Today was an eventful day. Without a manual in front of me I cannot even begin to recall even half the names of all the place we visited. The day started with me waking up before 6:00 am--go figure. We left the house around 10:00 am, after Kim emailed a client and we ate some crackers with cream cheese. I hopped on the back of her bike and rode to a bike shop where I rented a bike for 18 euros/day. I'll have it for 2 days--the euro is currently ~ $1.38.
We rode into town and went to the Ann Frank house. The line was too long and I decided that going inside was not worth waiting for. We continued to ride around the city and made several stops throughout the day. It had begun to rain early in the day and continued most of the day. We visited the train station, which was near where the free ferries came to take you to various parts of the northern region of Amsterdam.
Kim biking in Amsterdam, Netherlands
We visited many of the 'squares' and stopped to walk through the main shopping street. The atmosphere was simply amazing. There was so much in this town, but at the same down it felt very small and cozy. Everything had character, something I felt London had lacked significantly. Amsterdam was/is truly unique. With the the exception of this one street most of the city lacked an aura of commercialism--something which engulfs the US. Small bakeries, cheese shops, tulip stores, mom and pop restaurants, etc.
Kim had shown me the Palace, which was in a sqaure just next to Madame Tussaud's. The city had been rennovating the Palace for nearly a decade and it was finally open. We took an audio walking tour which lasted 1-1.5 hours. It was so beautiful inside. It's amazing just how old some things are outside of the US.
|Seed store in Amsterdam, Netherlands|
We stopped for lunch at one place that translated to 'Cafe Hooker', but they only served coffee and pastries. Right next to this place was the first prostitute I saw--a heavier black women sitting down messing with her phone. She couldn't have been more bored. I didn't see the red light district at night last night (it's the morning of the 4th right now), but I plan to see it tonight. We walked nearby and went to a lunch place where I got a chicken club. By the time we finished the weather had gotten a little better, but it didn't last long.
During lunch I began to miss the level of service that we get in the states. I had to track down someone to take my order and then again for the check...however it is nice not having to pay ANY more than what the original menu had stated--to tax or tip.
|Looking down a canal in Amsterdam, Netherland|
Kim is writing me an email with a list of things that we did/saw for each day I was here...I will repost this blog with that info. During our bike ride I had stopped to take a look a a seed store--here they sell loose, femanized, marijuana plant seeds. There were laminated menues with pictures of mature plants next to the price of the seeds. Some were being sold in a package of 3 seeds and some were in larger packages, as large as 25 seeds. The prices were around 33 to 80+euros (~7-20 euros apiece). If you look online and buy seeds that way the prices are comparable--I imagine seeds are much cheaper in the 'less traveled areas'.
We passed the sex museum, which Kim said wasn't done too well. By the looks of the front it just looked like a giant tourist trap. Furthermore, the street with this museum was, according to Kim, voted the ugliest street in Amsterdam--becuase of all the tourist shops. They did have some tulip shops, food vendors, and at least one circus game. The game was to pop-a-balloon pinned to a bullseye using a 'life-sized' bow-and-arrow.
|Tulip market in Amsterdam, Netherland|
As the day progressed and it began to get dark, which is does here pretty early--compared to Africa--lights began to light up the city. The lights were put up for winter and are placed over/along the streets--what a magical time to come to Amsterdam.
At the tulip market they had bins and bins of bulbs and were sold, according to Kim, very cheaply. 5 tulip bulbs for 2.5 euro. I'm not sure how much they are in the States?
We checked out the front of the Marijuana Museum--I decided not to go. Like everything else tourist-related in this city it was quite expensive.
We rode around some more, parked/locked our bikes, rode some more, locked up our bikes, etc... It was nice having the variety of walking and riding. We really covered alot of ground this way. We walked down the 'gay' street in Amsterdam--it was nothing special. A bunch of gar bars that were closed as it wasn't quite 'party time'. Just after lunch we walked down Chinatown, which is also only one street. There were a few 'all you can eat in 1hr' restaurants that charged 8.30 euros. We also went into a Chinese Temple, the only one in the city.
There seemed to 'Coffee Shops' all over the city, but were more heavily concentrated in certain areas. There are young guys, and some girls, mostly in larger groups near the entrances of these shops. Marijuana is only sold by these Coffee Shops. You can buy as much as 5gm (~28.3 grams/ounce). This is one and a half eighths, or 3/16s--which is quite a bit. In the states an 1/8 of 'good' pot will run $60, but these prices are probably a few years outdated ;). I asked Kim to take me to a 'touristy' coffee shop becuase I wanted to experience what most people did when they came to Amsterdam. There were tables outside. It was dark inside. Tables where everywhere. There were benches, side rooms, and even a bar. The bar did not serve any alcohol and only a few food items. I think it's wise not to serve much food. The coffee shop makes its money on the pot and they would rather get people in and out and not have groups taking up a table to order 'low margin' food items. Across from the bar there was a man standing in a movie-ticket-style booth. He was behind a cash register and on the counter in front of him was a laminated menu. There were several sections--pre-rolled joints, joints mixed with tobacco, loose pot, and assessories. Rolling papers were 1 euro and a crappy lighter was 2 euro. That's over $2.50 for a lighter, fuck! What a perfect demonstration of the concept 'supply and demand'. I wanted to 'experience' Amsterdam, but am not really the 'pot-head' type. Also, my friend does not smoke--not for moral/ethical reasons--just becuase she's just not interested. This seems to be the overall impression I have inferred from the Dutch. I didn't want to get alot and looked at the menu for pre-rolled joints. It is well-known that the pre-rolled joints are relatively weak. I think the shops/government tries to keep it this way. People that are not used to smoking pot will most likely not be experienced enough to roll their own joint, thus newbies are likely to order the weaker pre-rolled joints.
