The trouble with Amsterdam is the food. For a major city that’s got a lot of things going for it, e.g. smut, cannabis, art, canals, more smut etc., it really lets itself down on the nosebag. This is surprising because you’d think there would be lots of demand from all those stoned people wandering around with the munchies. Although remembering anything is difficult after going to Amsterdam, I can’t recall a single meal that was worthy of a hearty belch. Indeed, one particular dinner was so bad it left my bowels severely traumatised for days. I blame the green stuff on the bread rolls which I mistook for pesto.
So, if you’re going to Amsterdam for a short break, remember to take some sandwiches, otherwise you could find yourself hovering over a Dutch kharzi all weekend.
Most people’s idea of Amsterdam is that of a wickedly naughty Sin City. The trouble is that ‘most people’ have managed to turn what was once a wonderfully seedy red-light area into nothing more than a fairly tame, sex theme-park. This is most evident at the weekends when the area is invaded by hordes of British stag parties. I would imagine that the girls in the curtained windows do very little trade with so many drunken Brits being there for a gawp, a snigger and not a lot else. If the sexually embarrassed British are clogging up the streets with their puke and boorish bonhomie then they probably put off the proper punters too. Even the live sex clubs have coach parks now, and the one I went in (research purposes only) was wall to wall with Japanese tourists.
If real-life nudity is not your bag, and you prefer your titillation delivered as a chubby Greek goddess with a frame around it, then Amsterdam has a marvelous selection of art galleries. The Rijksmuseum has recently been given a makeover and is now one of the best museums in the world. The only downside is that they had to keep the bicycle tunnel that goes through the middle. This makes navigation of this labyrinthine museum very difficult, even with a map, so take a ball of string and watch out for any Minotaurs. They can give you a nasty nip.
They’ve also tarted-up the Stedelijk modern art museum, however they never asked my advice and they left out Ed Kienholz’s masterpiece ‘The Beanery’ when they re-opened*. Ed Kienholz was a very good American protest artist who was buried sat in his car, presumably protesting against coffins.
There is also the Van Gogh Museum and Rembrandt’s House. The latter has a wonderful collection of engravings by the man himself including examples of his lucrative little sideline in hard-core pornography. This only goes to show that it’s been around a long time, especially in Amsterdam.
The Anne Frank House brings you down to earth with a sobering reminder of the real-time effects of bigotry, racism, despotism and ethnic cleansing. Thank God the human race has become much more civilised since World War II. I suggest you read her diary before you visit, in fact I would go further and suggest it should have been on the schools’ reading list in Cambodia, Afghanistan, China, Iraq, South Africa, Sierra Leone, Russia, Iran, Northern Ireland, Uganda, Rwanda, The Balkans etc. etc. etc.
If you fancy gambling the night away, you’ll find that the means of accessing such places are a little easier than the draconian casino regulations imposed in the UK. The main casino is next to The American Hotel, and all you’ll need to get in is your passport and clothes that aren’t made out of denim. Having gained painless admission you are then free to fritter away the remainder of your holiday money that you haven’t already spent on hash, and then giggle like a girl when it’s all gone. Don’t forget to take along a Mars Bar for afters though.
*As has been pointed out to me, Ed Kienholz’s ‘The Beanery’ was being restored at the time of opening and is now back on display. Therefore, I apologise for the ‘dirty protest’ I made on Ed’s behalf in The Stedelijk’s new toilets.