After being in The Netherlands for a month and a half I finally made it to Amsterdam. My ESN group organized a day trip to explore the city. Currently there is a great deal on train tickets where with at least four people a group rate is offered for a same-day return ticket. Nine of us went on the excursion which made it so we each only had to pay a little over €6 to get to Amsterdam and back. We got into Amsterdam in the early afternoon and started the day off with some pancakes.
From there we made our way to the iconic “I Amsterdam” sign. On the way we passed the Anne Frank Huis, the line was far too long to attempt to go inside but I fully intend on doing so in the near future.
From there we took a break in the park behind the Rijksmuseum before deciding to tackle the shopping streets. The amount of shopping in European cities doesn’t cease to astound me, and if I had money to spare boy would I go to town. However for the foreseeable future I will be content enjoying window shopping. We also had the opportunity to see the flower market which makes me so excited for spring to officially arrive.
I got a kick out of this, the bathroom has its very own store
We ended the day with the Red Light District. This was an interesting experience for me, having grown up somewhere highly conservative I’m not accustomed to such liberal views on sex. It was comical for me to think about people back home who speak about how much Las Vegas offends them for that reason. Let’s just say, Vegas got nothin’ on the Red Light District. The first thing we did once we hit De Wallen was explore the Red Light Secrets museum. They had some very interesting exhibits and I would definitely recommend people to check it out. They show a video that gives you an idea of the economics behind prostitution; like how the laundromat, cafes, and hardware stores profit. You have the opportunity to read a couple of women’s stories who have been in the business. They tell the side of regret from being involved in prostitution as well as the side of a woman who enjoys it. You learn facts about prostitution like how big the business is throughout The Netherlands, how much money a woman actually makes, and how many women are in it willingly. You can take pictures in the window under the red light. There’s more to the it, but specifically there were two really powerful experiences in the museum. One was a spot they had set up where you sit down in front of a screen that makes it appear as though you’re looking out a window with people passing by. Women rushing by then men stopping to stare, laugh, and point at you. It shows you what it must feel like- to be like an exhibit at the zoo. The second powerful moment of the museum was learning how few women are in the business willingly. In my opinion, if a woman truly wants to be in the business and is happy with it (which this is the case for some) then go for it. However it breaks my heart to think of the mass majority who have been forced into it or are unhappy and don’t know the way out. How often people have been human trafficked, or had their passports taken away so they can’t leave, I can’t put into words how tragic that is. I couldn’t think about much else when we left the museum and walked pass the windows lit with red, wondering which of these women were in it for themselves and which have no way out.
All of that said, it was a good experience for me. I am striving for experiences that open my eyes more and put me out of my comfort zone. I want to be aware of the world outside of my own, to not be restricted or close-minded. What better way to achieve that than to explore the most liberal city in the world.
Most of our group stayed in Amsterdam longer than three of us who left around 8pm. We got dinner at the train station and headed back home. I got a kick out of my dinner, pasta take-out.
Something I found really neat was how much Amsterdam reminded me of Groningen. Although more touristy, a lot bigger, and a significantly larger population, they really are very similar. With the canals, shopping streets, architecture, Red Light District (there is one in Groningen as well but on a smaller scale), coffee shops; Groningen is somewhat of a mini-Amsterdam.
Here are some etcetera pictures of my day in Amsterdam
“The use of traveling is to regulate imagination by reality and instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are.” -Samuel Johnson