Relieved to be back at the hotel I started my usual preparations for that night. Listened to live-streamed UK radio 4, a discussion about nudity – its cultural history & changing meaning.
After downing nearly half of the vodka I was finally ready to hit the town. My new self-assurance that tonight had to be the night. This time I found the red light area with no problem. A narrow street led from the canal. I vaguely remember a couple of women, one typically blonde, perhaps mid twenties in the usual skimpy underwear. But she hardly got off her stool, since there as I reached the door approached someone dark skinned and considerably older. I can’t say whether she was black or mixed; her maturity was the main thing I noticed about her. I even asked her age and she told me 35yrs. Well, maybe she’d lived a hard life; many sex workers have, let’s be honest. In any case I doubt she was older than me. [A section of text has been removed for inappropriate content]
After exiting I realised I’d put my jacket on inside out, so dipped into a quiet side-street to correct it. As I strode to the end I nearly bumped into a group of lads at the intersection. I stepped back in to let them pass. But they instead turned towards me. One of them kicked me in the shin, and all three of them seemed to laugh at that. He hadn’t used much force but it was enough to be annoying after the initial shock. Surely they were on something; alcohol makes casual violence easy, and I felt the urge to search them out and be violent back (though thankfully I didn’t). I don’t see myself as the type to get picked on; I’m not big but at a glance I could pass for a middleweight boxer. It was the first time anyone has shown violence and it hasn’t put me off visiting dodgy places, which is probably inevitable with what I seek out. But then Amsterdam, for all its tawdriness, reputation for drugs, doesn’t feel like a threatening place.
The next and last day I returned to the city centre. It seemed a more gentile and tourist-friendly place, but still very crowded, mostly under 30s. I considered visiting another sex-worker, with 50euros still in my pocket. And maybe I would have done but for the lack of them at early afternoon. Difficult to know in the harsh light of day, albeit mildly intoxicated, whether I would have gone though with it.
Generally the rail system works well, but Amsterdam station could maybe do with a simpler information display. There are so many different types of train. Had to ask one of the staff in the end which platform. The return journey was by high speed back to Brussels. The most interesting part was when a couple got searched for drugs. A team including sniffer dog. This is passing through the Schengen countries so it’s a good opportunity for smuggling. They returned to their seat. Maybe just a bit of hash, not enough to warrant arrest but still hardly worth what they must have gone through.
In conclusion, Amsterdam is not somewhere I’d ever want to revisit. Maybe great if you’re looking to experience the weed, some tulips, or just the culture. Not (IMHO) the best place to visit for [text removed for inappropriate content]. Amsterdam’s very reputation, attracting millions of tourists, makes it seem over-hyped and caricatured. Perhaps a victim of its own success.
Surely there are many like me who discovered, or had it confirmed to them, that the idea of this city is better than the reality.
To read the complete version: Sin Cities (Amazon UK)