to be a very large Buddhist Temple. As I walked toward the Temple, I looked down an alley and saw an area by a canal that was bustling with activity, so I turned toward the commotion.

I Couldn’t Quit Grinning

At the end of the alley, I turned left at a place called The Sailors Bar. The bar was very busy, even at 10 am on a religious holiday. From the bar wafted the distinct odor of marijuana. At the same moment, I heard someone knocking on the glass next to me. I turned to see, inside the display window, a woman wearing only lingerie who motioned for me to come in. WOW! Live underwear models! Who knew? Certainly not me. I looked down the street on each side of the canal to see similar displays lining the canal. Each window contained one or more mostly-naked women, all beckoning passers-by to come in for a closer look. Some men went in, alone or in groups. The women varied in age, size, and race. They waved and smiled. I smiled back. In fact, I couldn’t quit grinning. The incongruity of my being in Amsterdam’s infamous Red Light District struck me as profoundly amusing. I walked around with a stupid grin on my face. One rather large Asian woman wearing too much makeup opened a door and said to me: “Trickee? Trickee?” Who? Me? Tricky? I may be a smooth talker, but I’m not the least bit tricky. “No thanks”, I said.

Central train station Amsterdam
Central train station, Amsterdam
Image: Wikimedia

I found my way back to Central Station, thoroughly entertained but still without shampoo. As I entered the station, I saw a cosmetics store that I hadn’t noticed on my way out. And what a fine selection of shampoo they had! Let’s see; do I need “Extra Volumizing”? No; I don’t think it could volumize enough to do me any good. I guess this shop is too upscale for Head & Shoulders. They had a shampoo for bald, hairy European men, however: it was called “Back & Shoulders”. I skipped that one, too. Finally, I settled on a small tube of Nivea; and there was nothing tricky about it.

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