Sunday, 12 August 2012

Sex, Drugs and... Bikes?

Four years ago Amsterdam amazed me with its open and liberal culture. It was the only city in the world that legalized both prostitution and marijuana. Coming back here, nothing has changed. Well, except that the “conservative” government in power is trying to make it illegal to sell marijuana to tourists and it’s so far worked everywhere except, thankfully, Amsterdam ;)

The liberalism here is off the charts, globally a number one hit. This city has it all: history, architectural beauty, dykes (the ones that prevent half the country from flooding) and an unlimited lifetime supply of what America brags about as their so-called “freedom.” Netherlands makes America look like a fading dystopia. By the way, just to clear the air, the country is called Netherlands; not Holland! Holland forms two provinces, a North and South, where most of the development and population resides.
I AMsterdam
Amy and I did the requisite tourist attractions: Van Gogh Museum, Ann Frank Huis, Artis Zoo and canal cruises. However, those were overshadowed by the unplanned experiences such as interactions with locals, and learning about Dutch life and politics. I learned from a young Australian worker that it's really easy to get a working Visa here. This fact has been shelved for future considerations.

My favourite museum was the Versetz Museum, or Dutch Resistance Museum, detailing the life and times during German occupation in WWII. As luck would have it, the Gay Pride Parade was in town and we checked it out. Amy had previously been to Toronto's version and said it was miniature compared to Amsterdam's. And I'm not talking about their speedos.
Gay pride parade
Our host was amazing and lent us her bikes to ride around the city. I learned a lot about the cycling culture there and want to bike more like the Dutch when I return to Canada. I saw a lot of bikes too; there are over 600,000 of these 2 wheeled beasts in Amsterdam!
Bikes, bikes, bikes!
As wonderful as Amsterdam was, we just had a very memorable time in an inconspicuous place. We just finished out stay with a Dutch family in an old farmhouse situated in inconspicious little Kloosterburen in the northeast part of Netherlands. The family belongs to a Couchsurfer whom I hosted early this year in Calgary. We have indulged in cheese, bread and wine, mingled with good conversation. We have also cycled through farm fields and quaint villages, checked out the main dyke protecting the Netherlands from the North Sea, and even played tennis! The picture below shows the dyke and dry land on both sides. That's because the tide is currently low, allowing for an abundance of vegetation to grow on the seaside. Livestock even crosses over to the seaside to graze!
Dyke protecting Netherlands, from the North Sea 
It was an ideal three day recluse from the whirlwind life of backpacking. But soon enough we shall be hitting the road. Next stop, Antwerp, Belgium!

1 comment:

  1. safe trip! and hope you can upload more about your trip. So, I also can learn something from you and see the world through your blog, my friend!