Amsterdam Red Light – 2017 Tuesday – Part 1
I got my favorite room back at the Torenzicht, overlooking a canal that once hosted a never ending parade of small boats filled with happy tourists and locals having a good time, but no more. The circled window is my room. You can see a temporary, steel retaining wall in the canal at the bottom of the photo.
There has always been a problem with buildings along the canal having a tendency to list. The structures rest on pilings (usually about 16 of them) driven into the ocean floor over a century ago.
Some are very slowly sinking into the sand—have been for years. The pilings can be replaced, but the work is expensive, around 50,000 Euros to repair one piling. Much to everyone’s surprise the buildings started leaning faster as work on the canal progressed. To make a long story short, the construction company went bankrupt and work has come to a dead stop. Boats can no longer pass.
There have been many changes in the Red Light district, not all for the best, in my opinion. There has been rampant commercialization and a ‘clean up’ on Warmoesstraat where a string of world famous coffee houses once hosted thousands of happy vacationers. As leases expired they were not renewed. Some were allowed to become bars where alcohol is sold. Most of the coffee houses have gone out of business or relocated to surrounding neighborhoods where they are allowed to exist.
The Baba was a world class favorite, now moved so far away I’ve never had the energy to go and check it out. I have a problem walking for long distances— bad knee, a 1960s motorcycle accident.
Now The Grizzly – Food & Liquor Company
The Red Light feels uncomfortably commercial now—some good times gone forever, replaced with fast food places, bars, and sex shops. Streets remodeling to make room for tourists who have deeper pockets. An X rated Disneyland promoted by nostalgia for a time and place that was.
My good friend Terry works at one of several Hunter’s coffee shops. What was the best one, here on Warmoesstraat, is now a bar, but Terry works at one in Rembrandtplein, an outlaying neighborhood where marijuana is permitted.
Drugs are not legal in Amsterdam, they are permitted. A sort of ‘don’t ask-don’t tell’ thing. Should be a fifteen minute walk from where I am, I’m told, but I’m not into walking. I attempt to take a pedicab and learn the cost is 15 euros. This exact same trip cost 4 Euros last year. The pedalers and their rigs are now a company—set rates and rules for what was not so long ago, independent and individual operations with negotiable prices.
15 Euros is a little over 16 U.S. dollars, for what I’m told is a 15 minute walk. But I got lost. Streets here are not in grids. They’ve been laid out in rings with crooked turns and twists between. I arrive at Hunter’s 80 minutes later. My leg is killing me—damned knee.
“So what you up to this time, mate?” Terry asks me.
“I don’t know for sure. I thought I’d go and see the Open Tuinen Dagen, Open Garden Days. A tour. Costs 20 Euros.”
“It’s a rip-off man. You can see all those places free. This place has gone commercial. All about the money. Tourists pay outrageous prices for most ordinary things.”
“I know, but don’t know where any of these gardens are. The tour guide’s being sold by Amnesty International, so maybe not such a bad thing.