One of my favorite lines in the musical “Hamilton” comes from Alexander Hamilton and his son Philip. In the song “Blow Us All Away”, they nonchalantly agree that “Everything’s legal in [New] Jersey.” This was my main takeaway from my recent trip to Amsterdam: everything is legal there.
I’ll get to that point in a bit, because the trip there was an adventure in and of itself. Things started off relatively normally. Three of my Canadian friends and I boarded a train from Vallendar, hopped on a connection at the Cologne main station and headed toward the Netherlands. However, once we were roughly 10 minutes from our stop in Holland, our train stopped. Naturally, all the announcements on the train were given in Dutch, so not even my German knowledge could save us now. Fortunately, one of the cabin attendants spoke English and explained to us that our train was stuck on the track due to high winds in the area. Just great. What should’ve been a routine four-hour trip to Amsterdam wound up being a 10-hour marathon that left us exhausted upon arrival.
Things turned around once we arrived, however. We had tickets to a J. Cole concert at Amsterdam’s Ziggo Dome later that evening, and since we left so early in the morning for the Netherlands, we still had plenty of time to make it to the concert. All I can say about this concert was this: IT. WAS. AWESOME. I haven’t been to too many concerts in my lifetime, but the way the American rapper commanded the stage, connected to the audience and entertained all evening was incredible. He even went out of his way to explain the rationale behind some of his songs, as well as some of his personal experiences that have shaped his beliefs and his career. I don’t know whether that’s normal or not, but it had me entranced the entire time.
In addition to the concert, my friends and I spent a lot of time hitting up the various art galleries in the city. We wound up getting to the Banksy/Salvador Dali exhibit, the Museum of Modern Art and finally the Vincent van Gogh Museum. As you can imagine, much of the art on display was outstanding. I’m still having trouble wrapping my head around some of the pieces on display at the Modern Art Museum, but I can now fully understand why the other three artists are held in such high regard.
Now, to address the quote in my opening paragraph. As you may or may not know, Amsterdam is one of the more unique big cities in Europe in that it has a relatively low crime rate due to a lot of controversial legalizations, namely the legalization of marijuana and prostitution. I didn’t go to Amsterdam for either of these reasons, but when you go there, it’s nearly impossible to avoid exposure to it. When you’re walking down the street, a mix of cigarette smoke and cannabis fill the air, overtaking your senses and distracting you from the immense beauty of the city’s water channel system. Then, just as you think you’re just walking along a nice river walk with an occasional “coffee shop” dotted on the side of the road, the Red Light District hits you without warning. Window doors with scantily-clad women motion for you to come toward them and “find love for 50 Euro” as one of my friends so eloquently put it. Needless to say, I was startled the first time I reached that part of town.
As a whole, I loved my time in Amsterdam. The city itself is pretty European, but the culture and atmosphere of it all was irreplicable. As those who frequent internet rating sites would put it: 10 out of 10, would recommend.