I asked the cashier which, of the pre-rolled joints, was only Sativa. Indica plants are easier to grow, grow faster, and are more common--however most currant strains are hybrids between Sativa and Indica plants (most leaning towards having a larger Indica proportion). Of all the pschoactive components of Sativa bud there is a higher proportion of THC when compared to the bud of Indica, which has a higher proportion of CBD. THC provides a 'high' that can be described as a 'mind high' and 'energizing' whereas CBD provides the more typical 'coach lock' experience that is the oft-used element charecterizing the steriotypical 'stoner'. Furthermore, THC oxidizes and breaks down into CBDs. The cashier showed me a package of 4 joints that was only Sativa--the cost 12 euros. All prices were under 20 euros.
|At a coffee house in Amsterdam, Netherland|
The menu had the names of the strains, the quantity, and their price. The joints I bought contained 0.4 grams each--this is an extremely small amount to smoke in a joint form. In the states, if smoking this quantity, a small bowl or 'chillum' would be used. Anyways, I bought a lighter and a small iced tea for my friend, since she was keeping me company. We grabbed a table in back across two other people--also tourists--and I lit up. It was harsh and very week. Actually, I didn't get a lighter until the couple across from us left. I had asked them for a light initially. I asked the guy to take a photo of me and Kim. We also talked a bit. I told him my joint kinda sucked and he offered me a drag of his. He had rolled it just as we were sitting down. He handed me the lit 'J' with a huge grin on his face. "This is very nice" he said to me indicating how strong it was. He had mentioned the name of it to me, but I don't think I ever really heard it. He kept on stressing how strong it was. The Coffee Shops sell two types of pot. Normal, which is usually pre-rolled, and High Grade, which is loose bud. I took one huge drag and was pleasantly surprised by the mouthful of flavor...very fresh indeed. This was magnitudes above what I had been smoking in terms of potency and within 2 minutes I knew this to be the case.
The experience and memories I formed over the next several hours will stay with me forever. Talking to my friend in the Coffee Shop, the beautiful bike ride along the lit-up streets, the crisp air, the city noises--the experience seemed as though half a dozen of the world's best movie producers got together and created a movie montage of lifetime. When I travel (or just live my daily life) I always look to the future and have trouble living in the present--even when I try with all my efforts. Later I look back and contemplate, "why didn't I embrace that more", or "I wish I had taken that experience in more slowly", and "I wish I could relive that part of my life". Well for the first time 'in a long while' I was living in the moment and it felt magnificant. The air was no longer a nuisance, it was life. The imperfections in the road were no longer uncomfortable bumps, they were jolts of energy.
Once we got back to Kim's house we locked out bikes in front and met up with Oliver. We decided to walk to dinner. We had reservations at 8:00. It took us 20-25 minutes to walk to there. It was raining a bit and the wind was very strong. Kim broke her umbrella en route.
At dinner I ordered pork belly and a Heineken...for dessert I had a slice of cheesecake. Even though it had been 3 hours since I had smoked I was still very much stoned. I was beginning to get very tired. We got back to Kim and Oliver's apartment and watched some TV. I was falling sleep while sitting up so I went to bed and was passed out the moment my head hit the pillow. From 11:30 at night until 10:15 the next morning I was out like a light.
Also, during the day Kim took me to her University and to its attic where she said she wrote her Master's thesis. The university had so many PCs--I was shocked since my school had mostly Macs (except for the engineering students). I asked Kim about this and she told me it was becuase Macs were too expensive. The attic had a spiral staircase leading to an even more remote workspace. There were thick, 12"-18", wooden rafters throughout the place. It was very 'Harry Potter'. I asked Kim how old this place was and she said it was built circa 1550--that's almost 500 year ago!
|Just outside the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, Netherlands|
Kim helped me itemize what we did today, and it's listed below:
Day 1 (Friday)
- started off renting a bike
- went to the Anne Frank house (but didn't go in because the line was too long)
- cycled through a neighbourhood called the Jordaan
- cycled to the back of Central Station and saw the free ferry's to amsterdam north
- front of central station
- dam square
- palace on the dam square
- lunch on a square called New Market
- visited a Chinese Buddhist temple
- walked a little in the red light district by day
- went to the attic of the location of my studies at the University of Amsterdam (where I wrote my Master's thesis)
- walked around in the main shopping street called Kalverstraat
- went to a small courtyard called Begijnhof
- went to the Flowermarket (or Bloemenmarkt in Dutch)
- went to the Rembrandtplein (or Rembrandt square)
- bought and smoked pot at a coffeeshop on the Leidseplein (or Leidseplein square) called The Bulldog
- cycled underneath the Rijksmuseum when it was dark and cycled through the Vondelpark back home
- had dinner at a restaurant in our neighbourhood, we walked over there through the Rembrandtpark that's in front of our apartment building