Amsterdam, First Impressions

October 9, 2012

My hotel is in a first class area of town near the museums. Everything is fine except I am cold! It’s hardly frozen in the winter sense, but still I am just not suited for even a little cold. My body thermostat is set up for heat, glorious California heat, not this. I’m sorry, but hell is not hot, it’s cold. I have taken an oath to only live in a place where I can see palm trees, but that does not include travel, so here I am. Shivering.

I arrived in Amsterdam safely and without problem. The flight was smooth and I was able to sleep, so the journey did not seem too long. My first impression of the Netherlands as I gazed upon it from heaven during the landing is that it is emerald green, water soaked, and adorned by unlimited numbers of greenhouses. I have never seen so many greenhouses! The airport is clean, efficient and comprehensive, with a full complement of taxis, trains, and buses and rickshas. I took a shuttle bus directly to my hotel from the airport. It was cheap. Driving into the city from the airport I noticed again that everything is clean, neat and orderly. The population is primarily white. The people look healthy and there are bicycles everywhere. I mean, really, bicycles, bicycles, bicycles! There are even special lanes on all the roads just for bicycles. There are so many bicycles they are dangerous. They’ll run you down in a second. As everywhere, bicycle riders think they own the land.

Like everything in Europe my room is tiny and by tiny, I mean tiny. I have a queen size bed with a foot and half on three sides and that’s the room. Take a regular American bathtub divide it into thirds and one of those thirds is my bathtub. There’s hardly room for my duck. And this is a four-star hotel? The Patels of America would love to get away with this. They could triple their rooms in a second. But this is the way of Europe. Apart from the small size my hotel accommodations are excellent and the hotel staff are accommodating and helpful. I would return to this place.

As I was checking in I asked the lady at the desk to show me a map of the city and mark off the important areas I should visit. With no hesitation she circled the flower district, the museum district, the port area, the city center, and the red light district. The red light district? I asked what she meant by that. You mean girls? Yes, and there are trendy shops and cafes there as well. You should definitely go there. That is the first my hotel staff has recommended the girls. Prostitution is apparently legal in this country. Later, I turned on the television in my room to find that porn is primetime TV. That too is apparently the norm for this place. I haven’t yet seen it, but I hear that marijuana is also legal. I’ve been told I should sample the brownies. And yet I see no evidence of a degraded society. In fact this is the most together place I’ve yet to see. In the United States untold millions of dollars, no, billions of dollars are spent annually prohibiting marijuana, prostitution and so forth, and still the problem persists and even expands. But here, so it seems, is a society that has decriminalized and even made these things legal, and I am sure regulates, taxes and makes a good income from filth, fun and other dubious human pursuits. I’d like to know if this system works. Tomorrow I’m going to talk to the Dutch about this. I’ll start with the hotel staff.

I’ll report back tomorrow.




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