Wednesday, 13 March 2013

De Wallen


One of the oldest parts of the city is now perhaps what most would consider the sleaziest. The neighborhood of De Wallen around the Oulde Krek is now known as Rossebuurt, the Red Light District.


Prostitutes here are tax-payers. While there is still a street trade, the majority of sex is purchased from a window display.


While there are women who work in the windows at all hours, the district gets really crazy at night. Roving bands of bachelors and tourist couples giggling at the site of it all.


Yes, I find it really disturbing and wrong that women are displayed as wares, but in reality, there will always be prostitution no matter the laws and it's much safter for them to be in a store-front.

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There's a big concentration of sex shops, bars, peepshows, and slightly sketchy coffee shops in the neighborhood as well. The police here are more like peacekeepers, and they don't carry guns but they wear bright yellow vests. People selling hard drugs set up shop on the bridges openly in the red light district- it's one of the few things that are illegal, but it's tolerated. A Dutch friend of mine said of the police, "You could take a piss on an officer's leg and he'd just fall over."


The locals that I've spoken with are pretty much over all this, as they have seen and done it all as teenagers, and most of them lead pretty sweet and quiet lives.


During the day, the neighborhood is quiet. The day-shift prostitutes are generally sitting in their windows, reading or doing crossword puzzles in their underwear, occasionally getting up to tap on their windows to beacon a passer-by to come in.

One thing I did observe with much chagrin was the high concentration of tourist in sweatpants and trainers. Really, sweatpants? This isn't Walmart. Even growing up in Maine, you would have been shamed if you were wearing sweatpants outside of the gym. Paris might be close by, but clearly, not influential in this regard.

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One of the things that I did want to buy but didn't was an antique tile. Some of them were so detailed and beautiful.

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There's a great shopping neighborhood called De 9 Straatjes (nine streets) that has a wealth of cutesy boutiques and antique shops. It reminded me of what Soho used to be before all the giant chain retailers took over. One of my beefs with New York is how quickly it filled up with mall stores when it used to be full of unique small businesses that are now lost and gone forever.


St Nicholas, the French rule-era Catholic church. All the other churches in Amsterdam are Calvinist austere, but not St Nicks!


I was almost a little sad to have to return to Paris (woe is me). It's nice that it's just a few hours away on the TGV.

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